Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Morning He Went to be with Jesus

July 3, 2013...the day that Bunky was taken off of the machines that were keeping him alive, after suffering a massive cardiac arrest. The day that Heaven welcomed a man whose impact on earth was huge. Our loss was Heaven's gain and while I don't believe that any person could possibly make Heaven a better place than it already is...I imagine there was an impact of some proportion the day that Rod Cook came on the scene!

I was asked by the person coordinating the donation of Rod's organs, if I would like to write a letter to the surgeons who would be removing and harvesting his organs, soon after he took his last breath. She said that not everyone does that, but she likes to give families the option to let these surgeons know about the person they will be performing this procedure on. I found out that there would be 4 different teams flown in from different parts of the country that morning, ready to do this procedure, once I said my final goodbye and he was officially no longer alive by mechanical means.

The team was present as I went into the cold and sterile room alone. They stood along the walls quietly, not making eye contact with me. It was pretty dark and sheets were covering portions of the operating room, to make it "feel" like less of an operating room. They played some music that I requested. At 10:42am after I entered a room, dressed in a sterile gown and shoes and a head- covering to kiss him and say my final goodbye, as he was taken off of life support. During the next 18 minutes I cried out to God, pleading for a miracle. The miracle I wanted did not happen and I was crushed.

I was warned that it might be a little scary or he might gasp for a final breath, but honestly, he didn't do that at all. He didn't struggle. He just peacefully stopped breathing. I felt a sense of warmness in that cold room and right before the person who took him off the machines, told me it was done and time for me to go, I already knew. At 11:00am they called his time of death. I left quickly and remember feeling like I could hardly pick up my legs to take a step. The hallway seemed to go on forever and each step felt more and more like a cement block was tied to my feet. I remember two people on each side of me holding me up as I walked. It was over.

I found the letter that I wrote to the surgeons stuck in my Bible about a month ago. I didn't realize it was in there. I will share it here. There are a lot of things about it I would keep the same, but would have probably added some things too. I wrote it at 4:30 am after having almost no sleep for days, so considering that, it was all I had. It was read to the people in that operating room before I even walked in to say my goodbyes. The lady who read it, later told me that there was not a dry eye in the room when she read it to them. I'm thankful they got to hear a little about the man that was about to do this final act of generosity. Here is the letter:

Rod was a 42 year old husband of almost 15 years, father of 3 boys ages 10, 7, and 4. He was an only son of two living parents. He loved Alabama football, golf, watching sunsets at the beach, but most of all, he loved playing with his boys. He was head coach of their baseball teams and could be found daily wrestling in the floor with them. He loved Jesus Christ and had a personal relationship with Him. Rod was an amazing husband, who was loved, adored, and respected by his wife, Missy.

Rod was a District Manager in the pharmaceutical industry for over 10 years and had so many colleagues who respected and loved working with him and for him. He knew how to motivate and inspire others, yet have fun at the same time. 

Rod had so many dear friends...some even dating back from kindergarten, that he continued to have relationships with. His personality is one that just drew people to him. He is deeply loved by so many friends.

Rod was loyal and a man of his word. One of his favorite quotes was, "Don't ever let anyone out-work you." He did everything 120%. He loved his wife and children well and was their provider and protector. If you knew him, you would know that he had a way of making you want to be a better person. There is no doubt that he is now with his Creator and Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

His legacy to his children is one that will carry them through, because in these boys' short life with their daddy, he was always pouring into them, encouraging them, teaching them, loving them, and mostly modeling for them what it means to really have a relationship with Christ. 

Another one of his favorite quotes, which is on our back door, that we see each time we come and go, says, "The way you live is a reflection of how you believe, and what you are anchored to."

There is no one Rod wouldn't help. He was kind and giving. What an amazing final act of kindness. I pray, as his wife, that the "light" he was will manifest itself into those who receive this gift from him. I will be praying for your hands to be guided as you allow my husband to do what he would have wanted. I pray that God is praised and glorified through all of this.

Thank you- Missy Cook

Celebrating a life well-lived today and longing for the day we will see him again! A lot of healing has happened in 3 years, and there is still healing yet to be done. I am so grateful for the time we had. Every day is a gift...don't waste it!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Rewinding to Remember

I'm not even sure where to go with what I feel. Not even sure if I really know what I feel at any given moment. I find myself wanting to remember and wanting to forget. I want to go back and I want to move forward. The balance between is delicate and a place I struggle to allow myself to just sit in.

I think it's good to remember, to retell, to rewind, to reminisce. It brings a lot of hard to the surface, but brings just as much joy. I was thinking the other day about why people would want to continue to go backward and how it's easy for some people to get stuck there in their grief. However, I think it is also absolutely a necessary part of healing.

I'm going to date myself here, but I remember when I was younger and a song I loved would come on the radio. I would wait for hours just to hit "record" on my jam box, so that I could tape that song and be able to listen to it whenever I wanted. I would rewind the song over and over, listening to it again and again. Sometimes, I might even need to keep rewinding a certain part of the song just to pick up the words that might not be so clear. (No google check for lyrics back then).

In some ways, I think to rewind and really sit in a place that was "back then," even when there are painful parts, allows us to reconcile what that part of our story was about  and see things in light of where we have come. And sometimes, just like a recorded song on a jam box, that rewind needs to happen multiple times. So, today I just feel like I need to go back to this time 3 years ago and just remember and retell. I don't expect that re-telling the story or re-living those horrible hours, will truly reconcile anything. What I do know is that sometimes just being able to go back and be in that place, even though it hurts, brings healing and reminds me of how God has already begun redeeming something so broken. Part of it is knowing that my boys want to know exactly what happened and I want that to be documented for them. might take a little while, and there are parts that I won't share here, because they are just sacred and for me to keep close to my heart. I don't expect anyone to even continue reading past this point, and that is so okay with is more for me and my boys than anything or anyone else.

June 30th, 2013, during the early morning hours, took what we knew and rocked it to the core. Before we went to bed that night...after a long, hot day of baseball...this is a glimpse into those last moments:

Bunky had coached back to back games that day with the Barons, and we spent a lot of the evening before just talking about the boys on the team, and his absolute LOVE of coaching. We talked about how we were looking forward to our upcoming 15th Anniversary trip to Cancun. He even talked about how thankful he was for his job that night. Finally, right before he went to bed, he talked about each one of the boys and how proud of them he was for different things that people had recently said to us about each of them. Good, meaningful conversations that were truly a gift, looking back on it. Then, with no concern or complaints, aside from being tired, Bunky went to bed and I came shortly after.

About 3:30 that morning, I woke up next to him, suddenly, and knew something was wrong. I don't really know what woke me up, except that I thought he was snoring loudly. For some reason though, I just jumped out of the bed to run to his side and turn the light on. He appeared to be having a seizure or something. I didn't immediately think heart attack, but did immediately call 911, as I knew he wasn't responding to me and something was very wrong. The operator asked if I knew CPR, which thankfully I did. I remember thinking at first, "why would I do CPR?" Still....just not imagining that he was suffering from a heart attack. I immediately began chest compressions with the operator on the line, who was calling paramedics to come. It became hard to do chest compressions on the bed, and he was too heavy for me to move to the floor by myself, so I called my neighbors, Paul and Tessie, to come and help me. They assisted me in getting him on the floor and doing CPR until the paramedics came. At that point, I realized this was far more critical than I was letting myself believe. They were unable to get a heart rhythm and after 6 shocks with the defibrillator and at least that many injections. At one point, the fire chief asked the question, "IF we are able to establish a heart rhythm in your husband, where do you want him transported?" IF....IF....that word suddenly left me feeling was not "when" but "if." I had a moment of truly feeling as if I was outside of my own body and wanted to wake up from this nightmare. I just went and prayed out loud over the paramedic working on him and didn't even know what else to do. Finally, they were able to establish a heart beat, and even though it was faint, it was enough to allow them to transport him. I remember moving furniture to allow them to get him out the door and kept praying that the boys would not wake up to witness this.

At some point I called my friend, Molly, who thankfully answered her phone right away at that crazy time of the morning. She came and followed the ambulance to the hospital, so Tessie could stay here for my boys. I was calm riding in the ambulance and recorded numbers for the driver to communicate with the ER at Vanderbilt, as we were on the way there. The paramedic in the back told me that Bunky had tried to breathe spontaneously on his own and that was a good thing. A moment of hope. Still completely numb with shock and not exactly sure what this all meant.

Once at the ER, Everything started to feel like a big blur. I remember I just kept thinking, "how is this happening." A doctor or nurse, I honestly can't remember, came out to tell us he was stabilized and they were going to do a cooling procedure that had been successful with patients who had suffered massive cardiac arrest, to hopefully, prevent severe brain damage. Until this procedure was complete, in 24-48 hours, and warming him back up was done, we wouldn't really know where we stood. However, there seemed to be some hope in this conversation. Then, not even 5 hours later, once we were up in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, the Cardiologist painted a completely different picture. He just kept saying how very sorry he was that this had happened and did not seem optimistic at all. I think it was in that moment that my heart sank to some place far outside of myself and the despair of realizing I was going to lose him slapped me hard in the face. I just continued to ask, "Is this really happening?"

Over the next 24 -36 hours, it became more and more apparent that the possibility of him surviving was going to take a miracle. Family and friends were called, so many people were in and out, I prayed so hard at times that I actually would sweat in the freezing hospital room. I begged God. I pleaded with Him to amaze everyone with a miracle. I stayed fairly calm, but it was mostly because I was in a state of shock. I had to tell his parents and watch them say goodbye to their only son. I had to do the unthinkable and unimaginable job of telling my boys that their daddy was not coming back. I had to have detailed and very hard conversations with organ donation services, as he wished so generously do this and made that very clear. There are so many pieces to that, which I have trouble recollecting and then some parts that I wish I could forget. However, I remember exactly how broken my heart felt and the depths of despair that made it feel hard to even breathe. I also remember how a peace beyond anything I could explain, overcame me in the most difficult of moments. I knew God was there and I could almost physically feel His presence, each step of the way. I went back and looked at what I wrote in my journal on that first day at the hospital. I wrote the verse John 14:27 and said in my journal that it was what I opened my Bible to. It is what I would cling to. It is the verse that is now on Bunky's marker on his grave.

Goodbyes were said and funeral plans were made. It all happened so quickly. I didn't sleep for several days and don't even know if I actually accepted what was happening until long after it was all over. The smell and sight of food made me sick. I was truly in a state of shock. I do know that I am grateful that he had a Will and had discussed what he wanted in the event of his death. It took a lot of the burden of decision making off of me and allowed me to just be present with my boys. I witnessed so much love and saw just how deeply he cared for others, by the way that others cared for us.

I miss him every minute of every day. I still really cannot believe it. I needed to rewind and remember, but I don't intend to stay there. It is not what he would want for me and it is not what is best for my children. I don't want to forget and so I will let myself go back there when I need to. Remembering is so much more than just retelling a is allowing something new to come from it. There have already been beautiful moments that have come out of this experience and I know there are many more to come. God really does redeem and I pray He uses our story to point others to Him. He continues to remind me how He has never left and never will.

Carson, Colby, and Cooper...You have such an amazing dad. God is not finished with this story and you can know you will see your daddy again one day! Of these things, I am most certain.