I am both thrilled and humbled to share this story with you from my sister, Colleen. April is National Donate Life Month. As you’ll read below, my sister is all too familiar with organ donation since her 7-year-old son donated both of his corneas and four heart valves when he passed away. This would be how the hope of life would come from a very traumatic death. Colleen, you will always be a hero to me. I am so incredibly blessed to be your sister, friend and honored that you would trust me with your story. Become a donor and read on…
Hi! My name is Kathryn Colleen Easley Cooper.
I am a daughter, sister, mother, a wife, a friend, and most of all a Christ-follower. I am a sinner, I make mistakes, I often fail at my endeavors. I try hard at everything, I work too hard to please others; I love pleasing others. My joy comes from doing things for others. My love languages are words of affirmation, and gifts, (if you are unaware of your “love language”, you should read Gary Chapman’s book, “The 5 Love Languages”) . I stay busy at all times, I never slow down. I love writing short stories, poetry, and nonsense. I love gardening. A day outside for me is a little bit of Heaven. I am a physical wreck – a 27 year old in a 210 year old body. Questions? Ask away, I’m always happy to share my story. The following story changed my testimony for life. It changed my priorities, my mindset, it changed my everything.
Up to the middle of September 2000, things were great! Daily life was normal, getting kids to and from school attending functions at school, going to church, sharing time and fellowship with family and friends, camping trips were at an all-time high! The entire summer of 2000 was an amazing time in our life, who knew that in just a few short weeks all of what we called normal would come to a screeching halt and time would be set into a backward motion; like spinning the bike pedals of a 12 speed in reverse while forced to continue moving forward.
Now bear with me for a few minutes while I go back to around the year 1988. From 1988 approximately until the year 1993 my husband and I tried repetitively to get pregnant. We did fertility medication, we did in utero multiple times, injections, injections, injections, medication, more injections, and probably in an eight-year span of time over 2000 pregnancy tests, and 3 miscarriages. We were determined to have a child together. I had a daughter from a previous relationship that at the age of Two and a Half when my husband and I married he became her father permanently but we wanted one of ours together; we never gave up. In 1993, I was working hard, we’d just bought a house, life was good and busy, it was just what the doctor told us to do to relax our thought process about getting pregnant to achieve being pregnant. Finding out I was pregnant is a whole different story so I’ll fast-forward…On September 6, 1993, Ian Kyndale Cooper was born it was Labor Day I still to this day find that quite funny. That was the 3rd most special day in my life, following Kendra’s birth, and marrying my amazing husband, Paul. Our pregnancy is another story about loss and God’s grace, all on its own, but that story, too, is for another time!
Grab your tissues or your “Julia Mae”, and hold on…it’s gonna get bumpy now!
On September 17th, 2000, I was at church waiting on my 16yr old, Kendra, and our just turned 7 yr old, Ian, to get to there. As most mothers would do when their children are running late, I made an offhand comment to two of my friends in the church office where I was trying to reach the kids by land line, since the cell service was occasional at best, to find out why they weren’t already here. “If my kids aren’t dead, I’m gonna kill’em for not being here when I told them to! OFFHAND COMMENTS CAN BE PAINFUL when looking back on them….just sayin’!
About 20 minutes later, I got in my car to drive down the road to get better reception, when my phone rang and it was one of my friends telling me to go straight to my house, that her son would meet me there and drive me to the hospital; that my husband had been trying to reach me for quite some time about our children having been involved in a car accident less than 1 mile from our house. My stomach sank, my heart was in misery, my brain was thinking much faster than my body could process. I ran back to the church grabbed my purse and personal items, told a couple of the ladies in the office what had happened and was on my way home at a very high rate of speed. Stupid yes, irrational yes, but there is no rationale to the thought process of getting home fast enough to take care of my babies. When I arrived home my friend’s son was there waiting for me I got in his truck and we drove, again, at a very high rate of speed to one of the hospitals. Unbeknownst to me two-thirds of our church membership we’re not too far behind. Shortly after arriving at the ER we were told that our son had just been life flighted to Houston Hermann Hospital and we had just missed him, and our daughter was still in the ER waiting. People began to show up out of nowhere. It was like cockroaches coming out of the woodwork, to be honest. I couldn’t figure out how so many people got there so quickly; small town gossip lines at their best! People from my mom and dad’s church, people that were friends of ours from other places here locally, there were people everywhere. After finding out that our daughter was fine physically things started happening so fast it was hard to keep up and I may miss things telling this story because things went so quickly and my brain couldn’t function properly or at the right rate of speed to keep up with what was going through it. It was decided that our pastor’s wife would drive us to the hospital so that we wouldn’t have to stress the drive and a friend would follow us in our truck. We contacted our family members, our siblings, our parents, and other family and friends about the accident with brief information and that we were going to the hospital in Houston. My youngest sister was living on the East Coast at the time and my parents had been visiting with her, this thought was devastating. What would we find when we got to the hospital that we’d have to deal with; with or without our family beside us, God was beside us, he was with us every step of the way of this I have absolutely no doubt. This was my “footprints in the sand moment”. My parents were already on a flight to come home so one of my sisters contacted the airports and had both of their flights arranged to where they would have pickup and delivery to the next gate to get home as quickly as possible with very little information as we didn’t want them worrying too much about something we had no idea was going on yet. Shortly after my youngest sister was able to get a ticket home and other family members started letting us know that they were headed to Texas as soon as they could.
This was Sunday the 17th of September at 4:30 in the afternoon – the day that changed my everything.
I won’t go into every detail but I invite anyone to ask me more. I’ll be happy to share how God carried us through this entire event. Some people handle things in many different ways while I always look as if the glass is half-full, there’s always a better way, there’s always another way, but no matter what, there’s God’s way and this is where we learned that God’s way is always the best even if we don’t know it at the moment. Within an hour or two after our arrival at the hospital our son was in NICU and the waiting room was full of people; hundreds of people. Paul and I, my siblings, my parents, and some of his family were in the room with Ian when we heard the most amazingly beautiful sound… Everyone in the waiting room was singing Amazing Grace, acapella. It was beautiful! Angels may or may not have been there at that particular moment, but oh my, how everyone knew that God was, it was spectacular, to be honest. During the events that followed, we were approached by the organ donation team several times. The first few times that they spoke to us we were still very hopeful and we were undeniably expecting God to heal our son there were no ifs, ands or buts, Ian was going to make it through this. My faith was strong, God is the Great and Mighty healer, and my son, our son that we fought so hard to have and for so many years just to give birth to him WAS NOT LEAVING ME JUST YET!!! As my father said, “parents and grandparents should go before their children”. During several of the visits from the organ donation organization volunteers, Paul and I basically told them that God was going to heal our son that he would not have organs to donate, nothing was being taken from our son to help anyone else because he was going to live. End of story.. Not…
At one of the meetings with the organ donor volunteers I literally told them where they could get off this train, where they could go, and what they could do with their tests and their questions! Go to hell and leave us alone. Our son is not dead yet and you can’t have him, he is my son, he is our son, he has a sister, he has cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, best friends, but he’s not dead yet so stop, quit, go away and leave us alone!!!!! Please. They came back periodically to check on us of course deep down Paul and I knew that they knew more than we did and that their medical knowledge went far beyond that of what I thought I had or that I could think of or that we could process.
I asked if I could hold my son, and one of the strongest memories that I have is sitting in that overstuffed chair holding my one hundred pound 7 year old, thinking I was holding the weight of the world, watching it’s life slip away right in front of my eyes, and in my arms. My next thought was this; and please don’t misunderstand me. I told God while I was holding my son in my arms, that if this is what it took for his plan then so be it, I would let go. God gave his son so that we could have the lives of forgiveness that he so freely offered, with the death of his own son, how could I complain about losing mine in the face of that knowledge. How could we expect our family to go on if I could not show that my faith in God’s plan was ever so strong but at the same time watching my child’s life slip away in my arms was too much to bear. I’m not sure how long the process took I remember Paul and I took a nap in a secured room just off the side of the NICU and I remember the two of us coming to terms with having to speak to the organ donation people again only this time with forgiveness and understanding in our hearts because their job cannot be easy it cannot be pain free and it was our turn to be sympathetic to them for what they were having to do. I did later apologize, which we were unable at that time to do but as a side note, I did apologize to them later and even started my business “Chasing Butterflies” to donate all of my profits to LifeGift.
The nurses laid him back on his bed, got him as comfortable as they could while Paul and I and our families and friends stood around his bed and prayed while his big short life slipped way.
There are some who have become so cold in their hearts and have given up on God or blocked him from their heart that sometimes reading something sad or traumatic or dramatic. They still can’t feel what’s being said in the words but to share with them in person you can’t help but feel the emotion or go through the emotion or be empathetic to the emotion that’s being felt by the way who’s speaking. Our son was one of God’s greatest gifts to us, and though we only had him for 7 short years, we loved his laughter, his smile, his ability to entertain, his faithfulness to Christ, and his love for his parents and family that were ever so evident, to let him go was by far the most painful thing we’ve ever done, but we let him go in peace and even now, I miss him with every breath I take.
I have two things that I would like to share about the loss of a child, a loved one that is a Christ follower:
1) I did not lose my son 🙂 I know exactly where he lives.
2) I have never wished him back, because to pass away and go to live in heaven with golden streets, no pain, no tears, and the son of God to celebrate your birthday with you; why why why would I want him to come back to his earthly home, to pain, to sorrow, to war, to sickness and all the ugliness in the world now and take him away from where he’s living now.
I will fight my fight, I will have my battles, and I will eventually lose this race, but I’ve already won the battle, Christ has won the battle for me and I know that one day when I have completed the task that God has set before me, he will take me home and I we’ll see my son again.
Thank you to any and all who might read this story. Love your children, take time for the little things, fasten their seat belts, take the time, spend the time, but most of all, treat them as the gifts they are meant to be from God himself and let them know that they are loved beyond measure just as Christ loves us.
Thank you, may God bless you and keep you until you see Him face-to-face.
Photo Credit: Colleen Cooper