Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Endings...

This is not at all how
We thought it was supposed to be
We had so many plans for you
We had so many dreams
And now you’ve gone away
And left us with the memories of your smile
And nothing we can say
And nothing we can do
Can take away the pain
The pain of losing you, but…

We can cry with hope
We can say goodbye with hope
‘Cause we know our goodbye is not the end
And we can grieve with hope
‘Cause we believe with hope
There’s a place where we’ll see your face again
We’ll see your face again

And never have I known
Anything so hard to understand
And never have I questioned more
The wisdom of God’s plan
But through the cloud of tears
I see the Father smile and say well done
And I imagine you
Where you wanted most to be
Seeing all your dreams come true
‘Cause now you’re home
And now you’re free, and…

We can cry with hope
We can say goodbye with hope
‘Cause we know our goodbye is not the end
And we can grieve with hope
‘Cause we believe with hope
There’s a place where we’ll see your face again
We’ll see your face again

We have this hope as an anchor
‘Cause we believe that everything God promised us is true

We wait with hope
And we ache with hope
We hold on with hope
We let go with hope

With Hope
by Steven Curtis Chapman

Every book, every story, has a final chapter. It doesn’t mean the story is over, it just means that we don’t get to read the rest of it. Hearts will still ache, wounds will still bleed, scars will still knit, and grief will continue to flow, like a mighty river, through our families for years to come, even as this final chapter is put in place. The story of Sara and Miranda will continue to be written on the hearts of those they loved, and those who loved them, for a very long time. However, the happy ending, the ride into the beautiful sunset, will not take place here on this Earth.

"Never again will they hunger;
     never agaain will they thirst.
  The Sun will not beat down on them,
     nor any scorching heat.
  For the Lamb at the center of the throne
       will be their shepherd;
     he will lead them to springs of living water.
  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
          Revelation 7:16-17

I live with the hope of The Resurrection. I live with the promise that my daughter and wife are rejoicing in Heaven, worshipping the Living God with the angels and all those who have gone before. I live with the promise that they are made whole, recreated, resurrected, as God fully intended them to be. I live knowing that my love for them will never fade, but can also never grow beyond what it is today. I live knowing that I, and all those who believe, will join them in that resurrection when our time here is through.

I want to thank you for joining me, us, in this journey. The love, encouragement, prayers, and support of so many have been so welcomed, so unexpected, and I know they will continue, even after today. The story does not end; it’s simply recorded in a different way from today forward.

The Hurt and The Healer
by MercyMe

Why?
The question that is never far away
The healing doesn’t come from the explained
Jesus please don’t let this go in vain
You’re all I have
All that remains

So here I am
What’s left of me
Where glory meets my suffering

I’m alive
Even though a part of me has died
You take my heart and breathe it back to life
I’ve fallen into Your arms open wide
When the hurt and the healer collide

Breathe
Sometimes I feel it’s all that I can do
Pain so deep that I can hardly move
Just keep my eyes completely fixed on You
Lord take hold and pull me through

So here I am
What’s left of me
Where glory meets my suffering

I’m alive
Even though a part of me has died
You take my heart and breathe it back to life
I’ve fallen into your arms open wide
When the hurt and the healer collide

It’s the moment when humanity
Is overcome by majesty
When grace is ushered in for good
And all our scars are understood
When mercy takes its rightful place
And all these questions fade away
When out of the weakness we must bow
And hear You say “It’s over now”

I’m alive
Even though a part of me has died
You take my heart and breathe it back to life
I’ve fallen into your arms open wide
When The hurt and the healer collide

Jesus come and break my fear
Awake my heart and take my tears
Find Your glory even here
When the hurt and the healer collide

Jesus come and break my fear
Awake my heart and take my tears
Find Your glory even here




Sincerely,
Chad Cole

NOTE - this post was first published on 6/20/2011. As I consider the events of the past year, moving this post to "the end" of my blog seems like a more natural position for it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Surprise...

Dear Miranda,

Daddy still misses you, I know I always will. I was at church, watching two of your cousins get baptized this past Sunday, and the fact that you're not here with me, that I won't get to experience these little bits of life with you, hit me like a ton of bricks. It's so hard knowing you're already in Heaven, and trying to be happy about that, when I feel so cheated here on earth.

I love you. I miss you. Give mommy a kiss from daddy.

Love,
Daddy

Save A Place For Me
by Matthew West

Don’t be mad if I cry
It just hurts so bad sometimes
‘Cause everyday it’s sinking in
And I have to say goodbye all over again

You know I bet it feels good to have the weight of this world
Off your shoulders now
I’m dreaming of the day
When I’m finally there with you

Save a place for me
Save a place for me
I’ll be there soon
I’ll be there soon
Save a place for me
Save some grace for me
I’ll be there soon
I’ll be there soon

I have asked the question why
But I guess the answer’s for another time
So instead I’ll pray
With every tear
And be thankful for the time I had you here

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Happy Birthday...

Dear Miranda,

Today we celebrated your birth. A time of sadness. A time of joy.

Today, at the same time that you were delivered last year, a single pink balloon floated into the clear blue sky and we sang Jesus Loves The Little Chidren and Happy Birthday to you. What a contrast to the day you were born...today, the the sun was shining. The wind was calm. There is no snow...not a flake to be seen.

My dear sweet little girl, my angel. It's hard to express what not having you here feels like. There's a hole. A gaping hole that is supposed to filled with giggles, kisses, and birthday cake. Instead it's filled with tears.

Daddy is surrounded by love today. And prayers. Family. Friends. It's hard to feel so loved...and yet still feel so alone. There's only one thing I want today...you in my arms.

I love you. I miss you. I always will. Give mommy a hug from me.

Love,
Daddy

The worst day...

Dear Sara,

It’s been one year…

…I remember those first few months…vividly…

Staring into the bathroom mirror…not recognizing the man staring back at me. Curling up in a ball on our bed, the family room floor, or wherever I might just happen to be, and crying…and hurting…physical pain and anguish that just can’t be described in words. I can still hear sounds that I know came out of my mouth, echoing in my head, but they are not sounds I could reproduce today…and I wouldn’t want to hear them coming from anyone else either.

A day came when I woke up and smiled…I cried because it made me feel so bad. Another day came and I laughed…out loud…and I cried because it made me feel so bad. A day came when I heard myself respond to a casual “have a nice day” with “you, too” instead of stone cold silence…and I cried because it made me feel so bad. Moving forward meant moving farther away from “us.”

It’s been one year…

…I’m not the man I was when I looked into the mirror that last morning. I never will be. I have to be a new man, a different man. I may look the same on the outside, but the inside has been completely rearranged.

I wake up most days and smile now…most of the time. I laugh without crying…most of the time. The polite phrases of society roll off my tongue without a second thought these days...most of the time.

I haven’t forgotten…I’ll never forget. I remember. I remember the good times, the laughter, the love, and the shared joy. I remember the good things, even when the bad things are right there in front of my mind’s eye.

It’s been one year since the worst day of my life. One year since I held your hand and listened as the doctors and nurses said they’d done all they could. One year since I last kissed your lips, since I last held your hand to my face, and said goodbye.

 I love you. I miss you. Give Miranda a kiss from daddy.

Love,
Chad

Monday, January 30, 2012

The portrait...

I can see you fly.
You are an angel with wings,
high above the ground.

(traditional haiku)

Recently, I’ve had this self-portrait Sara did in college sitting out where I can see it every day. It’s been on display in my dining room, where I get to look at it several times each day. I found it while sorting through some of her things a few months ago. My first thought was that it was “so Sara.” Most people would look at it and immediately think, or notice, that it’s just “not done.” The parts that are “finished” showcase her exceptional eye for, and use of, color and her attention to detail. It also showcases Sara’s penchant for starting projects…then letting them sit, unfinished, until she was ready to see them finished.

Thematically, it would be easy to say this self-portrait is the perfect analogy of Sara and Miranda’s lives – unfinished portraits, lives cut too short. However, I find I’ve been trying to focus on the portrait as a statement of life from the perspective of my faith. In Psalm 139:16, the Psalmist declares, “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (NIV) In the book Through A Season of Grief, Dr. Louis Palau shares, "The Bible clearly teaches that a brief life is not an incomplete life. We have our ideas of how long we should live, but the Bible says that every one of our days was written in God's book before they even happened.” You and I may look at Sara and Miranda’s lives as incomplete portraits…but in God’s eyes, they are exactly as He knew they would be. To be clear, I don’t believe this means their lives were as He planned them to be; only that they were as He knew they would be. To some of you, that may not sound like much of a difference, while to others it may sound like a huge difference; I find myself having to believe that God’s knowledge of their days, and deaths, doesn’t have to align with His plan for their lives. I believe that God planned on Sara and Miranda living full and complete lives. It was the chaos of sin and death that interrupted His plan, stealing them from this earth, and allowing them to enter into His Glory, albeit prematurely. I understand I’m treading in some deep theological waters here, and it’s highly likely that I’m floundering and simply in desperate need of someone to toss me a spiritual life preserver; however, I have to believe…I choose to believe…that the portrait of their lives is “complete.” The painting may appear unfinished, or incomplete, but I feel privileged to have been included in the brush strokes.

Monday, December 26, 2011

All in the family...

Dear God,

It's me. Are you there? Are you listening?

The door is closed and locked. The lights are turned off. I'm laying in my bed, listening to all the children playing right outside the door of my room, and my heart hurts more than I can take. I can't leave to join in the family fellowship because my face burns and my eyes sting from the tears. All that's going through my head tonight is, "where is my little girl? Why is my little girl not here?"

Why did you give us the capacity to hurt like this? I've been trying so hard to just cling to the Rock; but, in this moment, right now, all I want is my daughter, sitting on my lap, in her Christmas jammies, her mommy at my side. Why?

Will you be there to help me through these next 3 days? Will you give me the Peace that passes ALL understanding? Will you hug my girls for me?

Sincerely,
Chad

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

First Christmas...

Dear Sara,

It's almost Christmas...just not the Christmas we were supposed to be having. The tree should have been surrounded by gifts for our little girl's first Christmas. Her first ornament would have been proudly on display at the front of the tree.

Our families now approach a first Christmas no one would have imagined...one without the two of you. One where jig saw puzzles just won't be as jiggy, quilts won't be as quilty, and the twinkling lights will feel a little dimmer than they did last year.

We celebrate the birth of the King of Kings, our Savior, knowing that you and Miranda stand, worshiping, in His glorious presence. However, that knowledge brings little comfort to hearts that still wish you were here. Instead, we try to fill ourselves with the hope of the Resurrection. We look forward to the reunion that is still to come...but with sadness, because of what our humanness reminds us we do not have today.

We love you. We miss you. Give Miranda a kiss from daddy.

Love,
Chad

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving...

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving...it's been on the calendar for a while, hurtling towards us like that comet in Armageddon...only, at times, it feels there's no heroic crew preparing to save us from certain disaster.

It was easy to be thankful last year. We had been married over 14 years. We were starting the final trimester, heading quickly towards the birth of our first child. Life was simply good. Being thankful was easy, maybe too easy.

"...give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
1 Thessalonians 5:18


The Word makes it sound so simple. Give thanks...in all things.

I know that I have things to be thankful for this year. I have a wonderful and loving family. I have supportive and loving friends. There are thousands of Christians, around the world, who pray for me, and my and Sara's families, regularly. I know a God who cares about me, cries with me, and wants to restore me...even if I don't know why He allowed this to happen. I know that He has a plan of restoration for me, even if I don't know what it is. I have a future...even if it wasn't the future we had planned.

Today I choose to be thankful that I was married to a woman whose legacy is written on the hearts and minds of family, friends, and coworkers. A legacy of joy, beautiful smiles, creative talents, and earnest laughter. A legacy of love, poured out freely on anyone who spent time with her. Today I choose to be thankful for the great gifts that God bestowed upon my life.

"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever."
1 Chronicles 16:34


I'm also thankful for my friend, Brian Dumont, for finding and sharing photos like these, from over 15 years ago, with me.  So long ago, the only thing in front of us was the future. :)




I miss the rain
by Bride

There's a place I like to go back to
Time seemed to stand still
We ran wild, we had no cares
Take me back to the place
I wish there were a door I could walk right through
To escape this life
I want to go back to what we had
Times were better then

I miss the rain, I miss the rain
My heart's been dry, like the tear in my eye
I been hurting for you again
I miss the rain, I miss the rain
My heart's been dry, like the tear in my eye
And the pain that I feel, Lord, I miss the rain

It keeps me young when I remember
In my mind the past still lives
I've held onto every thought, it keeps me so alive
The future holds nothing for me
If I can't hold you
I used to try and change the world
Now I change a little for myself

I miss the rain, I miss the rain
My heart's been dry, like the tear in my eye
I been hurting for you again
I miss the rain, I miss the rain
My heart's been dry, like the tear in my eye
And the pain that I feel, Lord, I miss the rain

I know there are those far sadder than I
They lost things they can't replace
Like the beauty in their eyes
But through it all, one thing is constant and remains
The Love of God erases all my pain

I miss the rain, I miss the rain
My heart's been dry, like the tear in my eye

Thursday, October 27, 2011

First kiss...

Dear Sara,

It was 16 years ago today...Friday, October 27, 1995. 

You had asked me to go to Homecoming with you. You, the shy girl, beat me to the punch by just a few minutes...I would have asked you...you were so pretty and I just needed a few more minutes to work up the gumption. I'm glad you asked. :)

We went to the Homecoming dinner. I remember waiting for you in the lounge, so nervous, almost giddy. You came down from your room wearing a beautiful little black dress. The night went by so fast, and yet so slowly. I remember going to the after dinner party in downtown Jackson. We watched a movie...sort of. We went for a carriage ride through the city streets...and talked about us. We'd been spending a lot of time together...friends were buzzing about whether or not we were "a thing." We walked around the downtown area for a while after the carriage ride. I asked you if you liked the thought of "us." You said, "yes." Your eyes sparkled so beautifully, you were so modest and shy. We held hands, walking close together, our joy fighting the late October chill.

We drove back to Spring Arbor and hung out in the lounge a little while longer, but not too late. I remember it was getting close to midnight and we were both getting tired. You walked outside with me, as I was walking to my car...we stopped as we got to the end of the dorm...we said good night...and I kissed you...and you kissed me. Our first kiss. It's the only first kiss I remember so vividly. I floated home that night...alive with joy and excitement.

I miss your kisses. So soft, delicate, passionate, so full of life.

I love you. I miss you. Give Miranda a kiss from daddy.

Love,
Chad

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Daddy's little girl...

Dear Miranda,

Three days wasn't enough. It will never be enough. You're always with me in my heart. You're always on my mind.

I went on a trip this past weekend, down to Atlanta. I went to the aquarium and saw all sorts of neat fish and wonderful creatures. I went for a walk in their beautiful park. I saw all the other families having fun; the mommies and daddies pushing their babies in their strollers. Daddy's heart hurts so bad.

I miss you.  I love you.  Give mommy a kiss from daddy.

Love,
Daddy

You'll be my special girl...always.