Monday, February 28, 2011

How long...

Dear Sara,

Last night I was thinking about the last time we spent this much time apart.  It was over 12 years ago.  We'd been married a little over two years and you had to take your Cross Cultural class at college.  I dropped you off at the airport on January 1, 1999, just as a huge snow storm was moving in.  If your flight had been 30 minutes later, you wouldn't have been able to leave for at least a couple of days.  You were gone for almost four weeks.  We didn't have cell phones, so you took a calling card with you and we talked on the phone every night.  Not for long.  Just enough to catch up on the day and say "I love you."  At the time, I didn't know how I was going to make it through until you got home.  I missed you each and every day.  But somewhere, in the back of my mind, I knew you'd be home and that made each day apart something I could handle.

You're not coming home from this cross cultural trip.  I know that, but there's still a part of me that can't accept it.  I wait for you at the door sometimes, just like Stevie does, hoping you'll walk in at any minute, but you won't...not this time.

While I was at the hospital, holding vigil at Miranda's bedside, the sister of one of our neighbors tied a beautiful pink ribbon on the tree out in front of our house.  It's been a daily reminder for me that even though you're not here, you're still with me, that it's our home I live in.  I untied it from the tree today, both to keep it from being ruined by the elements and to ward off uncomfortable questions.  On Saturday night, we ordered some subs to nosh on while we watched our movie. The lady who delivered them was very cheerful and asked if we'd had a baby.  I didn't know how to answer.  I felt dumb, like there was no least not one that I could give her that would make sense.  I mumbled back "no, not so much" even though it wasn't the truth, or at least the whole truth.  The pink ribbon is drying out today.  I'll keep it remind me of you both.

Remember how I told you that the whole pregnancy thing was flying by for me?  It always seemed like there just wasn't enough time to get ready.  The days don't move so fast now.  Part of me wishes they would and part of me is thankful they don't.  Grief hurts, I don't know anyone that would want to feel this way; but, I don't want to get over you either.  Writing to you helps, mostly to sort out my own confusion, but it doesn't help fill the emptiness.

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


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Family movie night...

...just isn't the same without you sitting by my side.

Aaron, Sarah, mom and dad came over and we watched a movie tonight. You would have liked it.  I'd have liked it better if you'd been here.

They've all gone home now and I am listening to music and watching pictures from our photo library scroll across the TV.  You have such a beautiful smile...and I miss it so much.  The tears sting and my throat hurts.  No matter how much I beg I can't go back to that horrible day and change anything.  All I want to do is go back and listen to that little voice in my head that kept saying we shouldn't bother traveling in that unexpected snow storm.

You're not supposed to be in Heaven right now.  You're supposed to be right here, sitting on the couch next to me, holding our newborn daughter and marveling over how beautiful she is.  The flowers on the bookshelf are supposed to be congratulatory not consolatory.  This broken world, enslaved by death, stole you both from me.  The fallen nature of man stepped in and interrupted God's perfect plan for us.  The Hope of the Resurrection seems so far away right now.  What will be a blink in the scope of eternity feels like it will last a thousand lifetimes.

I can't change history, I can only watch it float across my TV screen and hope that someday all those memories will fill me with fond remembrance instead of sadness.

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


Friday, February 25, 2011

The things they don't tell you...

Dear Sara,

Fourteen and a half years ago we promised we'd love and cherish each other "until death do us part."  I'm finding that even though plenty has been written about grief, grieving, and the processes we go through, no one seems to have come up with a manual, or a set of rules, for the real day-to-day stuff that one has to deal with when the parting happens far too soon.  I'm working on my list of things that I'm sure I'll need to do at some point, but it doesn't feel right to think about doing them now.  It doesn't feel like it will ever feel right to do them.

Will it ever feel OK to delete your phone number out of my contact list?  I canceled your cell phone.  It didn't seem to make much sense to keep paying for it; but, I don't feel like I can delete your number out of my phone.  What if I dial it on accident some day and someone answers?

How long should I keep your FaceBook account active?  People are still sending you friend requests.  Should I accept them?  Should I ignore them?  Will I ever find a day when I don't want to post on your wall and tell you how much I miss you?  Will it be obvious to me when I should change my status from Married to Single?  Do they have an option for Widower?

What about your email?  I unsubscribed to most of the daily "junk mail" type emails you were getting.  What if something legitimate comes through?  I don't send you emails, but what if I want to?  Do they have email in heaven?

Is there a rule about how long I should wear my wedding ring?  At some point will it make other people feel uncomfortable when they see it on my finger?  It feels right and good right where it is. When they took it off at the hospital to clean my hand and bandage my injuries it felt so wrong, so final.  It's comfortable and comforting...does it stay that way?

What would you like me to do with the kitchen?  You worked so hard stripping the cabinets and painting them.  I know you ultimately wanted to do a whole kitchen remodel, even replacing the cabinets.  It hurts to think about taking them out now, ruining all your hard work.  What about the bathroom?  I know you wanted to completely remodel it, too (and it really needs it.)  But you're not here to repaint the walls back to the way they look now.  If I have it done will it feel like I'm losing the part of you that's still here?

I guess that's all I have for now.  I'm sure I'll think of more as time passes.

I know I don't need to say it, but I miss you.  I miss Miranda.

Hugs and kisses,

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Dear Sara,

Today was our official due date.  I know how much you didn't want to focus on a specific day, which is why we always just told people "the last week of February."  Of course, if Miranda was anything like you, she probably wouldn't have arrived for another week :)

I went back to work yesterday, just for a few hours in the evening.  It feels a little strange, but comforting at the same time.  At the end of the day, I still have to come home though, to our home, the home which I wish you were still here to be with me in. I'll go back tonight, and tomorrow night, and the night after.  It will eventually feel normal...I hope.

Sometimes I feel bad that I don't cry all day long every day.  But when I do it hurts so bad I can understand why my mind and body won't let it happen more than it does.

The rational part of my mind says there must be some logical reason this happened.  Some reason that God allowed this to happen.  What was coming that would have been worse than this?  That's the only thing that makes sense to me, that somehow God allowed this to spare me, us, from an even greater tragedy farther down the road.  It doesn't provide any comfort for my heart though.

I love you.  I love Miranda.  I miss you both so much, especially today.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Miranda, my beautiful angel...

I wanted to share some pictures of my sweet angel, Miranda, with you.  Your prayers and kind words have meant so much to me.

The consensus is that she got her mama's hands and fingernails.  Pretty little girl didn't need daddy's sausage fingers and horrible nails.

This was a ring that Sara bought on our vacation up to northern Michigan in October.  Her wedding and engagement rings weren't fitting her and she wanted something sparkly to wear.

Miranda is on the quilt Sara made for her.  Sara and Grandma Ware did the quilt stitching in November.

Wishing I could hold you again, my sweet angel.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Dear Sara...

Dear Sara,

Today was a good, but hard, day.  I went grocery shopping.  It took me a while to actually get out of the car after I got to the store.  It just didn't feel right.  I know we very rarely shopped together, but shopping for one just seems wrong.

Your family came over and we spent a lot of time looking through all of your sewing materials.  So many projects unfinished.  So many more just ideas in your head.  The world is a less lovely place without you and your projects.

We finished the night watching a slideshow of all your pictures from my iPhoto library.  I cried.  Your smile is so beautiful.  Your eyes sparkle.  I just want to reach out and touch your cheek and kiss those beautiful lips again.

They say there are fives stages of grief.  I'm pretty sure I'm still in denial.  I can't stop using words like "we" and "us" when I'm speaking in the present tense.  There's a voice in the back of my head trying to convince me that you'll be home any minute.

By the way, I don't know if I've mentioned it before or not, but our daughter is beautiful.  Of course, I'm sure you know that.  You've been able to spend more time with her than I was allowed.  I'm more than a little jealous and heart broken over that.

It's been two weeks since you left.  I've been so busy it feels like it's been longer.  You know how quiet and dull our life was?  It's been a rush of appointments, meals, friends and family since then.  I haven't had a day go by that I didn't go somewhere, meet up with someone, or have dinner with someone.

My injuries from the accident are healing heart's not doing as well.  It really hurts most of the time.  I want to think about the positive side of you being in Heaven, but most of the time I just feel sad that you're gone.

I found a new home for Katu.  I feel bad about giving her away, but she and Stevie still hate each other; and, without you here to keep the peace, things were starting to get a little hairy.  Stevie's not sure what to think of the gate being down.  He's been making tentative forays into the other half of the house, but goes scurrying back to the basement door when he sees me over there.  I think the gate being down does help him understand that you're not just on the other side of it ignoring his cries.  He's been very quiet since I let him out of the basement this morning.  I bought him some wheat grass to nibble on, I figured you might like that.

None of this makes sense to me.  I don't understand why God let you get hurt so bad.  I still can't find it in my heart to be angry at Him, but that doesn't help me feel any better.

I love you, and I miss you.  I'd do anything to hold you in my arms again and it hurts knowing that I won't ever be able to do that on this Earth.  Give Miranda a kiss from daddy.  Tell her that I love her, too, and wish she was still here.


P.S. I hope you don't mind the way I jump from topic to topic.  My brain just feels really random right now, like there's not a whole lot of order to anything.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Down the road...

It's going to get worse, before it gets better, isn't it?

I've been able to focus my energies for the past 10 days on areas other than grief.  There have been moments when ignoring it just wasn't possible, but I now find myself standing face to face with that which I've been trying to avoid.

My head tells me that logically, this will pass.  It will take time, but it will pass.  My heart tells me otherwise.  My heart tells me this will last forever.

As people's prayers and support continue to pour in, I often find myself feeling conflicted.  I have received many messages telling me about the great things God has been doing in the lives of others as a result of this tragedy and the things I have written here.  My spirit is uplifted by this, and yet, I find myself wishing that God had chosen a different way to move in these people's lives.  My humanity can't help but wish for the selfish, even in the light of seeing Him Glorified.

We live in a broken world.  A world where God's plan is all to often interrupted by that which does not make sense.  None of what happened on February 5 makes sense in terms of God's plan, or God's will.  I'm too tired to be angry at God.  I'm too weary to ask "why?"  Those things may come in time.  Today all I have is a growing sadness.  A sadness that stems from the brokenness of this world and all that keeps us from truly fulfilling God's plan for our lives.

I thank you all for your continued prayers.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's day...

...only not so much.

Sara actually disliked Valentine's Day.  Not so much because of what it stood for, but because of what it meant as a floral designer.  Long hours, demanding customers, etc.  She started working at the flower shop during the Valentine's rush, it's hard to believe she stayed for 12 years after that initial baptism by fire :)

Of course, this made my Valentine's Day pretty easy.  I never had to worry about buying flowers.  I never had to worry about buying a gift, or trying to reserve seats for a hot dinner date.  All I had to do was rub her feet while we watched some TV.  I'd give anything to rub those weary feet tonight...

The busyness following the accident still continues.  Doctor's appointments, paperwork, etc.  The reality of life is still sinking in a little bit at a time.  I've felt a little bit like I was the center of the universe for a few days (an uncomfortable center), and it's actually comforting to feel like I'm getting back into my own orbit around the Son.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Be kind...

Many of you did not know my wife (I realize, of course, many of you do not know me either.)  Below is the text from the memorial I read at her and Miranda's service this morning.  I fear that my words do not do her justice, that the context of my pain can not be adequately expressed within the boundaries of these words.  Despite my best attempts, this is a pale reflection of the woman she was.

The life of Sara Jean Cole, as expressed by Chad Cole on February 12, 2011:

Sara Jean was a Princess, born on a cold, snowy January day in 1976.  She did not enter this world quickly; instead, she gave us a preview of her life.  Sara arrived after 44 hours of labor, letting us know that doing things right would always be more important than doing them quickly.  Sara proved that time and patience produced spectacular results.

Sara was constructive child, in the literal sense of the word.  Sara’s early life was lived out while her parents built their home, in Clarksville, Michigan.  The course of Sara’s life was shaped by this early hands-on experience.  Sara developed a life long passion for projects, for working with her hands, and lived with the philosophy that you don’t need to buy something if you can make it yourself.  That old crusty couch…no problem.  Just strip it down to the frame and rebuild it.  That ancient chair, it just needs a new cover.  We need a bookcase…where’s the saw and that old piece of plywood. 

Sara was well traveled.  After spending her early childhood in Clarksville, Sara’s family began moving around the country, often traveling in a small Toyota station wagon, which was packed to the point of bursting with kids, pets, clothes, and all of life’s other necessities.  While Sara was a shy child, no matter where she went, she made a few steadfast friends and lived her life to the fullest.

As many were able to see at her visitation, Sara was a gifted artist.  Sara could find beauty in just about anything.  She also loved to teach others, sharing her knowledge and experience, ultimately making the world a more beautiful place one relationship at a time.

Sara was all I’ve just described and more.  She was a loving daughter.  She was a wonderful sister.  She was a gardener.  She was a master seamstress.  She was a treasure collector who saw value in things most of would cast of without a second glance.  She had a great sense of humor, and loved to laugh.  She had a compassionate heart and cried often at the sadness she saw around her.  She was everyone’s friend.  She was my best friend, a devoted companion, who filled my life with love and joy, and she was the mother of my beautiful daughter, Miranda Evangelene.

In Miranda’s short life, she never said a word.  She never cooed, or gaa-gaaed.  She never crawled or took a step.  And yet, because of Miranda, a chord has been struck in the heavenly realms and its reverberations will be felt for eternity.  Thousands have joined together in prayer, setting aside spiritual and philosophical differences to lift up one small girl, her mother, her father, and their families.

Because of this I want to tell you who Sara really was.  She described herself the best back in 1983, at the age of 7, when she wrote a short, but poignant letter to Jesus.  “Lord, I pray that you will make my heart loving and kind…”

God answered that prayer, tenfold.  Love dripped from Sara’s pores.  Kindness was at the heart of everything she did.  As an adult, an unkind word from Sara was such a rarity that it was shocking.   And it was usually followed by something positive just to make up for it.  Sara’s gift was living her life with the spiritual purity of a child.  She didn’t make the mistake of trying to make her Christianity into something that was too complex.  For Sara the rules, set by her parents at a young age were simple:  Be kind.  Don’t do things to other people you don’t want to have done to you.  That is who Sara really was.  Sara was love.  She lived love.  If you want to do something to remember my wife, the greatest memorial would be to live life like she did.  Be kind to one another, and don’t do things to other people that you wouldn’t want to have done to you.

As I mentioned earlier, Sara was a collector of treasures.  I was cleaning her purse on Monday when I found a small slip of paper, folded and tucked away into a safe corner.   On it were the lyrics to the hymn All Creatures of our God and King.  It touched my heart, and I wept, because Sara spent her entire life loving all of God’s creatures… especially me.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The beginning of the end of the beginning...

Time is rapidly winding down in terms of the business end of saying goodbye.  Tomorrow will be spent doing visitation and services follow on Saturday.

A memorial fund has been established, even though we have not decided how it will be used.

Anyone who would like to donate is welcome to:
Sara Cole Memorial Fund
c/o Flagstar Bank
2000 Horton Road
Jackson, MI 49203

We will decide, at a later date and as a family, how to use the memorial.  Sara had many things she loved and was passionate about, the decision(s) will not be easy.

I truly appreciate the thousands of readers who have shared in this journey with me.

Writing here has been therapeutic and uplifting.  Your comments have lifted me on angel's wings.

As Saturday passes, things will get much more quiet in my life.  The new "normal" will begin to transition in, slowly and painfully.  As such, you, gentle reader, may not find as much activity on this blog as has taken place over the past week.

Before I slip into a habit of posting less frequently, I want to address something that has been on my heart and mind this entire week.

I have had many people say to me, write to me, say about me, and write about me about what a great "man of God" I am.  I'm not sure I can live up to the bar that has been set.

What you've seen in me over the past few days has little to do with being a strong and vibrant Man of Faith.   I am a man who feels like all this world held for him has been stripped away, leaving him standing cold and naked, with two choices:  cling to the Rock or let go.  I have no choice.  I must cling to the Rock.  All else is misery, selfish humanity, and destructive despair.

Your prayers have been appreciated.  They have helped my fingers hold fast.  I will be clinging here for some time to come, and want you to know how much your support has meant and how long it will last.

Thank you, friends,

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Too tired to write a title....

So much to say...and I'm not sure I can.  My poor brain has started to hit it's limit in terms of sleep depravation.

First, to the Allegiance Health staff members I met today, and especially those I didn't.  I will never be able to thank you enough for what you did for me, my wife and my Miranda.  I learned today that grief radiates out from tragedy like a tsunami.  It knows no boundaries.  It respects no one.  It is completely unpredictable.  I feel for you and with I know you are feeling for me, and with me.  I look forward to seeing you all again in the near future.

The other parts of today felt so rushed.  I'm led to believe there will never be a good way to plan a funeral or memorial service.  No matter how hard those who provide the service try, it will always feel like important decisions need to be made too quickly.  You could give me and my family 6 months to decide on some of these things and we would still feel one wants to say goodbye.  Even though we know they are not with us anymore, no one wants to say goodbye.

I find that the waves of grief are changing.  What was erratic over the past couple of days, with strong surges and times of great relief, has turned to a steady flow. It's now a steady stream with only the occasional burst.  God's grace and mercy continue to hold back the storm, but the flood waters are still rising.

There's so much more I'd like to say...but it will have to wait.

I'm home...

I can not begin to express my gratitude for, nor my amazement at, what has happened over the past three days.  Never in my life have I felt so surrounded with love.  This has been the worst three days of my life, and yet, at the same time, it has been three glorious days, full of shekinah glory.

As I prepared to hold my darling daughter to my chest this evening, I was terrified that I would break...literally break...into pieces.  My fears were unjustified.  The hand of God so reached down and touched me, that I was able to sing my sweet angel into heaven.  That peace stayed with my while I bathed her.  It covered me like a deep blanket of snow while I dressed her for the first time.  It kept a smile on my face while we took pictures and I was able to introduce her to her extended families without all those wires and tubes sticking out of her.  You are all responsible for that peace.

God's miracle to me was giving me strength beyond my own.  Endurance that I could never have mustered.  Helping me carry my daughter proudly down long, silent corridors as we approached the gathered family and friends who were singing upon our arrival:

All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beam,
Thou silver moon with softer gleam!

O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Thou rushing wind that art so strong
Ye clouds that sail in Heaven along,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou rising moon, in praise rejoice,
Ye lights of evening, find a voice!

Thou flowing water, pure and clear,
Make music for thy Lord to hear,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou fire so masterful and bright,
That givest man both warmth and light.

Dear mother earth, who day by day
Unfoldest blessings on our way,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
The flowers and fruits that in thee grow,
Let them His glory also show.

And all ye men of tender heart,
Forgiving others, take your part,
O sing ye! Alleluia!
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
Praise God and on Him cast your care!

And thou most kind and gentle Death,
Waiting to hush our latest breath,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou leadest home the child of God,
And Christ our Lord the way hath trod.

I am blessed, truly blessed this early morning.

I do realize that dark clouds are on the horizon.  The hurting will not go away, or end, just because today is done.  It's 3:45AM, and Stevie, our 10 year old cat, is wandering around the house crying for his "mommy."  All he knows is that he hasn't seen her in 3 days and misses her.  His simple desire to sit on her lap and enjoy a good scratch brings tears to my eyes.  No matter how hard I try, I know that I can't provide for him what he'd grown to love and desire from Sara.  He sits on the step to the family room, watching me type, and I can the questions in his eyes, "Where is she?  When will she be home?"  He occasionally glances at the back door, as if he expects her to walk in any moment.

This house already feels like a shell, an empty reflection of what it once was.  I've had this same feeling every time I looked at myself in a mirror over the past 3 days.  I just didn't recognize the man who was looking back.  He seemed familiar, but not quite the same as what it felt like he should look like.

The only thing that keeps the dark waters of despair and depression from flooding over me at this time is the levy of Christ's love.  A levy woven from the fabric of your prayers.  While God may not have given me my heart's desire, He has stopped up the floodwaters. He has thrown me a life jackets that keeps me from drowning in the deep pits and pools that Satan would love to pull me down into.

Thank you, one thousand times, one million times, thank you!

O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Chad Cole

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Welcome to miracle Tuesday...

Dear Miranda,

It's me, daddy. I'm not even sure where to begin.

Today is a big day! One way, or another, thousands are praying that God will be glorified through your life. You've had a bigger impact on this world in your 3 short days than some of us have over the course of decades.

Daddy needs to be honest with you, I'm selfish. I don't want to think that your going to be with mommy and Jesus is an option. I want you right here. I don't want to ask God for a miracle, I want to demand one. I want Him to feel like he owes me this.

Your doctors here on Earth have been very kind and compassionate. They've made it clear that there's little more they can do. I appreciate all of their hard work, dedication, and expertise. I've made it clear to them that I'm working with a Physician who has done things they'll never dream of. A Physician who works 24/7. A Physician who will make you whole again, either here or in Heaven. This is where that selfishness comes into play, I want it to be here. I need it to be here.

It's still early in the day. The doctors and nurses are changing shifts, so it's a little chaotic around here right now. I find peace in the tranquil little space by your bed.

You will be surrounded today. Surrounded by family and friends. Surrounded by angels and prayer. Surrounded by God's love and care. But let's be clear, I want to surround you and keep you for myself.

I love you, more than I could have imagined,

Monday, February 7, 2011

She who must be admired....

The nursery here at the hospital is quiet right now. Shift change just ended a few minutes ago. I sit here beside "she who must be admired" and wait for our miracle.

The walk to the Holden NICU felt strange this morning. I realized that it's a path thousands of other parents have walked before me, and thousands more will walk after. It's an emotional path to walk, each step bringing you closer to your little loved one. It's hard not to get emotional on a walk like that...but I'm praying that I get to travel that path for many days to come.

Yesterday was a long, hard day. But it was a wonderful day, as well. The neurologists did not have a good report. Medically speaking, Miranda still does not have much, if any brain activity. They are going to do a full EEG today. Miranda spent yesterday surrounded by loving family, some of whom even got a chance to hold her, including me. I can not express in words how much it meant for me to be able to hold my precious little girl.

I have been "accused" of showing extreme courage and fortitude over the past couple of days. Don't be fooled folks, any strength you see is God. I'm so broken on the inside. Waves of despair, pain, and frustration do occasionally break over the levee, but I know that Jesus is there holding the flood back.

Today will be another long day, but I know that Miranda and I will be surrounded by family and love, both figuratively and literally. Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise him all creatures here below. Praise him above, ye heavenly hosts. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

My heart is broken...

I lost my best friend of over 15 years yesterday.  She was taken from this Earth far too early.  Knowing that she is resting is Jesus loving care doesn't begin to address the emptiness and hurt that I feel today.

MLive News Report about our accident

Article about our daughter

Brown Floral reaction

Our daughter, Miranda Evangelene Cole, was "delivered" at 2:17PM, about 45 minutes after the crash.  She did not have a heart beat.  She was not breathing.  The doctors were able to start her heart and get her on ventalation.  She was then rushed to Mott's Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor, MI.

I fear that our time with Miranda may be short.  I know that hundreds, if not thousands of people are praying for her, and for a miracle, today.  It will take a miracle...

Even with the positives that the doctors keep reporting, the one thing that everything hinges on is brain activity, which Miranda is showing little to none of as we near the 24 hour mark.  The neurologists haven't been in yet, but the pediatric doctors are worried that the neurologists finding won't be any different than their own.

If Miranda doesn't show any improvement by 7:30PM Tuesday evening, it's likely that we'll have to say goodbye to her, too.

I truly appreciate the love that's been expressed to my and Sara's family during this trajedy.  We have felt the touch of angels and yet still find ourselves struggling with the reality of what has happened and what may be yet to come.

My heart is broken, please pray for Miranda.  Please pray for a miracle.  She's a beautiful little girl, and she's fighting, but she needs more help than what the doctors can give her.

Chad Cole