Thursday, December 30, 2010

One year later....still standing.

One year ago my world broke apart.  But today, one year and one day later, here I am  – still standing.  There is so much that I could say about this year, but here are a few things to sum it up:

  • God is good.  Faith doesn't prevent horrible, tragic things from happening – but it got me through this year.
  • God’s timing is perfect.  It may not be my timing.  It may not be what I think I want.  But it is perfect.
  • Love is the greatest gift.  It is the center.  The beginning and end. And Love never ends.

One year ago, I didn't know if I could ever feel normal again.  I was in so much pain.  My heart had been ripped out of my chest.  My body hurt.  I couldn't walk or pick up Colleen.  In that first week after the accident, there were days that I couldn't think about the next five minutes.  I had to stay focused on my immediate next activity – I couldn't handle thinking of even small amounts of time without Chris. Thinking about a year was impossible.  During that week I got a visit from a dear friend, who as he says, is also a member of the “exclusive club that is not that exclusive” – made up of those of us who have lost a loved one.  He and his family had been an inspiration to me as they dealt with their own tragedy and grief.  He sat next to me on the couch and held my hand as I cried and asked him in desperation, “Will I will be able to make it?”.  He said to me, “All I can say is that I feel different today than I did after a week, after a month, after a year. You will make it.”  Here I am, one year later, and I can say that it is true.

There are moments when I feel Chris so close that it is shocking.  At the lake, when I was sitting with Colleen and wishing he was with us, when a perfect flower fell into the lake right in front of us, floating in beautiful pink contrast to the blue water.  In my backyard, when I noticed for the first time that a tree that I thought was dead had tiny green buds of new life – coming out in the middle of winter. On Christmas Day in Ohio, when I noticed for the first time that snow glistens even when there is no sunshine. Every time I see Colleen, with Chris’ dimpled chin and soft brown eyes, laughing and playing and being a normal, happy two-year-old.  I know that he gives me little gifts – reminders that he, and God, will always be with me.

There will never be a day that I don’t think about Chris.  That I won’t love Chris.  That I won’t be thankful for him and our life together.  That I don’t miss him desperately. That I don’t see his face in Colleen and in my heart.  The hardest thing that I have ever done is to try to remain thankful.  It feels irrational.  It doesn’t come naturally.  But I had to decide – how do I want to live my life?  I remember being in the hospital – as I tried to wrap my brain around my new life – I knew that the last thing Chris would want is for this to ruin my life.  To ruin Colleen’s life. He loved us so much - and we loved him so much - that I knew that this could not be the end of my life.  It had to be the beginning of a new life.

One night during the first week while I was trying to fall asleep, I saw a flash of Colleen’s high school graduation.  I couldn’t see her face clearly, or see the audience or where we were, but I knew was there with our entire family.  I heard her say to me, “Thank you for giving me a beautiful life – even though I know now how hard that must have been.”  I knew at that moment that I would do that for her.  Give her a beautiful life full of joy and love – no matter how hard it was.

I am humbled by the love, support, and prayers that we have received this year.  The power of those prayers is immeasurable. We have felt them pour over us, surrounding us with that greatest gift of love. Thank you, thank you, thank you for lifting us up.

This has been the hardest year of my life.  I have stumbled, cried, and grieved through the valley of shadows.  But I have also lived and loved, praised and thanked, laughed and smiled, and remembered.   And here I am, one year later, still standing. Thanks be to God.

With love,

Brooke Fraser - Shadowfeet

Walking, stumbling on these shadowfeet
toward home, a land that I've never seen
I am changing, less and less asleep
made of different stuff than when I began
and I have sensed it all along
fast approaching is the day

When the world has fallen out from under me
I'll be found in you, still standing
when the sky rolls up and mountains fall on their knees
when time and space are through
I'll be found in you

There’s distraction buzzing in my head
saying in the shadows it's easier to stay
but I've heard rumors of true reality
whispers of a well-lit way


You make all things new
You make all things new
You make all things new
You make all things
You make all things

When the world has fallen out from under me
I'll be found in you, still standing
Every fear and accusation under my feet
when time and space are through
I'll be found in you
when time and space are through
I'll be found in you
when time and space are through
I'll be found in you

Sunday, September 12, 2010

No Matter What

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. " - Jeremiah 29:11-13

God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." - Hebrews 13:

In the weeks after our accident, I received two Facebook messages that I read so many times I have them memorized.  They have been on my heart these last few weeks - as we have gotten into the routine of our new life, and see the joy and grace that surrounds us.

The first was from a friend of Chris' who lost her first husband while they were in college.  She sent me the two verses above, and this message:

We serve a God of preparation. He has certainly prepared you for this, although I know you probably feel so ill equipped. He has orchestrated so much to help you through. Take note of all the ways you see God's power in this. You'll be amazed! And one day you'll have an incredible story to tell of how God loves You so much and carried you. It will be an important testimony for your daughter and critical to keep you from doubting your faith.

I remember being in the hospital, and my sister read this message out loud to me.  As tears streamed down my face I vowed to do exactly as she said – and I have.

God’s work in my life has been incredible. He is everywhere.  In the hard moments, in the beautiful moments, the simple and the complex. Each day, I see Him more clearly.
Yesterday, Colleen and I enjoyed one of our first completely free days with nothing to do. We slept late,went to Target, ate lunch at Chick-Fil-A, swam at the pool, and eventually ended up at Half Price Books.  As we walked out, Colleen said, "Look!  Look at the blue sky!  God made the sky.  God made me. God made Momma.  And God loves me very much."  I whispered a little thanks right there in the parking lot.  Even with everything that has happened - she is healthy, happy, and thankful.  Our lives are made of little moments - and I am so blessed that my eyes are open to them like they  never have been before. 

The second message was from someone who has known me since I was a heavy, awkward, frizzy haired 4th grader, and who has been a blessing to me since then.  It said:

I believe in miracles. I believe that God’s love is beyond comprehension and beyond measure. I believe that God is intimately involved in the workings of our lives, all of our lives. What I don’t understand is the whys. Why things happen the way they do. If God wants the best for us, how do we reconcile the bad? Is God stingy with His miracles? Does He follow some mysterious selection process, rewarding the few, punishing the others? This idea contradicts all I know of God. While life, even life with God, is never without pain, I do not believe that God keeps some kind of ultimate score card, or that the truly horrible, unthinkable things that happen to us are caused by God.

As I have struggled though the darkest moments of my own life, and worried over these things, the only conclusion I have been able to draw is that it doesn’t matter. Even if we can know the heart of God (full of love), it is impossible to fully know or understand the WAY of God. And ultimately, it doesn’t matter if we get it or not. God does. The greatest freedom I have found as a person of faith is the freedom from figuring all of it out. To finally say, “I don’t know, I can’t ever really know, but God, I trust You anyway” was the thing that, in those darkest moments, made it possible to continue putting one foot in front of the other.

This message, and  the truth behind it, has been the cornerstone of my faith over the last eight months.  That the “whys” are not important – that it is not our job to understand because we will never understand – and what we have to do is just let go.  Let go and let God lead.  Open our hearts , and trust that whatever happens will happen in His perfect timing.  

Each day, I feel more peaceful .  If I know anything, it is that I can’t plan my life.  It is hard.  Extremely hard.  I want to plan.  I want to know what is next.  But every time I feel anxiety creeping in, I try make myself stop.  Breathe.  Put one foot in front of the other and let myself be led.

Even though I have no idea what is next for us,  I know that we are exactly where we are supposed to be.   That we are meant to be in this place in this time, and that God has beautiful plans for our lives. And that we will continue to trust his plan for us – no matter what.

I’m running back to Your promises one more time
Lord that’s all I can hold on to
I gotta say this has taken me by surprise, but nothing surprises You
Before a heartache can ever touch my life
It has to go through Your hands
And even though I keep asking why, I keep asking why

No matter what, I’m gonna love You
No matter what I’m gonna need You
I know You can find a way to keep me from the pain
But if not, if not, I’ll trust You no matter what, no matter what

When I’m stuck in this nothingness by myself
I’m just sitting in silence
There’s no way I can make it without Your help, I won’t even try it
I know You have Your reasons for everything so I will keep believing
Whatever I might be feeling, God You are my hope
And You’ll be my strength

Anything I don’t have You can give it to me, but it’s ok if You don’t
I’m not here for those things
The touch of Your love is enough on its own

No matter what I still love You and I’m gonna need You
No matter what I’m gonna love You, no matter what I’m gonna need You
I know You can find a way to keep me from the pain
But if not, if not, I’ll trust You

I know You can find a way to keep me from the pain
But if not, but if not, I’ll trust You

No matter what
No matter no matter what
No matter no matter what
No matter no matter what

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Seven months

Seven months. It is incredible that it was only that long ago.  In so many ways it seems like another life, and still, like yesterday.

There is this John Mayer song where there last two lines are:
"Wherever I go.  Whatever I do. I wonder where I am in my relationship to you.
Wherever you go.  Wherever you are.  I watch your pretty life play out in pictures from afar".

These days, I imagine saying the first line Chris  - that wherever I go, whatever I do, I always think about him.  And I imagine him reminding me in the second line that no matter what, he is watching Colleen and I from afar, as our lives continue in the way God intends them to.  I know he will never leave our memories, our hearts, our home, but I still miss him desperately.

It's not the same as in the beginning.  I can go days without the sadness gripping my heart in a choke hold.  Now, when it does come, I take a deep breath and let it wash over me.  If Colleen is with me, I tell her that I am sad because I miss her Daddy.  And, when I am ready, without me even knowing how, I start to feel better, and I am ready to face the next thing that life will inevitably bring.

In Colleen's new princess room
We moved into our new house two weeks ago.  It is a beautiful home, and has already been a blessing to be so close to Chris' parents and Colleen's school.  Colleen loves the new house.  She has a big girl bed complete with princess bedding, a big living room to dance in, and some new freedom.  She can open and close the back door by herself and go out into the backyard alone.  I watch her from the windows in the kitchen as she waters the plants, pets the dog and plays with her sandbox. The weeks of renovations and stress and worry were all worth it for the life we will live here. We are meant to be in this house.

Just as I prayed for, a wonderful young couple who are pregnant with their first baby bought our old house.  They will live a wonderful life in that house.  As I left the night before we closed, I remembered the day we found it.  We had been looking for months, and the minute we walked in we knew it would be our home.  We loved that house and the life we had there, and I am so thankful that God gave us another couple who would love it as much as we did.

The last few months have been so busy, I feel like I haven't had a moment to catch my breath. I sold a car, bought a car, took care of a house on the market, sold a house, bought a house, renovated a house, moved into a house...all on top of the everyday responsibilities of being a working single mom.  Tonight is the first night that I can remember that I actually didn't have a huge, pressing, additional project on my plate.  It feels so good.

It's hard to remember that just four months ago I was on crutches, and couldn't even take care of Colleen without help.  That three months ago I was in physical therapy and was worried that I would never be able to walk normally again.  That two months ago I was worried that I wouldn't be able to sell my house.  That just one month ago I cried during one of my parent's visits as I started to really think about how hard it would be (literally and emotionally) to move into a new home.  I know that God gave these challenges to me for a reason.  That he knew that I needed to prove to myself that I could handle it. And  I did.  But I am so excited about slowing down and taking a breath.  Going to the pool after work with Colleen - heading out for a run - watching Project Runway - just doing nothing. 

My instinct has always been to rush, to push, on to the next thing.  The next step in my career, the next phase in my life - I know in my heart that I can't push through this.  I need to just....stop.  Stop and be in this moment in my life.  Savor every minute with Colleen.  Get to know myself again.  Figure out what kind of life that God wants us to have.  Figure out who I am.

I was never a grown-up without Chris.  We started dating during my last semester as an undergrad.  He had been out of school for several years, and was already settled - he had a home, a job, and a clear idea of what he wanted his life to be like.  I loved getting plugged into that equation.  We wanted the same things - a simple life, a safe place for our kids to grow up, a life full of our friends and our families - these are all the things that I feel so blessed to have.  But I never had to do it alone.

Being a single parent is hard. You have to be both the friend and the disciplinarian.  You have to do...everything.  There is no putting off chores until someone else does them.  No asking your partner to be the "bad cop" when your child breaks the rules.  No one else to soothe the tears, sing the bedtime songs, make dinner, empty the dishwasher, run to the grocery store at 10 pm because we are out of milk and mac & cheese.  I have been keeping a log of what I call "single Mom moments" - times when I have had to just suck it up and do whatever it takes to fix the problem.  The details are for another post - but the key is that I am learning to do whatever it takes.  That I can do whatever it takes.  I know the lessons will keep coming, but I also know they will get easier.

In the last few weeks, we have all been teaching Colleen about Chris.  For months we didn't really know what to do.  What do you say?  How do you explain?  Now, we tell the truth.  That Dada is in heaven with God.  That his name is Chris Cooper. That he loved basketball and the Aggies (most of the time).  That he was tall.  That he had black hair.  That he danced funny during Hi-5 because it made her laugh.  That he loved Colleen and Momma and all of us so much.  That he called her Wormy, and was more proud of her than anything else in the world.  She has a little script now, where she repeats the thing we have taught her.  She gets a big smile on her face whenever we talk about him  We have pictures of our family all around the new house.  After having them all put away while our old house was on the market, it is wonderful to have them up again.  I keep reminding myself how blessed we are that she won't remember this.  She won't remember the pain - she will just remember the things we teach her.  What a bittersweet blessing.

I know that many of you are praying for us, and I want to you to know much we appreciate and feel your prayers.  My request now is that Colleen and I are blessed with time to rest. Time to rest in this moment until we are ready for what is next.

The song on my repeat these days speaks to my own need to know that God is listening no matter what I am saying.  It's by Amy Grant, and it reminds me that God loves us just as we are.   That he wants our honesty more than anything.  That whatever we are feeling, wherever we are, whatever we do, he is with us through it all. 

With love,

Better Than A Hallelujah

God loves a lullaby
In a mother's tears in the dead of night
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes.
God loves a drunkards cry,
The soldiers plea not to let him die
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

The woman holding on for life,
The dying man giving up the fight
Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes
The tears of shame for what's been done,
The silence when the words won't come
Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody

Beautiful the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

Better than a church bell ringing,
Better than a choir singing out,singing out.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

Monday, April 26, 2010

Our time is but a breath, so we better breathe it

God has continued to bless our lives over the last two months.  Physically, I was able to walk without crutches in mid-March, and remove my walking boot two weeks ago.  Wearing two shoes was a strange transition after four months of my “special boot”, and it was precious that Colleen kept saying that “Momma’s leg is allllll better.”  I have an amazing physical therapist who has not only helped heal my body, but also serves as a ray of God’s light in my life.  It is almost hard to remember that just a few months ago I was crawling through my house because it was easier than using my walker, and just one month ago it hurt to walk even short distances without my crutches.   With every pain-free step, I am reminded that God is good.

The last two months have brought big changes in other parts of our lives as well.  I returned to work full-time, and have begun to adjust to the reality of being a single mother.  The first few weeks were hard.  I had to adjust to getting up, getting myself and Colleen ready, and getting to work on time.  While I was off crutches, it still hurt badly to walk, so every task too longer than it normally would.  Colleen was not used to going to school early in the mornings , and had a hard time adjusting to our earlier schedule, and by the time we get home each night, I have household chores and work that keep me busy until late.  I was exhausted, mentally and physically.

 I chose to go back to work during Spring Break, so that I would be able to transition during a slow week.  I walked into my office on my first day and was greeted by an enormous sign on my wall –signed with personal notes from all of my colleagues - welcoming me back.  I stood in the doorway and cried.  I am blessed to work with an amazing community of people that has showed me so much support.  I am overwhelmed by their kindness daily.

 I also hadn’t  thought to prepare myself for how different my workday would be.  Chris and I had a work life was very different than most couples.  Our buildings on campus were literally across the street from each other.  We would ride to work together most days, eat lunch at home together almost every day, and chat sporadically on instant messenger all day.  Whenever something funny, or stressful, or random would happen, we would send a quick note to each other – make each other laugh and get on with our day.  The first few days at work, I had such a hard time remembering that he wasn’t there.   There were so many things that happened during the first few days that I wanted to tell him about – I felt a sense of loneliness that I wasn’t prepared for.  I ended up crying many other times that week.   I would close my office door – take a deep breath – and ask God to help me make it through the next hour.  It was hard, but I did it.  And the second week was easier than the first, and the third easier than the second, and it has continued to get easier as the weeks have gone on.  Now that my leg is feeling so much better, our mornings and evenings are easier.  Colleen and I laugh, we play in the back yard, we watch the movies, we go to the park, we make dinner, we eat ice cream – we do all of the things that make life….beautiful.  Of course, every day we wish that Dada was here with us, but we both know that we are living how he would want us to live – with strength, with hope, with joy, and with love.

This past week, we honored Chris at the Texas A&M campus Muster ceremony.  In all my years of attending Muster, I never imagined myself holding a candle for my husband.  It was a hard, but beautiful day, and one that I am honored to have participated in.  Chris had people all over the world say “here” for him that day.  His life lives on in the memories of those that he loved, and who loved him, and I know how lucky we are to be able to celebrate his life with our Aggie Family.

God also continues to send us messages of hope and love.  We have been blessed the opportunity to buy a new home that is within walking distance of Chris’ wonderful parents – Colleen’s Meme and Poppa.  They have always been an integral part of our daily lives, but their support has been incredible the last few months.   I was not looking to move.  I love our house.  It is the house that we built our family in.  It is our home.  But I have made a commitment to accept the gifts that God sends to me with open arms and an open heart, and he couldn’t have sent a more clear message with the gift of this new home.  I know that Chris would love for us to live so close to his parents - it will be a blessing in all of our lives - and I am so thankful.

Please continue to pray for us as we make this transition.  We continue to feel the power of your prayers in our lives, and continue to be awed by the wonder of God’s love and faithfulness.  I still miss my Chris every day, but each day I am filled with joy at the light in Colleen’s eyes, her beautiful smile, and the peace that God is leading our days.

I will leave you with the song that is touching my heart now.  I am touched by the reminder that “We are not long here.  Our time is but a breath.  So we better breathe it.” and comforted that truly “Hope is coming for me”.
With Love,

Brooke Fraser – CS Lewis Song:

If I find in myself desires nothing in this world can satisfy,
I can only conclude that I was not made for here
If the flesh that I fight is at best only light and momentary,
then of course I'll feel nude when to where I'm destined I'm compared

Speak to me in the light of the dawn
Mercy comes with the morning
I will sigh and with all creation groan as I wait for hope to come for me

Am I lost or just found? On the straight or on the roundabout of the wrong way?
Is this a soul that stirs in me, is it breaking free, wanting to come alive?
Cos’ my comfort would prefer for me to be numb
An avoid the impending birth of who I was born to become


For we, we are not long here
Our time is but a breath, so we better breathe it
And I, I was made to live, I was made to love, I was made to know you
Hope is coming for me
Hope, He's coming

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Article in the Seguin Gazette-Enterprise

Thank you to Ron Maloney for his great article in today's Seguin Gazette-Enterprise. Our accident occurred right outside of Seguin, and he has covered our story from the beginning. I am so glad he reached out to me this week, and know that this article will continue to help in our effort to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving.

This afternoon Colleen and I were at the park enjoying the amazingly beautiful day.  A woman approached me, and said that she had made her 18 year old son sit down and watch my interview on KBTX, and that she had made him promise not to drive distracted again.  She is just one of the hundreds of people who has stopped me, emailed me, or sent me a Facebook message to let me know how our story has inspired them to put their cell phones down while they are driving.  When I posted my blog last Monday, I would have never expected that our story would touch so many lives - especially those of complete strangers.  But, as I said before, I know that God has a plan for my life, and I feel absolutely confident that this is all part of his plan.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Interview on local news tonight

Today I was interviewed for the Bryan-College Station local news as part of a piece they ran tonight on distracted driving.  Although recounting our story was difficult, God has given me incredible strength this week.  I feel a great sense of purpose when I tell our story as a way to help raise awareness to stop distracted driving.  As I wrote in a previous entry, I have been praying daily for strength, serenity, patience and purpose, and God is faithfully answering my prayers.

The reporter who wrote the story is one of the anchors - Meredith Stancik.  She did a fantastic job, and the result is a moving, compelling story that I know will have a positive impact on our community.  I sincerely appreciate her taking an interest in our family and this issue.  You can click the link below to read the full-text, and watch the video clip that was shown at 10 pm on KBTX.

I thank God for the opportunities He is presenting for our family to help raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving.   I know that He is using our story to save lives, and to save other families from the pain and loss we have experienced.  As I say in the interview, I miss Chris, more than words could ever express, but I just keep loving him - and I know that he is with us.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A powerful message, and amazing grace

I have been humbled and amazed by the response to my blog entry on Monday. To everyone who has reposted the message, sent emails, talked to their friends and family, and pledged to never drive distracted again: you are saving lives, which honors Chris’ memory in a beautiful way - thank you!  I said in one of my earlier blogs that, even in the face of such a tragedy, it is impossible not to see God's hand in my life.  I am in awe of how he is using our story to touch, change, and to save lives. 

Last night I was in my childhood room in Corpus Christi - scanning the bookshelves for an easy read.  I do this a lot when I am home:  I pick out an old book - something I loved as a kid - and read it sporadically during my stay.  I usually end up with one of the C.S. Lewis Narnia books, or Anne of Green Gables...but last night my eyes feel on a book I hadn't seen before.  It was on my twin sister's bookshelf, and the title is, "What's so Amazing about Grace?".  I opened the jacket, and inside was the name of my late maternal grandmother,  Nancy Lang.  Nancy, my Nana, passed away in the summer of 2003 - right before Chris and I started dating.  I always wished that she would have lived to see how happy we were, how happy he made me, and what a beautiful life that we had as a family.

The book is about grace - how nothing we do here on earth can earn us God's love. God's love is given to us freely and without condition - completely by his grace.  For the last few weeks, I have seen God's grace in my life.  Putting my trust in him has kept me going through the last 10 weeks.  Saying, "God, I trust you.  I trust that you are with me always, and that you will never forsake me.  I trust that your plan, your timing, is perfect - even though it may not spare me from pain."  I saw Nana's name in that book, and knew this was another little gift from God. It was his way of saying- "See?  Look around you?  Do you see how I am leading you?  Helping you find you way through this valley?  Trust me, I know the way."

Someday, I will tell Colleen about the last 24 hours.  How I felt God with me, giving me courage to tell our story.  How people were moved by it, touched by it, enough to share it with others all over the world.  That our story helped people to make a decision that is hard, but that could save lives.  I pray that by the time Colleen is able to drive that we will look back and be shocked that we, as a culture, did not realize the danger of our behaviors sooner.  Until then, please continue to tell our story, keep your eyes on the road, and take time each day to open your heart to God's grace in your life.  

Monday, March 8, 2010

Honor Chris today - Pledge to never drive distracted again

Today is Chris' birthday.  He would have been 35.  It would have been his first birthday that Colleen would actually remember.  It would have been a day filled with joy, laughter, and Chris' infectious,  beaming smile. While every day is hard, today is especially heartbreaking.

I have not described the car accident that took his life in detail in these notes.  Today I am ready.  Today I want to tell you all about how you can honor Chris by helping to avoid the type of accident that caused two people to lose their lives on December 29, 2009.

On that day, Chris and I were driving from Corpus Christi to Dallas to be with his sister - who was in labor with her first baby.  We were having a great time in the car.  We were so happy about being able to be in Dallas for little Sophie's birth.  Chris had just won his fantasy football league championship.  Colleen was safe at home in Corpus with my parents.  Our weekend could not have been any better.  We stopped for food in Seguin, and were continuing our trip on Highway 123 between Seguin and San Marcos.  I remember being in the car with Chris, talking about Colleen and our great weekend...laughing and joking like we always did.  The next thing I remember is hearing voices, and thinking to myself - "They are talking to me.  I need to wake up".

I don't remember anything about the accident, but the the officer who investigated our case was incredibly thorough. Here is what he found:

On that day, an 18 year old girl drove from Seguin to San Marcos to purchase a car - a 1990 Jeep Cherokee.  She was driving home, following a car with a few of her family members.  As she drove, she was using her iPhone.

On Highway 123, she got distracted by her phone, and didn't anticipate a curve in the roadway.  She was in the right hand lane, and started to veer towards a guardrail on her right.  When she looked up from her iPhone, she overcorrected, and jerked her wheel to the left.  She crossed three lanes of traffic on the undivided highway at over 70 miles an hour and slammed directly into our car. There were no skid marks - she was too distracted to try to stop or avoid our car.

The officers found an active text message on her iPhone after the accident.  The police report officially states that she was "using her cell phone".  She was not wearing a seatbelt, and was ejected from the car.  The ejection ripped off most of her clothes.  She was not drunk - but she was under the influence. She was under the influence of the untrue belief that it is possible to drive and use a cell phone at the same time.

We all think that we can.  We all think that we are good enough drivers to be able to text, read and write email, surf the internet, and make calls while we are driving.  Chris did.  I did.  The 18 year old girl who hit us that day did.  And I would bet that most of you reading do.  The truth is: we can't.  No one can.  It doesn't matter if you are 16 or 45, using a cell phone while you are driving is too distracting to risk.

I know you are thinking - "There is no way I can give it up.  I am a good enough driver.  I have years of experience.  It will never happen to me."  I am here to tell you - it can.

Chris was not on his phone during the accident.  He was not distracted, and his focus allowed him to see the oncoming car, and maneuver our car quickly to the right before the impact.  That maneuver, the last thing that he did, saved my life.

Today, on his birthday, I ask you to honor Chris' memory by pledging to never drive distracted again.  Honor his memory by never riding in a car with someone who is driving distracted again.  Every time someone texts you, or calls while you are driving, think to yourself, "Is sending this text worth risking my life?  Is taking this call worth risking the life of another driver?"  No call, no text, no email, was worth losing two lives on that day.

My heart aches for the family of the girl who also died that day.  She didn't think that she was doing anything wrong.  She never had a chance to live her life.  I mourn for her, just as I do for Chris.

I ask you today to pledge in memory of Chris to never let your phone distract you while you are driving again.  For your own sake, and for the other drivers around you - do not take the chance that your actions could take another life or your own.

Chris was a wonderful husband, amazing father, loving son and brother, and fiercely loyal friend.  There is not a minute in a day that I don't think about him.  I miss him desperately.  But, Colleen and I are living our life.  We laugh and smile and enjoy the blessed moments that we have together every day.  We thank God for the time we had with Chris, and trust in God that he has not left us, and will never leave us alone.

Here are some links for more information on the dangers of distracted driving, and what you can do to help:

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sweet Child of the Kingdom

Cheri Roman, a dear friend of my family since my childhood, has recently released an album of original songs titled, "Child, You're Not Alone". The CD is to benefit the Taylor Berry Heart Transplant Foundation. Taylor is a 14 year old boy from Corpus Christi (my hometown), who needs a second heart transplant.

Cheri completed the recording on the day that Chris was killed, December 29, 2009. Shortly after the accident, Cheri called me to ask permission to dedicate the first track on the album, 'Sweet Child of the Kingdom', to Colleen in memory of Chris. As she and I cried together that day, God's work in my life was so obvious, so amazing, that it was overwhelming.

The entire album is beautifully written, produced, and arranged by Cheri, but I especially love Sweet Child - the song dedicated to Colleen. It is as if the song was written for all of us - for Colleen, for Chris, and for me, and everyone who believes that we are all children of God's Kingdom. Here are the lyrics:

Sweet Child of the Kingdom
I’ve called you by name
I go before you
All your days are ordained.

If you rise on the wings of the dawn
Or settle in the depths of the sea
Even then, I’ll hold you fast
Sweet child, I’ll never leave.

Sweet Child of the Kingdom
You were wonderfully made
Woven together
By my own hands, your path is laid. REFRAIN

Your name is written in the book of life
You’re precious in my sight
Rest your head on my shoulder
There’s healing in the light. REFRAIN

In addition to dedicating the song to Colleen, Cheri will donate 25% of the proceeds from the digital downloads of the album to my daughter Colleen's college fund and the additional proceeds all go to benefit Taylor's foundation. It is an incredible tribute to Chris' life, but more than that, her music has blessed my life, and I know that it will bless the lives all of anyone who listens.

If you are interested in hearing clips of her music or purchasing the album, it is available on iTunes here:

One of the most amazing things about the last two months is seeing how God is working all around me - laying his hands on my life and the lives of those that I love - to support us through this difficult time. For that, and all of the continued blessings in my life, I remain thankful.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

I will go through the valley - 1/26/10

It has been one month today. I miss Chris desperately. I miss everything about him, about our life, our love, but I am living my life as well as I can – working to live the life that he would want for me and for Colleen.

We are back in College Station this week after spending the last week in my childhood home in CC. At our church on Sunday, a group of us sat and cried together after the service. We talked, and prayed, and remembered. One of the hardest things for me now is seeing the hurt in the eyes of the people that I love. Sometimes I feel like the grief of others is harder for me to handle that my own grief. Seeing the love that people have for us is overwhelming. It reminds me again how amazingly blessed I am to be surrounded by people who love me, love Colleen, and love Chris. We had a great week, but, even though this was the house that I grew up in, I know that my home, our home, is here – in College Station – where Chris and I built a beautiful life.

Even though it feels like it was an entire other lifetime ago, I can look around and joyfully remember the life that we had here at our home. The fist week we were back, right after the accident, I tried not to go into our home office. The office was “Dada’s room” – the room that he was thrilled to has as his own when we moved into our house. The room is all Chris. The shelves are filled with shoes from his impressive collection of Jordans, the walls covered with basketball memorabilia, and the bookshelves lined with sports biographies, vintage Star Wars figurines, and his favorite books from when he was a kid. There is no way to come into this room and not feel close to him. As I sit here today at the computer, surrounded by his favorite things, my heart aches for him.

On Sunday, my parents took Colleen to run errands and left me here to rest. I ended up not sleeping, but here in the office - his room. I took that time to do something that I had been putting off. I spent almost 2 hours reading all of the Facebook messages that people have sent me over the last month. I went to Chris’ fan page, read all of the entries, and re-watched the video from the memorial service for the first time. I logged into his old hotmail account, and read a folder of emails that he had saved from when we were first dating – over 6 years ago. And I let myself weep. I wept for myself, for Colleen, for our families. I wept for his friends, who loved him like a brother. I wept for the life that we could have had.

As I wept, I was listening to a song that someone had reminded me of right after the accident. It’s a song that I have heard before, but have never really had the context to understand. The song is a prayer, and as I listened I prayed her words. I prayed that God would lead me through this valley, this fire, to the life that he has promised. I prayed and asked for strength, the strength to not to have to understand, but just to know that God’s heart is full of love, and that he will never leave me. As I write this now, I can’t help but cry – but I don’t feel alone.

I remember in the first days I couldn’t imagine how I would feel a month after the accident. Today I can say that I feel better – more at peace – than I would have expected, but that I know now that the ache in my heart will never go away. It will stay with me as a reminder –a welcome, beautiful reminder - of the gift that God gave me when he gave me Chris. And for that, and all the other blessing in my life, I remain thankful.

With love,

If You Want Me To
Ginny Owens

The pathway is broken
And the signs are unclear
And I don’t know the reason why you brought me here
But just because You love me the way that You do
I will go through the valley
If You want me to

Now I'm not who I was
When I took my first step
And I'm clinging to the promise
You're not through with me yet
So if all of these trials bring me closer to You
I will go through the fire
If You want me to

It may not be the way I would have chosen
When you lead me through a world that's not my home
But You never said it would be easy
You only said I'll never go alone

So when the whole world turns against me
And I'm all by myself
And I can't hear You answer my cries for help
I'll remember the suffering Your love put You through
And I will go through the valley
If You want me to

the little moments - 1/14/10

This week has been almost surreal. I can't believe that just over two weeks ago my life was...normal...complete...perfect. This week, that life feels like a lifetime ago.

This week was full of doses of reality. Detail after detail to be attended to, phone call after phone call to try to get our life in order - each time having to repeat my story over and over to those on the other end - and each time finding that I can't get it out without crying.

Chris was one of those people who just got things done. It was one of the things that made him an amazing husband. He handled all of our finances - paying bills, managing accounts, keeping track of the literally hundreds of username/password/security question combinations that are the keys to our online lives. He took that burden on so that I didn't have to worry about it, and I love him for that - it was one of the many ways that he showed me that he loved me, and took care of our family.

This week has also been full of little moments that remind me of Chris. Earlier in the week, as I was going down our list on the DVR to find a specific episode of "Wonder Pets" for Colleen, I had to flip through all the shows that Chris had taped. Poker after Dark, TNA Wrestling, Real World/Road Rules Challenge....I laughed loud with as we saw the list. Chris liked what he liked, and didn't make any excuses about it - which was one of the reasons he was an amazing man.

I found one of his gray, long sleeve, Dri-Fit Nike shirts in his closet, and have been sleeping in it. It is huge - almost down to my knees - but just having it on is so comforting, but also heartbreaking. Chris was so tall that I fit perfectly into the crook under his arm - I used to tell him that it was made for me, and it would make him laugh.

Every day, Chris would wake up, get Colleen out of bed, and go and make her breakfast. Her favorite breakfast was Nutri-Grain Eggo Waffles, but she only allowed Chris to make them. We had a joke that "Dada makes the waffles" and no one else. This week, every morning we have asked her if she wants a waffle, and she has said no. I know I shouldn't project, or assume what she is thinking, but I think that she wants to keep that between her and her Dada.

It's these little moments in our everyday life that I will miss the most. Eating breakfast as a family. Waking up together. Laughing in the car on the way home from work. Seeing Chris with Colleen in the morning - with her crazy hair and sleepy eyes. Knowing that I had someone I loved, and who loved me, that would be there for me no matter what. I didn't take those moments for granted - Chris and I would talk about how much we loved our life and each other, and how lucky we were - but that doesn't mean that I won't miss them dearly.

I have also seen God doing amazing things in my life this week. Assuring that I didn't have to drive to Austin to go to the doctor by having a great visit to a local doctor on Monday. Allowing my twin sister Karen to stay with my from the day of the accident until yesterday - he knew that I would need here with me. I know he is watching over us because it seems like every need we have is filled as soon as we recognize that we need it. It is impossible not to see how God is working in my life. It doesn't make my heart hurt less, but it does make it a little more peaceful. I can feel his love for me and my family shinning on us - and giving us a ray of hope that we will all make it out of this ok.

On the long journey ahead, I pray that I will continue to be able to see his hand in my life - and not to have my vision clouded by tears. For everyone who is praying for us - thank you. I want you to know that we see and feel and hear the work of God around us, and that we are so appreciative.

Be thankful today for your everyday blessings - seen in the little moments of life,

love never ends - 1/9/10

My dear friends,

Thank you, God, for giving us such a beautiful day to lay my sweet husband in his final resting place. As I stood in the bright clear sunshine with the people that we both loved, I felt you and Chris with me. Today for me was more about ritual instead of goodbye. Chris' spirit, his soul, his heart have been with our God for ten days. What we buried today was simply his shell in a beautiful wooden box. Looking at that box did not bring me sadness - because Chris is in one of the many rooms that God prepares for us, moving through them, making friends just as he always has. As I said as part of the open prayer this morning, Chris lives on in the soft brown eyes and dimpled chin of our daughter, the smiles of his friends, the warmth and love of both of our families, and in the beautiful memories that bring me joy.

His memorial service last night was amazing. It is exactly the type of service he would have wanted. Simple, straightforward, and focused on celebrating his life. His friends gave eulogies that were candid, thoughtful, moving, and hilarious. All of us, all 500 people who were packed into our church, laughed, and smiled and remembered Chris as he really was - joyful, funny, and always there for those who needed him. From the front pew I listened to them remember their friend, their brother, and knew that Chris was above us listening and laughing with us.

We have had an enormous group of people reach out to us during this difficult time. The outpouring of support is such a testament to the effect that Chris had on people, and it is beautiful to witness. So many people have told me that what I have been writing is inspiring-or that they are amazed by my strength. But I want to be clear - any strength I have is a gift from above. A gift given to me by God and my husband to help me through this unbelievably trying time. And it is a gift that I will accept with an open heart while it is given.

I certainly have times of incredible sadness. Usually when it is quiet, when I have a moment to myself. In those times it is easier to slip into darkness. But so far, even in those moments, I don't feel lost or scared - just mournful. Last week I saw a dear friend who is struggling with an illness, and who has managed to have keep her spirits high. I asked her how, and she said, "I pray constantly." I realized at the moment that while I had been talking to Chris, I had not been talking to God. I don't know why, maybe I was angry or afraid, but at moment I thought of a simple prayer. "God thank you for Chris. Please give me strength, serenity, patience and purpose." As I say those words, I feel like I can breathe again, and I have been saying them constantly.

In Chris' memorial service, I asked that we say the words from 1st Corinthians 13 -even though they usually appear in a wedding ceremony: "Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love."

This is the way that Chris loved me, loved Colleen, loved his family and friends. Someday I know I will see my dear husband face to face – until then, I will continue love him in this way, and take peace in the memory of his love and his life.

With love,

one week - 1/5/10

Dear friends,

One week ago today my world broke into a million pieces. My heart aches, my body hurts, and my center, my sweet husband, is gone. As my dear father-in-law, Kerry, said this morning, "In some ways it feels like a lifetime ago, and in others like a flash."

Chris' obituary ran today. It is beautiful, and I feel like it is perfect reflection of the father, husband and friend that we knew. I hope, I know, that he is smiling above us as we read it and remember him.

Colleen went back to school today. We are so blessed by the people at St. Thomas CDC - they truly love Colleen as if she was their own, and it is good to let her be around her friends and try to get back into a somewhat normal routine. She has amazed us this last week. Instead of relapsing, as we feared after such a tragedy, her language and knowledge are thriving. She is learning every new word we can throw at her, and making new sentences every day. It is bittersweet - we are thrilled, but so saddened that her Daddy isn't here with us to see it. I know this is something he would have loved. I am trying to take comfort in knowing that he is with us in spirit, but it doesn't replace his beaming smile and big laugh.

I felt much better today than yesterday, after some much needed rest and small alterations to my pain medication. There are still so many details to be attended to, that it is hard to relax for too long. Our lives are complicated webs, and sorting through the threads will take time, but it has to be done.

Today at dinner, Colleen grabbed my head, as she often does, and was hugging my hair - running her peanut butter and honey grubby hands all through it we kissed and laughed and hugged. Those special little moments that are so small mean so much more to me now. In time, I hope that I can see that this will help me live a better life - Not worrying about things you can't control (or that don't matter) - which was a Chris Cooper mantra till his last day, and Focusing on enjoying the little moments that make up our life, that God gives us as gifts everyday.

With love,

big hugs - 1/4/10

Dear friends,

I made it safely to College Station yesterday. I'm back with Colleen staying with my wonderful in-laws, Chris's parents. When I got out of the car, I could hear Colleen saying, "Mama! Mama!" It was the most beautiful thing I've heard in a long time. She was of course confused at first by Mama's new giant arm "band-aid," "special boot," and "walking helper," but she still wanted to come and give me a hug. It was great to tuck her into bed and see her sleeping peacefully, although it's obvious that she knows something is wrong. She's not smiling as much, and that special light in her eyes is dimmed. It absolutely breaks my heart that she will not grow up with the rock solid foundation of Chris Cooper for her daddy.

Today was a hard day for me. I was absolutely exhausted and could barely keep my eyes open for more than 10 or 15 minutes at a time. I've been told this is a result of my exhaustion catching up with me. It feels like my body is loaded down with lead weights. I'm so thankful for the incredible network of people around me. The Coopers are caring for Colleen and making her feel safe and loved because Mama can't pick her up or rush to her side like I used to. My sister Karen hasn't left my side since she got here on Tuesday. She is amazing at taking care of me - not just what I need for my body, but what I need to hear for my soul. My sweet parents love me so deeply and completely. I love them all very much.

Today when I was laying on the couch at the Coopers, I could see the front door. As I drifted in and out of sleep I kept thinking that Chris would walk through it. I'm not sure that I've fully accepted that he never will, but for now all I can do is take my life minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, and rely on the knowledge that God's plan is somewhere in all of this tragedy.

Thank you for your prayers. I need them.

with love,

A bright white light - 1/1/10

Dear friends,

This evening I had what my doctors refer to as a 'pain crisis.' Because I had wonderful visitors in and out all day today, I wasn't diligent in asking for and taking my pain medication. I took a brief nap and when I woke up I tried to move too quickly and was hit immediately with a blinding pain that coursed through my body. I saw a bright white light and tears flowed from my eyes. It was the worst pain I've ever felt - but with the quick action of my family, my nurses, and an IV shot of good pain medication I was breathing easier and beginning to rest within a matter of minutes.

Something about the intense pain of those minutes seemed to also intensify my feelings of tragedy and loss. Chris was my rock. He was my strength when I couldn't go any farther. He was a big smile and a hug at the end of a long day. And for the last 6 years, he has been the bright white light of my life.

I wish I could say that each day is getting easier. I'm not to that point yet. But I know that with God's help I will work to rebuild my life and create a beautiful future full of bright white lights of joy for me and Colleen.

Thank you for your kind words, prayers, and messages. I look forward to seeing many of you on Friday, as we honor Chris' memory by celebrating his life.


Baby Steps - 12/31/09

Dear Friends,

Today I started my physical therapy. Over two sessions, one morning and one in the afternoon, I managed to walk about 150 feet using a specially designed walker made for one handed - one footed people like me. It may not sound like much, but it's a miracle that I can take any steps at all. As I made my slow, awkward hops down the hallway, I couldn't help but think of Colleen when she was learning how to walk and how I was basically starting from scratch myself.

This is true not just with walking, but with all aspects of my life. I know I'm going to have to learn how to live my life without Chris – in the 'new normal' that doesn't include him. These last few days have felt surreal. I've been surrounded by an endless stream of friends and family. We've laughed and cried and spent hours reminiscing.

It's easier here, away from our memory filled home, not to think too much about the future. I know for sure that the thing Chris wanted most was for Colleen and me to be happy. While I don't know what that will look like yet, I know that with God's grace and Chris's love we will get there.

I'm still in a lot of pain and I won't be released until it is under control and I've reached a few key physical milestones. Colleen is safe and happy in College Station with her Meme and Poppa. While I miss her desperately, I know that it is the best place for her to be right now.

We still don’t have a time and date for the services, but know that we will include photos of Chris as part of the memorial. His friend Aaron will be collecting the pictures and creating a slide show. If you have special photos of Chris, please email them to:
If you would like to include a note or story about the picture, we would love that!
We appreciate all your kind words and prayers.

with love,

Colleen Cooper College Fund - 12/31/09

In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Colleen Cooper College Fund.

Make checks payable to:
First Presbyterian Church of Bryan
memo line - Colleen Cooper Fund

First Presbyterian Church of Bryan
1100 Carter Creek Parkway
Bryan, TX 77802

Update 12/30/09 - evening

Dear friends,

My surgery went well, and though I still have a great deal of pain in my ankle, I have been assured a complete physical recovery. My rehab will include 3 months of non-weight bearing time on my ankle, so there is a long road ahead both physically and emotionally.

I have been overwhelmed by the love and support that has flowed from our friends and family over the last 24 hours. Chris meant the world to me and it still doesn't quite feel real that he is no longer with us. But it helps to know that his memory will live on in so many hearts and minds. You all can help me tell Colleen about him. I know that I can count on you to relay to her what a wonderful man her 'dada' was.

Today has been extremely hard, but I still feel a sense of incredible peace and love for my husband.

Chris and I were actually driving to Dallas for the birth of our first niece, his sister's daughter. Sophie Louise was born yesterday afternoon. What a blessing from God that a new life came into our family on the same day that one was lost.

Services will be held as soon as his sister and I are physically able to travel to College Station. We hope to know the date in the next few days. We will let you know as soon as they are scheduled.

One of the ways that Chris will live on is through the memories of those who knew and loved him. As a gift to Colleen, and I would like to ask all those who knew and loved Chris to write her a letter telling her about her dad. These are a way for her to see her father through the eyes of his friends so be as personal, informal, serious, funny, or creative as you'd like. If you plan to come to the funeral you can bring a hard copy with you. You can also email them to my sister at

We will compile them to give to her when she needs them.

with love,

Update 12/30/09

Dear friends,

Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers. It’s 5:20am and I’m at Brackenridge Hospital in Austin.

I’m in pain and I’m going into surgery around 8:30 this morning for my fractured leg and clavicle. I also have a broken wrist and hand, but these fractures do not need surgery. I will be recovering from my physical injuries for the next 3 months or so, but I should fully heal.
Of course, the physical pain is nothing compared to the pain I feel from losing my wonderful sweet husband. He was the best man I ever knew – a wonderful father, a loyal and trustworthy friend, and the best partner I could ever imagine to share my life. What I feel now, most of all, is overwhelming love for my husband.

There is no way to explain a loss like this. We can only turn to God. I am comforted knowing that God’s tears match our own. Please pray for me and for Colleen, and both of our families as we try to figure out how to live this new life one day at a time. I feel at peace now, which seems hard to comprehend but can only be a gift to help me get through the next few hours, days, weeks, years.

I will post more as I am able.

With love,