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,