From June 25, 2017, the same date on which I celebrate the birth of my first granddaughter, my friend Rusty Tugman reflects with a parent’s grief and a minister’s faith on another day sixteen years ago. See link below.
Today would have been my son Cooper’s 16th birthday. He died of a syndrome known as “hypoplastic left heart” when he was five days old. This is written in his honor.
How could I forget the one who made known to me a kind of love that runs so deep it cannot be explained?
How could I forget the one who fought for life so bravely and so courageously?
How could I forget the one who made me a father?
How could I forget my son?
I remember the years of infertility and the struggle to make our dream of having children a reality.
I remember the feeling of elation when I heard the words, “We’re pregnant.”
I remember the absolute joy that filled our hearts.
I remember the “glow of happiness” that surrounded Mitzi all during her pregnancy.
I remember how much fun we had shopping for baby stuff, setting up the nursery, and talking about all the things we were going to teach our child.
I remember how excited our family and friends were for us. These were the people who had prayed for us, comforted us, and, in many ways, carried us along on the journey to having a baby. They were invested in us and shared our joy.
I remember the baby showers and all the gifts – it was overwhelming!
I remember trying my best to be a true partner to my wife during all the stages of her pregnancy.
I remember comfort-eating with her and gaining weight with her (ooops!).
I remember having to schedule inducement because of passing the due date.
I remember packing up the car to go the hospital, knowing that when we came back home our lives will have changed forever.
I remember how excited we were as we got settled in our hospital room.
I remember bringing Mitzi ice chips and comforting her with massages and her favorite music.
I remember when it was time for the baby to be delivered.
I remember our decision to not find out the sex of the baby.
I remember being in the delivery room.
I remember first noticing how big this baby was when it arrived.
I remember being told, “It’s a boy!”
I remember having his footprints imprinted on the hospital smock I was wearing.
I remember how thrilled I was to walk into the hallway to announce Cooper’s birth to our parents and other family members.
I remember all “the firsts.”
I remember the revolving door of visitors who came to see the baby, congratulate us, and bask in our joy.
I remember receiving all the instructions from the nurses as we got ready to take Cooper home from the hospital.
I remember the nurse who said, “Before we discharge you, we want to do one more wellness check of the baby.”
And I remember hearing the words that would change everything: “We’ve discovered a problem with his heart.”
I remember consoling my worried wife while trying to hide my own anxiety.
I remember the visits with the doctors giving us our options, which really were none.
I remember Cooper’s fight (he was pronounced dead multiple times only to revive).
I remember the photo shoot in our hospital room that members of our church made possible so that we would have some well-made family photos.
I remember the crowds of people keeping vigil in the waiting room and keeping our parents company, as we were by Cooper’s side in the NICU.
I remember putting Cooper in Mitzi’s arms, when it was time, so that he could die in his mother’s arms.
I remember when it happened.
I will always remember when it happened.
I remember the church member who was a funeral director volunteering to stay with Cooper the whole time that he was processed at the hospital and given over to the funeral home.
I remember the funeral homes in two different states working together to have Cooper buried in Oklahoma, within sight of where Mitzi and I met and were married.
I remember the funeral.
I remember how wrong and unnatural it felt to see a coffin that small.
I remember the outpouring of love from so many.
I remember the pain – because it’s still there.
But here’s what else I remember:
I remember the One who was raised from the dead.
I remember that He has promised to raise us from the dead as well.
I remember the One who invited little children to come to Him.
I remember that He makes it possible for us to go to Him after this life.
I remember that the apostle Paul said that “death has been swallowed up in victory” and that God “gives us the victory through Jesus Christ.”
I remember that Jesus said, “Take heart, for I have overcome the world.”
I remember that we live in a fallen and broken world and that death is part of that brokenness.
But I also remember that in Christ we are made whole, we are healed, and we are saved from the enemies of sin and death.
And so I remember that my son is with God’s Son and, as David once said, “[My son] will not return to me, but I will go to him.”
I remember that I will see my son again – healed and whole and alive.
I remember, through the lens of hope that Christ provides, my son with joy and pride.
I do not forget the struggle.
I do not forget the pain.
I do not forget the overwhelming sense of loss.
Instead, I remember it all.
And I place it at the feet of the One who remembers me.
And it’s alright.
Used by permission from Rusty Tugman
Glenn Pemberton is a minister turned professor turned writer. After serving churches in Texas and Colorado, Glenn completed a Ph.D. (Old Testament). He then taught at Oklahoma Christian University before coming to Abilene Christian University in 2005, retiring as professor emeritus in 2017 due to a severe chronic pain. Glenn now spends his time writing for the church. Along with short essays he has published four books, including The God who Saves: An Introduction to the Message of the Old Testament (2015), and Hurting with God: Learning to Lament with the Psalms (2012). Glenn and his wife Dana continue to live in Abilene, Texas.