Monday, January 28, 2008

Its been too long...10 years!

Okay everyone.. if I get through this without crying.. consider it a miracle. This is my daddy pictured above. James Michael Cook. I have more pictures of him in the house but our scanner is on the outs. And to be quite honest.. 10 years isn't long enough for me to feel that I can bare to bring his pictures out from the box they've been in, under my bed, for all those years. That may sound a bit much.. but I am just now starting to be able to look at them and be happy. I know I don't have time to do justice to a tribute to him... nor the blogspace. But this post is already more about helping me than what you may want to endure reading. (by that I mean the time).

Daddy was not my biological father. That man was an abusive, angry man that my mom married after her first marriage (to my sisters' Heather and Mishka's dad, Stephen C.--great man btw). My mom had a short marriage to Robert Stetcher (my biological father) and they divorced when I was a baby. Then she met Mike (daddy). They married when I was four and daddy adopted me when I was five. The only reason he didn't adopt my other two sisters is because they knew their dad and had a great relationship with him, even though they lived with "us." When my mom died, my parents had only been married 7 years. that is a short time, but they were meant to much so that my dad never remarried...on purpose. When mom died he was heartbroken. He struggled with raising three girls on his own, with very little pay and then turned to alcohol for release. He struggled with this most of my high school days and finally got a grip by the time I went to college. When I came to Christ in High School I always wanted to see my daddy make that same commitment.. although through high school I was anything but an example for Christ. Once I got to college and was discipled and growing in my knowledge of the Word, he could see the change. In fact, I would send him a letter a week sharing Christ with him and was always telling him how much Christ loved Him. In fact, one day in January 1998 I sent him a card with the most gut wrenching plea for Him to understand his need for a Savior, a God who loved him enough to save Him, make him His own and change not only his life but his eternal destiny. I can not explain how hard it was to write this particular letter. OF all the ones I had written, this was the most emotional.

January 25th- Super Bowl Sunday.. I was supposed to go see my dad at his friends house. he was in town (from Jasper) and was going to watch the super bowl with his buddy, Jack and his girlfriend Debby. I had talked to my dad on the phone and told him how excited I was to see him later that night since it had been about a week since I had seen him last. Later that night, I was with a friend and when they came to pick me up at the dorm I told them that we could just "stop by" their house for a little bit and make our way over to my dad's a little while later. Well being a college student and completely self absorbed.. I never made it to see my dad. In fact, as soon as my friend dropped me back off at the dorm.. I knew that I should call my dad, but the Holy Spirit prevented me from calling. Now that may sound weird to you.. but I was weeping. I made my way into the dorm hall and fell on the seat right inside and started weeping. I could not fathom why in the world I did NOT WANT to call my daddy. I went inside to my room, prayed and then went to bed.

January 26th 1998. The next morning I got up like any other school day. I went to eat breakfast.. but was stopped by an advisor. She asked for me to come to her office and talk about my academic "status." I was not doing well in one of the classes and she wanted to be sure that I could bring my grade up. I reassured her and asked if we could end the meeting. My mind was not with it. I went to the chapel. I sat down and immediately started to cry. Thinking it was stress about grades, but feeling it was much more. Then my precious friend Leslie (now P.) came in the chapel, sat down beside me and just started to pray. We ended and then we went to the cafeteria to eat. As I was putting my tray away.. my roommate (and R.A) Sarah Lastrapes came and asked to talk with me. Thinking it was something about not making my bed (as I had a habit of not doing) I said, "Sarah, this is really not a great time.. can we talk about this later." She pulled me close and said, "Rachel, your dad has been in an accident..we need to get to the hospital." Guys.. I knew. I fell to ground. I couldn't get up. I knew, I knew, I knew. Everything was not okay. To make a long story somewhat daddy had been hit head on by a driver that had illegal Valium in his system and fell asleep at the wheel. My dad had weak vitals and was helicoptered to Carraway (it was the only Level 1 Trauma ER in Bham at the time). He died about three minutes after I walked into the hospital.

Now you may think it incredibly sad that I "dissed" my daddy the night before and I that I must live with guilt that I did not call him. But I want to tell you right now, that even 10 years later (which feels like 10 months at times) I praise my gracious heavenly father for the gift that He gave me in that "decision" that "I" made that night. I honestly believe that had I seen my daddy that night, sat on his lap as I always did and hugged his neck as I longed to do.. I would not have been able to get through the incredible trial I had ahead of me. You see, I loved that man more than life. So much so that I miss him so much that it is hard for me to even look at his pictures to this day. On an incredible God note.. that only He knows the answer, but gives me hope is that on the morning my dad was killed, he was watching, get this, Billy Graham on t.v. Debby had it on that morning and my dad listened to the whole message and then when Billy Graham gave the "invitation" Debby said my daddy's eyes were closed. Sure it is not beyond reason that he fell asleep during that time, but I don't believe that. I believe that he was doing business with the Lord. Because as soon as Billy Graham said amen, my dad got uncomfortable and said he was "gonna go ahead and head out." She wondered why he was in such a hurry to leave. Five minutes later he was in eternity.

When I went to his house two days after he died, sitting right there next to his beloved recliner, on the table was my card. The one that I had pored out my heart into. The one that was the hardest for me to write. There it was, the only thing on that table besides the remote. So I cling to the hope that I will see my daddy again. I trust that God led him to Himself.. and my daddy is rejoicing with the angels in heaven even as I type.

So.. here are some great things I leave you with about my daddy:
-He was an excellent man. He certainly had his faults.. but he knew commitment and how to follow through on your word.
-He was a "quite" guy but he had a wit that was hilarious.
-He would only sing one line from a country song. he would get it stuck in his head and that's the only thing he would sing..over and over again.. talk about nails on a chalkboard.
-He would pass gas and blame it on the dog.
-he loved taco bell.
-he loved to get "a rise" out of me. his day was not complete if he had not picked on me relentlessly. if friends were over, they were no exception.
-every time he saw me he asked how I was doing on money (in college) and would offer me a 20. Of course I would spend it on needless fast food or gas.
-He would, I believe, love my husband. To be honest he probably would have had a hard time with him being Hispanic but he would have gotten over it and treasured him for the jewel that he is. They are so much alike it is scary. even the country song thing and especially the pickin' on me thing. They both love to work with their hands and they both have the same temperaments.
-okay this is gonna make me cry.. He would love my boys. He "had" three girls. I was his "baby." I have two boys. I know he would love Mishka's boys too! And girl. hehe. I just imagine that he would have the best time playing with them and just hanging around the house. He would play that "false teeth" joke on them just as he had done to several kids before. I like to think that he would spoil them rotten and then send them back to me for me to deal with. I know he would love them.

Ten years. Wow. It truly seems like only a couple of years. The grief is not that raw.. but the missing him is. He was only 49. But I know God has his purposes and although they don't make sense all the time, He is glorified.

Daddy, thank you for all those years of being able to sit on your lap, even at 19, and just talk. Thank you for always making me laugh. You are so special to me and I look forward to seeing you soon. I love you.


Missy said...

Wow Rachel, that was a wonderful tribute!
I remember being at school with you during that time and being thankful it wasn't me.
But I also remember you being filled with Grace at that time as well. And I know that same Grace has held you through a lot.
Thanks for sharing with us your heart.

Marsha said...

What an honoring tribute. I agree with you - we don't know up to the last second when a person is ushered into eternity if they've received Christ as Savior or not. It truly looks as though he had eternal things on his heart and mind at the last.

You are precious!

Marsha said...

Oh, and by the way...I've got a book title for you if you ever decide to write one about your life - "One Girl, Twice Born, Three Times Adopted" with the subtitle "The Life of a Women Being Refined"....or something like that.

JenB said...

I can't believe it's been so long. I only remember hearing of your dad's death long after we had lost touch. I never really knew your story all those years ago when we were were just the pretty, sweet girl that my gross younger brother liked! haha! But I am so glad that you and Steven were able to become strong friends, and thus you and I being friends as well! You were, and are special to us! You have great memories of your daddy...hopefully it will become easier for you to go through those old momentos of yours as the years tick by. It's healing. Your boys will love hearing of him as they get older.
Much love to you!

Sarah said...

Wow- 10 years! I can not believe it has been that long. Reading this brought me back to those days. Leslie was a very good friend to you, I remember. I do not remember all those details about the night before however. It is amazing how God works. You are an amazing woman and God has seen you through a whole lot. You will do and have done mighty things for His kingdom my dear friend. I love you and I believe like you that you will see your daddy in heaven one day.

Jaci Spain said...

Very sweet! I loved reading this!

Anonymous said...

Rachel, this made me cry. Thank you for sharing...I never knew this story. It is amazing to see how God works!