We drove to the only motel that would take us.
Every place was sold out for the night.
We got into the bedroom, 2 small full size beds and a tiny bathroom.
All we had left of Cooper were his blankets, each of us holding one tight.
My parents in one bed, myself and two sisters scrunched into the other, we sat silent. I’m not sure what was running through their heads, but mine was running a mile a second.
He was gone.
We were not going back to the hospital tomorrow to get him.
He was gone.
It’s interesting, when someone dies you think about how horrible it must be for the family. But you don’t think about the details, the details of having to wake up the next day and do all the things you normally do, without that person.
I still remember the rock sitting on my chest when I woke up the next day to realize I wasn’t dreaming, this was actually my reality.
Cooper was dead.
Shortly after waking up my Mom approved to let the “Team Coop” world know of his passing.
I immediately shut my phone off because I knew what was coming.
The phone calls, the text messages, the Instagram posts, the Facebook posts, the Tweets, the news reports, the donations, the flowers, the cards, the gifts, the awkward conversations. I knew of this because right before someone passes away, a social worker comes to talk to you about all the next steps. She even told my sisters and I that we would lose friends over Cooper’s passing, simply because they wouldn’t know how to treat us.
As a family we had decided that our chapter at City of Hope Hospital was not quite finished, so we took one more trip to the hospital grounds.
We walked around, we saw Coopers doctor one more time, went to a peaceful garden, and even left some special notes for Cooper.
I felt at home there, mostly because I knew Coopers physical body hadn’t left the hospital yet. I still couldn’t get over leaving his body there, so going back for a couple hours made me feel very close to him.
We sat in a serenity garden all quiet. It was a garden we had walked in many times before, feeding the koi fish.
We went to the prayer garden and prayed for the next adventure we would be going on together. Which was going home, facing an empty house, and even worse, Coopers empty room.
We left City of Hope and headed towards Las Vegas. When we arrived home, Coopers best friend’s family had filled our fridge and kitchen with food, blessing our family in more ways than one.
None of us knew what to do, do we go into Coopers room? We brought his clothes home, do we wash them and put them away? What about all of Coopers medicine at home? The questions were endless.
No one knew what to do next.
The days following his death were mostly a blur. We went to a candlelight vigil held by Coopers high school, thats where I would have my first panic attack after his death.
All of us were trying to figure out what to do, but there honestly was nothing we COULD do.
We couldn’t bring Cooper back.
We couldn’t solve our sadness.
Everything was broken and nothing could be fixed.
As humans we are wired to be fixers, we want to fix the broken hearted, the sick, the homeless. But what we must realize is that some things must remain broken for a certain period of time, in order to find true healing.
Our hearts needed to be broken, we need to experience the extreme heart break, it was the only way we would gain clarity on the grief ahead of us.
Friends, my advice to you as the outsiders of the grieving, is to let us grieve.
Don’t have expectations.
Don’t over-do your sympathy.
And don’t avoid talking about the love one we lost, for me personally, I enjoy sharing about my one and only brother.
People often ask me how many siblings I have, I’ve always said “three”. And I still do, I have two sisters and a brother and regardless of where they are physically, they are still my three people.
Don’t avoid conversations with the hurting.
We are all hurting, whether publicly or privately.
And to those hurting, take the chance to be vulnerable, to let someone know that you are going through the trenches, because even when you feel alone, there is always someone fighting the fight right along side you.
“Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving, YOU get stronger and more resilient.”