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FiVE.

Oh my Reader, you have no idea how sweet you are to the ole soul. You stick with me even when life gets all lifey and my brain won’t allow me to put words to paper for weeks on end. Your encouragement never fails to amaze and overwhelm my little heart. You get me and I love ya for it, mean it. I got permission from my sweet daddy to share the chapter I wrote for his newest book Losing Cooper: Finding Hope to Grieve Well. Uncut, unedited. This is my heart.


February 24th 2004. Thinking back I can almost smell the rubbery sterile hospital air of NMMC Women’s Hospital. I can almost feel the coldness of the wooden door pressed against my 8-year-old ear as I strained to hear what was going on just beyond it. Being the oldest of three girls at the time, I had become a professional hospital-door-sitter-out-in-fronter, complete with an I’m the Big Sister uniform. I guess somewhere between my denial-fed daydream that I would walk in and find the usual- another blonde-haired, blue-eyed baby girl, I had missed all the excitement beyond the door. Finally, it opened to a sight I will not soon forget, the tiniest little human, hands folded, wrapped in some space age yellow paper and foil. I remember immediately wanting to change its diaper before I could confidently call him a him, but even more than that, I had never felt so much love for something that looked so much like a potato. His eyes had that jelly stuff on them, but I was sure they were blue. Staring at this just seconds old wrinkly little creature, I knew something special had just been born, and little did I know- a best friend.

Oh yeah, his name was Samuel, Samuel Cooper, and me? I was hooked.

Being only five and six when the girls were born, I have a much less vivid remembering of their babyhood. But of course, being the mature and sophisticated second-grader that I was now had a much better understanding of what was going on in the life of Cooper. Not that much was going on though, other than smelling quite frequently and putting Old Faithful to shame. He was squishy too, so that was cool. If there was a baby Olympics the kid was a shoe in for a gold in fulfilling baby-duties.

 Literally.

Fast-forward. For whatever reasons my parents, mainly my dad, after forty and some odd years of life, decided he was a farmer. Naturally, we did what all normal people do and bought a farm. To the outside world this may have seemed more than a tad off-the-wall, but for us it was just another day in the life with J.J. Jasper.

The story behind my chapter, though, begins in June of 2009. My mom, Cooper, the girls and I were meeting my aunt and grandmother at Cracker Barrel in Meridian, Mississippi to drop me off for my annual visit to the coast. I remember this day as if it were just yesterday. Sunny and seventy-five, a little breeze in the air, but not too much; it was lunchtime, but of course I ordered breakfast and of course a certain towheaded little boy (accompanied by Batman, of course) sat right beside me. As brunch came to an end and we were just about to go our separate ways, I remember a little hand tugging at my shirt with urgency. “Lala, take this to remember me,” Coop said handing me a small Spiderman flip-book filled with Cooper-drawn pictures of every superhero- ever. Yes, even Paul Blart. Remember you? Okay little dude, whatever you say. In retrospect, this typical family outing on a typical summer day will forever be some of my sweetest, most cherished memories.

You see, on this day, I saw my best friend for the last time.

On this particular trip I would be attending my first ever church-camp as a high schooler- which in the world of youth groups is kind of a coming of age thing. My aunt and uncle, Kasie and Jeremy Ulmer, had been the youth pastors of a church in Biloxi for some time and had invited me to go with their group to Student Life @ the Beach. Student Life was the crème de la crème of all church camps and this girl was excited. Finally the day to leave for Gulf Shores came, the vans were loaded and we were off! The anticipation for the week to come was brutal; some of my best friends, the beach and Jesus- I didn’t think my 14-year-old life could get any better.

The theme of this year’s camp was Flip; our lives can be flipped upside down with one phone call. Tragedy will strike. It’s not if but it’s when. For a week our hearts were being prepared and readied to be able to give Christ the glory when we encounter the trials of this world. The speaker, Matt Chandler, urged this message almost as if it had been placed on his heart just for my ears. The feeling that his teachings all week were directed specifically towards me was nearly haunting, but being that all was well in the invincible life of Lauren, I wrote off the sick feeling for bad seafood. I’ve never felt so much like a sponge in my life, but at the same time the teenager in me felt as untouchable as ever.

We hear of death and disaster almost daily, but until we experience the wake and the aftermath personally, the pain is incomprehensible. As Christians we are called to glorify the name of Jesus in every walk of life, be it the valley or the mountaintop.

The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Job 1:21

On the morning of Friday, July 17 two thousand and nine I was on the mountaintop. That evening was the last worship session of camp. I was so sad for this sweet experience to be over but so excited about Jesus and life. My little heart was so full I could barely stand it.

Little did I know the phone had just rang.

As worship was just about to begin I felt a hand grab me out of my isle-seat. My eyes locked with a blue, bloodshot pair. Kasie’s mouth was moving but my ears just couldn’t keep up. There had been an accident with the family Dunebuggie. It was Cooper and he was being rushed to the emergency room and we had to go- now. Please understand, in the Jasper household someone breaking an arm or getting thrown off of a horse was nothing new, but even then something was off, different. I packed my things as if nothing were wrong trying to convince myself more than anything. I remember walking into a room full of big weeping men and their heavy-hearted wives and my uncle; my sweet uncle Jeremy, in a very broken sentence telling me my dad was on the phone and he needed to talk to me. Everything inside of me screamed RUN! I already knew I just didn’t want to hear it, because if I heard it, it became real and reality was exactly the place I did not want to be. “Lauren, I’m going to need you to hold on to everything you’ve learned this week.” No Dad, wait. Please stop, don’t say it.

“Cooper isn’t with us anymore.”

Selfishly, as I fell to the floor, I couldn’t help but think of the outside world with carefree toes in the sand, while just beyond sliding glass doors a family’s world was crumbling under their feet. What did we ever do to deserve this? Look at them, life so uninterrupted. Why couldn’t HER little brother die? Why MY family? Why my Cooper? Deserve. Die. Why. My brain was like a living Mad-Lib puzzle, in overdrive trying to make sense of this story. In that moment I felt that I was an ant that had just been caught by some snotty-nosed kid’s magnifying glass- burning and there was nothing I could do about it. A crumpled up pile of myself, an overwhelming torrent of memories washing over me. Every hair, every pore, every breath that left my lungs, ached for me to wake up, but the knots in my stomach kept reminding me of how conscious I was. I longed for just on more look at that contagious smile; one more I love you.

One more anything.

Being a newly teenaged girl, emotions running rampant was just part of life, but for the next few weeks I was numb, completely void of any emotion. The tears, though, seemed to come almost involuntarily. The steady trickle of people in and out of our home was like morphine for the soul, but one day without warning it all stopped.

And then there were five.

The numbness began to wear off and the suffocating stench of pain and death crept in. What now? We were a broken unit, a team lacking a player, but we had each other and that’s all we knew. We also had the simple beauty of a hope and promise of joy and new mercies in the morning to cling to- which is what we did, oh so tightly. Hand in hand, step-by-weak-kneed-step we walked through the valley for what seemed like an eternity. We endured the darkest of nights.

Slowly, this tsunami of pain and emotion became gently violent waves, the kind that will crash into you and knock you on your face, but not the kind that can keep you down.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” Isaiah 43:2

23 Comments

  • Savannah Gaedchens

    I remember the day he passed. I remember 20-something sets of eyes with tears rolling out. I remember the uncomfortable packing of bags the next day and the, “These eclairs in the fridge are Lauren’s. What do we do with them?” I remember getting home, weeping while holding my twin 2 year old brothers tighter than ever.
    But above all, I remember your family’s example. Y’all never stopped loving God. Y’all kept faith above all, even when tragedy told you not to, when it told you to run. Such an amazing family, and what a testimony y’all have. Who knew a five year old I never met could have such an impact?

  • Courtney

    I absolutely adore your heart! I love reading your posts & I hang on every word. When I reach the end, I’m disappointed that it’s over…every time. I simply can’t get enough. You are truly gifted with such a wonderful writing style. Your ability to express yourself with raw emotion & truth is breathtaking. Thank you for sharing your heart, your family, your life, and your insight. It does my heart so much good to hear the truth from your perspective. I’m grateful for your testimony. Your faith inspires me not to give up, even when life feels, in your words, “lifey”. Prayers for you and your family, until you all see Cooper again. Thank God for Jesus!

  • Lisa Browning

    Lauren, I remember standing in the receiving line at Cooper’s funeral and you were right there next to your parents stroking Cooper’s hair. You were so strong, in the midst of your pain, and I just remember feeling that your whole family was showing such strength of character. Your writing is so real and God has given you an awesome gift. Thank you for making yourself transparent so that God’s power and strength can show through your life…

  • LoriAnn Sherrill

    God has his hand all over you and will continue to do great things in you and through you. You are correct in saying that in a moments notice our lives can be flipped in ways we don’t expect or even want to except, but it’s with Grace and in Truth that we believe all of our life “Flips” are part of his perfect plan, and in his perfect timing we will understand it better by and by. Blessing to you and your family!

  • Emily

    You know I’m bawling my face off right now. My baby brother was 21 when I lost him 4.5 yrs ago…the 3 am phone call…the rush to get home…ugh. Awful.
    Then there’s Poppy…
    So proud of your family and have thought about you all about a million times in the last 4 months. Love you all!

  • Lynn Grier

    Remember that day. Prayers for your family as you go through this anniversary. Isaiah 43:2 is the verse God gave me the morning of my mother’s funeral. Has helped me through many tough times. Love you all.

  • G'ma CJ

    Baby Girl. My beautiful granddaughter. What an amazing girl you are. I love you beyond words.

  • Sandy Dobson

    Wow…such a gifted writer. I felt like I was there. I’m sure a best seller is coming one day soon! I lost a brother to cancer 4 yrs. ago on July 14th. He was 48, but that is still too young. This story made that loss feel fresh all over again. I appreciate hearing how your faith carried you through & it has helped me to focus on God’s word more than ever before. Your whole family is a great inspiration to me and many others I’m sure. I love AFR and AFA and how you share biblical truth. God Bless you & your family.

  • Karen Sullivan

    I love reading what you write, God has really blessed you. My heart broke for all of you when you lost Cooper, we lost our toughest son in Aug. 2008, at the age of 27. As you know the only way to get through something like this is with God and His love and grace.

  • Robin

    May the Lord continue to bless you on your journey. Yes I am grown and have had my own losses, none as great as yours. They say a loss is loss. Not true, one of the first things I thought when my husband passed was I am glad my son is still alive. You write very well. Thank You for sharing.

  • Mary Beth Barden

    Thanks for putting this moment into the words I couldn’t. That year was a pit. At twelve, my family went without me to visit my twelve-year-old friend, Connor (who was the closest I’ve ever come to having a brother), because he’d been hospitalized just five days after contracting what they think was an MRSA infection. Then, February 17th, 2009. Getting the call, knowing in the gut before hearing the dreaded words, collapsing on the floor, the numbness, the disbelief and confusion and bitterness and inescapable realization, like loud ringing in the ears. White noise. The underwater feeling. Never being able to think of the number 17 the same way. And yet, it’s everywhere, kind of like a reminder. “Hey. It’s me, I Am. I still Am.” Yeah, I get it. And it’s such a raw moment. Thank you for sharing your story. God is so good. I am amazed and so thankful that he prepared your heart to trust him in such an intentional way. I found out recently that Sammy, Connor’s best friend from grade school, had written a paper this year, our senior year, about Connor’s mom and grief and why God is so much more than just the controller, the one who let it happen. It was about how God is good in all of the moments—the moment of death, the moments of grief, remembrance, pain, celebration, doubt, and everything in between. “How to Lose a Son.” Sammy’s paper was found in his stuff and given to his mother after he was killed in a car accident this spring. God is so good. He is present. Too often I forget that he orchestrates our lives perfectly, whether all the notes sound right to us or not. Thank you for sharing this story about his faithfulness in the dark places.

  • rob lavoie

    Wow that was quite the experience, I heard some of this from Kandi but thank you Little Man Cooper shall always be with you

  • janet

    I’m speechless. I remember the day too. I’ve listened to your dad on the radio for years. Your family seems like an extension of mine. I was heart broken with all of you. I praise God for your faith and that of your family’s. I’m still so sorry for your loss but so touched that God is using this situation to minister to SO many others. Thank God you will be able to hold his little hand again in heaven. Lauren, you are an awesome writer. Use your gift sweet girl.

  • Terry R Thacker

    Thank you for sharing your heart with us…you are so appreciated. Blessings dear one…

  • Jeanne Brackin

    Thank you for your writings and for allowing yourself to be used by God to touch and inspire so many! Your grandma, Kandi is a dear friend…it is obvious God gifted you with her same giftedness, the ability to speak such words of wisdom in such a gentle and inspiring way. Your ability to continue to praise God “in the storm” speaks to the very core of my soul. It is what we are called to do,however we do not always meet Him wholeheartedly when we are in that place. I love your honesty, it is so honoring to God and demonstrates that we can be totally honest and real in God’s presence. So many live their lives thinking they can paste that smile on their face and that pleases God. He knows our heart, He longs for us to trust him with every emotion. You show how when we are surrendered to God He is there in every moment so worthy of our praise! Please continue to share and inspire!

  • Tamy Riggleman

    God bless you and your family. I remember hearing on the radio that day about Cooper and they asked for prayer for your family. I to felt a deep pain as I considered all of you extended family. I cried and prayed and cried some more. God has been faithful carrying you through the storm to help others learn how to grieve well. I can’t wait to meet Cooper in person in heaven.

  • Coach Long

    So proud of you LB! I always new you were a special one when I taught you in high school. Love ya girl and all that you stand for.

  • Lynn Sheffield

    Read again this article. My heart still aches for those hard memories of this time in the Jasper family to surface. No doubt this book has helped and will help many others to come.
    Thank you!

  • Ramona Wolter

    What an amazing writer you are. I felt as though I was right there by your side throughout all this. Your words are so vivid. I feel one day you will be writing books. Writing books of inspiration to help others. You are very gifted Lauren. Keep up the great work! My heartfelt prayers for you and your family on this sad day six years later. I have so much compassion for you and your family. God bless you all!

  • Alana Quillian

    Cooper went to be with Jesus a few days after my sweet little cousin went to be with Him also. I had no Idea who you were, I just enjoyed reading your blogs! Now I know and it feels like a small world! We remember when this happened, and our hearts hurt for Yall because we knew what it felt like. Cooper was five and Russ was eight, who knows they may be best buds in heaven 🙂

  • Kelsey

    You are a talented writer. You have a gift and your ability to use it to glorify Christ is beautiful. I am also the oldest girl in my family and my blonde haired blue eyed brother passed away when he was 3 and I was 5. I am now 20 and I have only seen God use my precious little brothers life to glorify him. God is big and God is confusing, but he is also Love.

    Keep writing. Keep Loving.

    – a Fan and sister in Christ

  • Hanna Hollis

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I, too, lost my brother. I was 12 and he was 17. He flipped his pickup one night and left us 5 days later. He was my hero, my biggest cheerleader, the example of an older sibling and a person I wanted to be. My life was shattered when he died. I blamed God for soo long and was deeply depressed for several years after. I finally realized that Torey would tell me that God never said bad things wouldn’t happen, but he did promise to walk or carry us through them. It has been 12 years and my heart still aches for him. However, I can finally think of him with a smile, a laugh, and maybe the occasional tear. You were able to write out what I could never express. Thank you for that. Never stop writing, God has given you a tremendous gift!!

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