He was the first baby I ever remember holding. That’s why I was utterly crushed when he was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2018.
Cooper was tough as nails. He always wanted to play, as most 9-year-old boys do, and he was big into NASCAR. I’ll never forget the time he got home from his first chemo treatment. He grabbed the weed-eater from the garage ready to work … He was always ready to work up until his last few days.
When I was presented the opportunity to join CIY on an Engage international trip to Puerto Rico this summer, I was extremely hesitant to commit because I just didn’t know how many more days Cooper had left. I didn’t want him to pass while I was overseas.
CIY’s Engage program intrigued me when I heard about it during an elective at MOVE in 2016. I had only started to follow Jesus that year, and the trip to Puerto Rico had me sold because at the time I wanted to double-major in Spanish. I found it difficult not to be angry with God after our family lost my grandma last year on top of Cooper’s diagnosis. My faith was shaken, but the Lord showed me how to trust Him … Not just with my future, but with those I love, too.
The first day of the Engage trip was a Sunday and we attended a church service. That’s where God gave me a kind of peace that I’ve never felt before. I saw strangers praying together, heard people singing in both Spanish and English – and the song, “Blessed Be the Name” spoke to me. I won’t ever forget that moment when I heard the verse, “You give and take away – blessed be the name!” I knew God gave Cooper to the world and He was going to take him back – I was a mess, but I wanted to praise Him no matter what. I experienced peace about everything.
The week went on and we served at a school that suffered a flood during a hurricane. We cleaned play equipment, scrubbed floors and windows and shared a lot of fellowship with the director. I had seen news reports of this back home on TV, but it was a totally different experience to see the damage in person and hear of the disaster from people who actually lived through it. There’s something about serving others that takes your mind off your problems and on Jesus. It’s impossible not to have joy when that’s all you’re thinking about.
I felt connected to my Engage team and the mission partners of CIY like they were my own family. We sat together, ate together and prayed together – immediately bonded by the fact that we are all part of the Kingdom of God.
I got home from that trip and two months later, Cooper passed away.
The Lord has met me in the middle of it. I can always count on Him to be there and He’s got better plans than I do. I have a goal to read the Bible in a year, and after Cooper passed away I read John 11 – when Lazarus died – and God showed me something in my grief. Jesus met with the family. It says He asked where Lazarus was and wept. In the passage, there are some people who said, “See how He loved him,” and others said, “Couldn’t He have done something?” I saw that I could be one of two people who reacted differently. I see that Jesus is here in my pain and He loves Cooper as much as I do. That’s what I’ve been holding onto. It hasn’t been easy, but this whole thing has taught me who God is. As much as I wanted and prayed for miracles, I have accepted that Jesus has already defeated death and I can keep praising Him. It’s a comforting truth to know that I’ll see Cooper again someday.
Hope Pratt is an 18-year-old from Collinsville, Oklahoma. She is currently a freshman at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri.