Mike Cope's blog

Saturday, February 12, 2005

We've loved having James and Marla Walters, friends of ours from Boston, here for the weekend. While they went to ACU's dinner theater last night, Diane, Chris, and I watched "The Man from Snowy River." That's a movie that just doesn't get old. Any other Snowy River fans out there? I'm looking forward to preaching tomorrow. But . . . But life is still surreal. I keep hearing that we've had "closure" as a church to the wreck. I'm very thankful for that -- but most of the families directly involved weren't around for the closure. We were stuck in hospitals. And for these families, it just isn't that easy, anyway. There are femurs and vertebrae and collar bones and thumbs in the slow process of healing. Plus, there is the lasting of trauma of receiving the news and wondering, "Did anyone survive?" There is the ongoing agony of knowing that one of the friends didn't survive. There are the images of our children hanging upside down in a ditch as earth-time suspended. And so, no, we haven't experienced closure. We aren't ready to go on. I have almost no interest in committee meetings, worship style, travel, lectureship, etc. The only place that makes sense to me right now is by my son's side--helping him try to get relief from that darn back brace that has to be synched down tight over broken ribs. Our little basketball team played at noon. We play again for the championship at 5:00. I never thought I'd find myself coaching next to my son in a wheelchair. Thanks for continued prayers, and thanks for the prayer requests that can be found in Thursday's comments.


  • We haven't watched The Man From Snowy River in forever. Not even sure my younger kids have seen it. Shame on me! Will have to introduce them.

    I noticed when we were going through grief that others felt like we would be over it long before we were. Grief is intense and difficult for others to partake in for as long as it lasts as "standers by". But, I'm sure you know this.

    Grace and peace.

    By Blogger reJoyce, at 2/12/2005 01:54:00 PM  

  • I don't know who is proclaiming "closure" at Highland. I'm happy for those who can. In my circles, however, there has been no such thing---and for the time being it doesn't seem as if there ever will be. It won't continue to be quite as raw forever, but it will never be closed until we are with our Father and experience true healing. I love that you are still coaching. Some things go on and some things are forever changed, but I don't see this as closed in the least.
    I can't wait to hear your voice again tomorrow.
    So much love,

    By Blogger jana beck, at 2/12/2005 03:41:00 PM  

  • Amen Mike - there are still a lot of things to work through. I think there are waves of grief still to come. You're not alone in feeling this. I still have 6th grade girls talking about their experiences and grief. I'll let them talk as long as they need to. And then I'll still ask them if they're doing ok. I echo Jana comments and yours. I think we all just need to just stick together as we cling to the Father.

    By Blogger Candy, at 2/12/2005 05:42:00 PM  

  • Mike & Diane,
    I cannot imagine anyone from Highland suggesting there has been closure. I have felt comfort and a sense of being sustained through our Sunday a.m. gatherings, but there cannot be closure until all the healing has been done. I'm not even sure what that word means. I cannot begin to know all you and your family have gone through since Jan. 16. I know it has opened new wounds of a child in trouble, and fear of loosing yet another child. I have hesitated to speak much because what you have gone through has been so much more than I have ever known. But I can walk beside you through the days of healing. I remember anew the long, long weeks during Victoria's recurring bouts of mono and then CMV. For me, there was no question of who would stay home with her, because I knew I would be of no value at work. Who could concentrate on work when your child is ill or hurting. I can understand why you would not want to preach. I hope we can all understand and that you can come and share with us your cares from the pulpit as you have on the blog. For Victoria, the worst thing about being confined to home was not having her friends around. Parents are okay, but sometimes a 6th grader just needs other 6th graders around. I hope Chris's friends will continue to visit him, as I am sure they will. The joy comes as the healing becomes more and more obvious, and as the "well" child emerges. From the time of the accident, I have prayed for you and everyone involved. The thing that came to me over and over again was Psalm 23, and the song, "If it had not been the Lord who was on our side." I sing this often in my mind, always with visions of families needing the Lord's comfort. Continue to share with us. And if you have the opportunity - go see "The Mousetrap." Jay Reese is a hoot!

    By Blogger P Watson, at 2/12/2005 06:17:00 PM  

  • Mike as long as we're on the topic of "closure," I gotta say it's one of those terms that has always bugged me a little. What does it actually mean? Is it coming to terms with something? Is it getting over something? Is it moving past something? Is it merely dealing openly with something rather than denying it? What? I have had people throw this term at me when I don't think they even understood it; I knew I didn't. So how 'bout it wise old sage? How do you define it?

    By Blogger Val, at 2/12/2005 08:14:00 PM  

  • About closure -- it is a mystery to me, but an elderly woman gave me some insight a couple of years ago. I wrote a feature story for the local paper about the 1947 explosion that killed 600+ people in nearby Texas City. I interviewed a woman from our church whose 13-year-old son was killed after he rode his bike to the docks to watch the burning ship that would later explode. Two of her sons were also present at the interview. At the end, I asked if any of them had ever arrived at a peace about the tragedy of their loss. I was really directing the question at her sons, because I felt uncomfortable asking her that. The room was quiet, the sons never said anything...then the woman said slowly, "Yes, I believe I have." That was 56 years after the disaster. The woman's health began declining not long after I talked to her. Then she asked family members for a picture of her dead son to be placed in her room -- she had never wanted pictures out of him before -- then a few months later, she passed away. I don't know that gaining closure is as important as making it through the rest of our lives with whatever it is that has ripped a chunk out of our hearts. I doubt that Sister Orpha is saying anything about closure in heaven. She's just holding that boy in her arms. Mike, I don't know when I'll see you and Diane again -- we won't be up there until Kadesh in July -- but I HAVE to hug you both when I see you again so be ready.

    By Blogger Deana Nall, at 2/12/2005 09:02:00 PM  

  • Mike, thanks for the reminder. Though I have consistently followed the events of the last month on your blog, I find it difficult from such distance to maintain an active awareness of the very present suffering of others. I find this to be the case not only in this situation, but also in the wake of other tragedies, like the tsunami, or my cousin's looming divorce, or really any difficulty that doesn't affect me directly. So I guess it isn't really a matter of distance, but rather a matter of perspective. And I'm sure I'm not alone in my near-sighted compassion. I fear my problem is shared by many people, making it no more excusable, but all the more problematic.
    So, thank you for the reminder that although it may not be in the forefront of my mind, the grief of others is still a very real and ongoing experience. And I would ask for your prayers regarding my self-centeredness. I want to live as Christ lived.
    May the Lord continue to be your strength and your portion. I'm coming to Abilene to visit soon, and I look forward to hearing you preach and to worshiping with my family at Highland again. <><

    By Blogger kentbrantly, at 2/12/2005 09:18:00 PM  

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    By Blogger Ronalyn, at 2/12/2005 09:42:00 PM  

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    By Blogger Ronalyn, at 2/12/2005 09:59:00 PM  

  • Mike,

    Even though I had been aware of your blog for some time, I never read it until after the accident. Since then, I don't miss a day. It helps me to read your thoughts and all of the responses. It is comforting, some how, to know that I'm not the only one with far more questions than answers.

    On the subject of "closure" - not yet. As I drove (alone) to Tyler's soccer game this morning, I was listening to a CD that he made on the Monday after the wreck. As I listened, my mind wandered back, and I found myself in tears. (Needless to say, I also found myself late to the soccer game.) I can't imagine the pain that you and the other parents feel when your minds wander!

    I am looking forward to having you back in the pulpit tomorrow morning. Selfishly, I believe that is one more step towards closure for some of us. I am praying that you will feel the love and gratitude of your family as you take that step tomorrow.

    God Bless You!

    By Blogger Ronalyn, at 2/12/2005 10:01:00 PM  

  • I live in Jonesboro, AR and I work as marriage and family therapist. Jonesboro got national attention 7 years ago when it was the site of one of those tragic school shootings that seemed to bunch together in the late 90's.

    I still have a client or two every now and again who is not sleeping well, keeps having flashbacks, has a hard time when near the Westside school, etc. All connected to the shooting.


    Ron Deal is a colleague of mine who was one of the first counselors on the scene and has been working with people since the tragedy. He said that in the aftermath of the tragedy that the community was so quick to rush toward closure that they acheived denial. And now, years later, people suffer in silence because they were supposed to have already gotten over this.

    Grief is not simple, nor is it an isolated event. It is an adjustment over time which coincides with life going on. One of the myths about grief is that life must stop until every last ounce of pain is gone, then life can continue (as it was).

    No, life goes on and there is nothing you can do about it. Grief is the difficult transition to the fact that is life going on (without the thing that was lost). You want it to stop. You want it to rewind. You want resolve. It doesn't.

    I do not recommend closure. I recommend grief. I recommend that conversation about the accident be fair game for at least another decade (but probably longer). Tears are OK. Questions are healthy. Rituals marking significant dates that pass are not just a neat idea, I think that they are essential for moving at the speed of life.

    By Blogger Fajita, at 2/13/2005 01:39:00 AM  

  • Mike,

    I am praying for specifically you this morning. Like Ronalyn, I am very glad to have you back preaching.

    Those in my life are not ready for "closure." Our lifeteam was together last Sunday for the first time since the wreck--but one family was still in the hospital in Lubbock. There is still part of a row in the back north corner of early service that is missing too many of our Highland family. There is one seat on the row that will always be empty. People still are entering the building with tears. We are a different church and a different town. A lot of changes have occured at 5th and Highland--but I am not sure if many have reached "closure."

    Let us know if we can help in any way. Prayers and Love, Robyn

    By Blogger Robyn, at 2/13/2005 04:24:00 AM  

  • Mike and Diane,
    Here's another that doesn't really understand what people are talking about when they say "closure" - but I do know that as I prepare for church today, my ritual is the same, my spiritual and mental preparation for blessed community worship is wrapped in an emotional dragging of feet but at the same time, my heart is eager to see you, hear you, and give you two a hug.

    The paradox of urgent need to hear you is met with the certainty that the emotion of grief will overtake the gratitude and joy of again seeing my pastor/teacher with us - to see a piece of 'normalcy' in its place. But closure? I think not!!

    I'm praying for your strength this morning. Praying that serving your congregation brings a measure of comfort you've needed. Praying that we are of comfort to both of you and especially for Chris and the other kids. We love you all so very much.

    May our Gracious Heavenly Father hold you in His loving hand this morning, wrapping you in the safety and comfort of His wings.

    By Blogger Kathy, at 2/13/2005 05:31:00 AM  

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    By Blogger Kathy, at 2/13/2005 05:33:00 AM  

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    By Blogger Kathy, at 2/13/2005 05:34:00 AM  

  • Mike,

    I fell down in the third grade and skinned my knee (I'm betting) and for that I believe I've experienced closure. I blew my knee out in the 9th grade. I have an 8" scar, a limp, a grotesquely displaced kneecap, and a right leg that has never fully regained its previous strength. I don't have closure about that injury. My mom was 15 minutes late picking me up from school when I was in kindergarten. I remember it once a decade but I have closure. My dad left home when I was in 1st grade. He never came back. While my dad and I are close and have a forgiven relationship, I don't believe that I have closure. I backed into a fence my junior year of high school in my car. It dented my bumper. I think about that dent about once a decade. I (along with Grant Boone and another friend) rolled my car 5 times at 75 mph my junior year of college. I think about that wreck once a week. You don't just "close" the door to your pain and get to nail it shut, never to be opened and dealt with again. Nice try for those that do. It doesn't work that way.

    There are some scars and some pain that you aren't allowed to forget and move on past, never to revisit. As odd as this sounds, for that, I'm eternally grateful. For it wasn't in the small scrapes or minor disappointments or fender benders that I experienced The Comforter, but in the devastation and divorce and near-death (and much more pain) that God made Himself real to me.

    It's almost as if - when there is "closure" there is no need for "comfort".

    My leg was in a cast the first 6 months of my freshman year. I was on crutches the entire year. The cast finally came off and the crutches finally got put in the closet, but the scar and the pain?
    I carry it daily. Some days I forget, most I don't.

    I'm not praying for closure for you, Diane or Chris. No. I'm just praying for comfort.

    I love you Mike.

    PS: Remind me to tell you about how selfless both you and Diane were at the hospital just moments after the crash. Both great testimonies!

    By Blogger Joel Quile, at 2/13/2005 05:36:00 AM  

  • I would post something personal and insightful.. but I think everybody has covered everything I might want to write.. so instead..

    I miss being at Highland this semester, I am sad I could not be there to help anyone through the process I have been through many times. I as well request hugs (and perhaps an actual introduction.. it should be fun to sey hey Im phylistene from the cyber congregation.. hheh) and am praying for you and the congregation. A kid in one of my small groups once told me he thinks God lives in Antarctica because its too cold for humans, and its all white and fluffy. Well alright.. Ill make sure to yell across the lake from Uruguay to Antarctica... Although Im pretty sure He hears us anyways.

    By Blogger Phyllistene, at 2/13/2005 06:34:00 AM  

  • I have yet to see that movie.... however, my roommate here in college has it, and when we both have the time, we are going to sit down and watch it.

    How did your sermon go?

    I will continue to pray for you and everyone at your church

    I'm not sure that anyone can truely receive closure from that kind of accident. God can help us move on with it, but I know that I struggle in the area of forgetting about what has happened.

    By Blogger Emily, at 2/13/2005 08:11:00 PM  

  • Mike-
    You're so right. If you said you felt closure, I'd worry. Healing takes time. For the love...that's one of those dumb sayings that people say in times like this. Who knows when there will ever be "closure". We just pray for peace on the journey. Love you all and can't wait to see you next weekend. Pray for health for us. We are flu-ridden and need to get well before we head to TX.

    By Blogger Brandon Scott, at 2/13/2005 08:30:00 PM  

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