Friday, September 14, 2012

Cole's Gift

photo by Keri Dummerth Photography

This Sunday will be September 16th, one year since my four-and-a-half-month-old nephew, Cole, passed away quietly with his parents and all of his grandparents at his side.  For months I've known I would post something about Cole here in honor of this anniversary, and now the time to write has come and I still don't know what to say.

We still miss him.  We are still heartbroken.  We still know that our grief is nothing compared to what his mama and daddy must still be going through.  It has been a year, now, that they have not held him, patted his fuzzy head, held his tiny hand, inhaled his baby scent, heard his tiny squeaks, kissed his spectacular cheeks.  

A year does not make it seem right.  A year does not make one feel, oh, yes, this IS how it should have been.  Not for me, anyway.  I know there has been a lot of grace, even some joy found in the last year, and Jennifer has told me as much herself.  She and Eric have shown incredible strength and faith and honesty amidst their loss, and Cole's story has taken root in the hearts of many people - God's hand has been very evident.  But the anniversary of losing a baby is still just genuinely, achingly sad.  We wish with everything in us that little Cole was still here.

One thing that Cole taught us is that even a tiny, very sick baby needs and responds to loving parents.  Cole was blind, and rarely opened his eyes.  He was beset with seizures all the time.  All.  The.  Time.  We know that physically his brain was not put together properly, and it was a miracle that it could even tell his body to breathe on its own or regulate its own temperature.  This is a baby who was supposed to be so improperly wired and so busy surviving on the most basic level that he should have been completely oblivious to any of his surroundings.

And yet I can tell you from personal experience that Cole visibly reacted to having his parents nearby.  You could see him respond to Eric's voice, you could see him calm when Jennifer held him.  And although I couldn't be there, I am told that the weeks he was at home he seemed, well, at home.  That kiddo knew he was loved and cared for.

Jennifer and Eric are now partnering with a foundation called Orphans Treasure Box to begin Cole's Gift, a grant program for people adopting children with life-threatening illnesses.  Think about that for a second - children who are deathly ill and have no parents to love on them.  I'm going to let Jennifer tell you about it here:

It has been nearly a year since we lost our sweet baby Cole. Orphans Treasure Box is a registered non-profit serving orphans and adoptive families by selling donated, used books on Amazon. My friend, Beth Wendling, started and runs Orphans Treasure Box in Champaign, IL. In memory of Cole, she has created Cole’s Gift, a $2000 grant that will be given yearly to a family adopting a child with a life-threatening illness. In addition to Cole’s Gift, OTB is helping the Longshore Family, who just adopted a 14 year old, HIV positive teenager from the Ukraine, and the King Family, who are adopting three sisters from the Philippines. Also, OTB is currently raising money for foster homes to be built in Thailand, where orphans age out of the system at age 10. Please consider how YOU can help raise money for Orphans Treasure Box. Here are three options:

1. Go to the Orphans Treasure Box book store on Amazon and shop for used books. Books are organized alphabetically, so typing keywords in the search box will help. 

2. Donate your used books! If you are in St. Louis, please contact me to arrange for drop off or pick up from now until September 20th. If you are in another city, you may ship books directly to: 

Orphans Treasure Box
2511 Pinehurst
Champaign, IL 61822 
Tell the post office you are shipping books, and you should receive the book rate. Please NO encyclopedias, church cook books, or anything with mold. Your books will be sold on the Amazon site. Be sure to include your name and address so a receipt can be issued to you. 

3. Make a monetary donation. Please make out your check to Orphans Treasure Box and write Cole McKee Shannon on the memo line. Mail to:  

Orphans Treasure Box
2511 Pinehurst
Champaign, IL 61822
We are excited to honor Cole’s memory by helping children in need! Please pass this along to your friends and family. 
To learn more about baby Cole, please check out my blog. 
Thank you all!
Jennifer Shannon 
“The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with JOY.” Psalm 126:3

Thanks to everyone for thinking of Cole, especially this weekend.  Make sure you don't miss Jennifer's lovely blog.  And maybe you will send Jennifer and Eric an encouraging note, too.  I know nothing makes them happier than knowing that Cole is remembered.

photo by Keri Dummerth Photography

You're in our hearts, Little Mac.  Always.  We love you.

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