Today would have been my son Cooper’s 16th birthday. He died of a syndrome known as “hypoplastic left heart” when he was five days old. This is written in his honor.
How could I forget the one who made known to me a kind of love that runs so deep it cannot be explained?
How could I forget the one who fought for life so bravely and so courageously?
How could I forget the one who made me a father?
How could I forget my son?
I remember the years of infertility and the struggle to make our dream of having children a reality.
I remember the feeling of elation when I heard the words, “We’re pregnant.”
I remember the absolute joy that filled our hearts.
I remember the “glow of happiness” that surrounded Mitzi all during her pregnancy.
I remember how much fun we had shopping for baby stuff, setting up the nursery, and talking about all the things we were going to teach our child.
I remember how excited our family and friends were for us. These were the people who had prayed for us, comforted us, and, in many ways, carried us along on the journey to having a baby. They were invested in us and shared our joy.
I remember the baby showers and all the gifts – it was overwhelming!
I remember trying my best to be a true partner to my wife during all the stages of her pregnancy.
I remember comfort-eating with her and gaining weight with her (ooops!).
I remember having to schedule inducement because of passing the due date.
I remember packing up the car to go the hospital, knowing that when we came back home our lives will have changed forever.
I remember how excited we were as we got settled in our hospital room.
I remember bringing Mitzi ice chips and comforting her with massages and her favorite music.
I remember when it was time for the baby to be delivered.
I remember our decision to not find out the sex of the baby.
I remember being in the delivery room.
I remember first noticing how big this baby was when it arrived.
I remember being told, “It’s a boy!”
I remember having his footprints imprinted on the hospital smock I was wearing.
I remember how thrilled I was to walk into the hallway to announce Cooper’s birth to our parents and other family members.
I remember all “the firsts.”
I remember the revolving door of visitors who came to see the baby, congratulate us, and bask in our joy.
I remember receiving all the instructions from the nurses as we got ready to take Cooper home from the hospital.
I remember the nurse who said, “Before we discharge you, we want to do one more wellness check of the baby.”
And I remember hearing the words that would change everything: “We’ve discovered a problem with his heart.”
I remember consoling my worried wife while trying to hide my own anxiety.
I remember the visits with the doctors giving us our options, which really were none.
I remember Cooper’s fight (he was pronounced dead multiple times only to revive).
I remember the photo shoot in our hospital room that members of our church made possible so that we would have some well-made family photos.
I remember the crowds of people keeping vigil in the waiting room and keeping our parents company, as we were by Cooper’s side in the NICU.
I remember putting Cooper in Mitzi’s arms, when it was time, so that he could die in his mother’s arms.
I remember when it happened.
I will always remember when it happened.
I remember the church member who was a funeral director volunteering to stay with Cooper the whole time that he was processed at the hospital and given over to the funeral home.
I remember the funeral homes in two different states working together to have Cooper buried in Oklahoma, within sight of where Mitzi and I met and were married.
I remember the funeral.
I remember how wrong and unnatural it felt to see a coffin that small.
I remember the outpouring of love from so many.
I remember the pain – because it’s still there.
But here’s what else I remember:
I remember the One who was raised from the dead.
I remember that He has promised to raise us from the dead as well.
I remember the One who invited little children to come to Him.
I remember that He makes it possible for us to go to Him after this life.
I remember that the apostle Paul said that “death has been swallowed up in victory” and that God “gives us the victory through Jesus Christ.”
I remember that Jesus said, “Take heart, for I have overcome the world.”
I remember that we live in a fallen and broken world and that death is part of that brokenness.
But I also remember that in Christ we are made whole, we are healed, and we are saved from the enemies of sin and death.
And so I remember that my son is with God’s Son and, as David once said, “[My son] will not return to me, but I will go to him.”
I remember that I will see my son again – healed and whole and alive.
I remember, through the lens of hope that Christ provides, my son with joy and pride.
I do not forget the struggle.
I do not forget the pain.
I do not forget the overwhelming sense of loss.
Instead, I remember it all.
And I place it at the feet of the One who remembers me.
And it’s alright.
22 thoughts on “I Remember”
I love the Tugman family so much. Cooper was lucky to be born into your family. What love you have for him, for each other, for Hope and for our heavenly father. I feel so privileged to have known and loved your sweet family.
We love you and your family too!
Son, I don’t how you had the courage to get those comments made. Mom and I love Cooper and remember the many thoughts with you. Only the strength from God got me through that experience, and I know that God was all over you and Mitiz. Love you and Mitiz so much, Dad
Thanks, Dad! Love you too.
What a beautiful tribute! I love you and your family and I’m thankful that God saw fit to put you in my life.
Thank you! Much love to you as well.
The Great amount love given to this precious child so beautifully expressed.
GOD help us all remember your great love and mercy.
In this fast-paced world, we are conditioned to look for “one-liner” answers even in scripture–but immediately prior to one of those “one-liners”–which might even sting instead of comfort depending on what we’re going through, we find something to hold onto.
In Romans 8:18-27, the apostle Paul reminds us of three things we totally miss if we just look at verse 28:
#1: Heaven just has(!) to(!) be(!) glorious beyond anything we could even imagine, because nothing(!)–not even the grief and endless feelings of loss that we began to witness that day–can even cast a shadow toward the bright hope of what awaits us if we’re “faithful unto death”.
#2: We can focus on what we hope(!) for, when what we see(!)–what is right before our eyes–brings us to our knees in grief or anguish.
#3: We can fall at the feet of a loving Lord in prayer, ever when our grief robs us of the words with which to cry out to Him in anguish, because He really can(!) “listen to our hearts”.
Well said, Russ. Thanks for sharing your insights.
Happy Birthday Cooper. ⚾️
The two things I remember most are 1) the news that Mitzi was pregnant. We were all off-the-charts excited. and 2) that tiny little coffin. You’ve found many ways to use Cooper’s life to teach the rest of us about God (I carry a quote from one of those lessons MANY years ago) but I still wish it wasn’t a lesson you could teach so well. I know my faith is weak that way. Our heart still aches in ways that my words can’t express for Cooper to be a 16yo young man today. Many blessings to the Tugman crew from the Bosley bunch.
This is so powerful Rusty! Thank you so much for sharing. I have sat here with tears as I have read your blog. God is good and only He can give us what we need to carry on with such heavy hearts during these times. Your family will always have a special place in our hearts ❤
Thank you. Your family is special to us too.
I think about you and Mitzi with love and compassion every year at this time. I know that your faith in God’s promises gives you comfort and peace.
Thank you, Linda!
Rusty, it is so evident that you were put on this earth to Preach the Gospel and spread His word! The words that you preach are without a doubt inspired by God. I can feel God working through you and through your ministry. This is one of the most well written pieces I have ever read. It touched my heart and it touched my soul! That pain you feel, you know mama has experienced and I too as a sibling. It’s something that others cannot understand unless they have gone through it. Rusty, you are one of my top 3 favorite Gospel Preachers of all time. Keep bringing that Word!
Thank you so much, Kristy! Hope you’re doing well.
I remember that moment . Having had a 5 month old daughter who passed away a number of years before, all I could do was hug you a nd Mitzi. It was like in that moment God was hugging all of us. Thanks for your story of the love of parents and the love of our God.