Remembering Jeggan O. Cole 2014 – 2019

Feeling Incredibly Blessed!

In my write-up this year, I choose to view my journey through the lens of God’s incredible and manifold blessings. It is with much humility and gratefulness of heart that I say with confidence that the Lord has been good to me. In spite of the rugged terrain of my journey, the path has been lined with blessings big and small; some expected and others completely unexpected. Therefore, as I trudge on, I am learning to count my flowers instead of my weeds.

Five years is an important milestone in anyone’s life or career and yes, even in the demise of a loved one. At the same time, five years can be an awfully short time in any grief journey, as people who have experienced grief personally might tell you, particularly in the loss of a child – an only child. Quite frankly, such a journey naturally takes on a life of its own and not necessarily time bound. No wonder C.S Lewis on the devastating loss of his wife wrote, “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” While it is easy to focus on the incredible pain, loss and loneliness of my journey, I have also come to appreciate the everyday blessings.

Therefore, on this five year mark, I have purposefully chosen to testify of one blessing in particular that resonates powerfully with me and very close to my heart, I feel immensely blessed as I commemorate another year of my son’s passing, fully aware that I journey not alone!

To present a brief background, my journey actually started in 2012 with an ominous telephone call. The message I received was simple and precise, “Your son is critically ill and admitted at the intensive care unit of the hospital.” Nothing could have prepared me for that call. My world fell apart. The news hit me like a bolt of lightening. Then, for a moment I felt paralyzed but almost in the next moment, my motherly instinct kicked into gear and I needed to be with my son. As God would have it, a few days later, I was on board the next available flight, heading to the bedside of my son. This was the longest flight ever in my life and seemed endless!

I remember clearly arriving with much trepidation and at the same time a quiet resolve to do everything humanly possible to nurse my son back to health. In the eighteen months I spent bonding and caring for my son as we went in and out of hospital, God blessed me in ways that till today I cannot comprehend. It was during this critical time, feeling all alone that I was blessed with an amazing Christian family.

The story of my family is nothing short of love kindness and compassion in its purest form. Therefore, as I commemorate five years, I want to recognize my family and dedicate this piece to them. Over the years, I have come to enjoy God’s blessing through my family in unbelievably ways and yet all I hear from them is how they have been blessed as a result of having me in their life. Surely, this is humility at its finest! Their steadfast love and incredible faith transcend human boundaries. First, let me clearly state that this story is something that my family would like for me to rather not share and keep them behind the scenes. However, after so many years and much contemplation, I feel led to do so at this time. I am indeed a grateful recipient of Gods blessings. So I implore my family to kindly let me share my amazing journey of blessings and in the process bless others too.

It all started following a few months of our ( Jeggan and I) stay at the hospital when God led this God fearing Christian resident doctor to us. He walked into our unit and introduced himself. He immediately let me know that he had been a member of a team of doctors that was caring for my son back at the ICU and that all this while he and his family had constantly been praying for us. With tears welled up in my eyes, I welcomed him into my world of pain, loneliness and sadness. A day later, the doctor visited us again with his wife and children signaling the start of a beautiful and lasting relationship. At a time when I was battling with my son’s illness and constantly making life and death decisions, God truly blessed me with a beautiful family to guide me. Indeed, it was truly a miracle!

My family from then on showered us with unconditional love and took us under their wings. When my son and I needed a home following our hospital stay, my family readily shared their two-bedroom home at the time with us. Not only that, but they actually let us move into their master bedroom while they occupied the other room with their children. Truly, God works in ways we cannot understand. They also provided our daily needs. When Jeggan was going through surgery my family was there to sit with me and quietly held my hand. When Jeggan was in coma my family was there supporting me. Through Jeggan’s many near death experiences, my family was there praying with me. When Jeggan breathed his last, yes, my family was there to hold and comfort me as we all said goodbye to him. My family stayed on and together with others helped planned and supported the funeral. My family quietly watched with me as my son’s casket was being lowered to the ground for the very last time. Yes, they have been with me every step of the way, constantly reminding me of God’s faithfulness, abounding love and tender mercies. What an incredible act of generosity, faithfulness and love!

To this day, my family continues to visit, clean, plant flowers at Jeggan’s grave and even planted a memorial tree in their yard. My family continues to support the Jeggan Cole Foundation. I am indeed blessed beyond measure! When at times the sheer weight of grief overwhelms me and I need a praying presence or a listening ear, my family continues to be there for me and much more. I am sincerely grateful and in awe of God’s loving providence. Through years of interaction with my family I have come to learn and understand in very profound ways what it is like to practically live and walk the Christian faith; what it means to love your neighbor, to show hospitality to total strangers and what it means to be selfless and truly humble.

I appreciate my family and their extended families too who to this day continue to travel this amazing journey with me. Now, in my own little way, I constantly seek for opportunities to pay forward love, kindness and generosity in whatever way I can. THANK YOU MY FAMILY for going beyond the distance without counting the cost. Thank you for going the whole nine yards! May God bless and keep you. You always remind me of this verse:

Philippians 2:4 Not looking to your own interest but each of you to the interests of others.

Here we are again and like a river I continue to snake through treacherous terrains, clamber over mountains, meander through valleys and plains and still God continues to comfort and watch over me. No doubt, with five years and counting in my journey, I find grief more endurable even with the constant pain and even find myself comforting others!

More importantly my journey continues to be an incredible experience of learning, spiritual growth, maturity and a closer walk with God. I am learning to trust Him more and completely even when I don’t understand and at the same time be thankful for every single day without my son. I know that my redeemer lives. He is sovereign and remains faithful to His word. I thank Him for my journey, my blessings, my story and my tomorrow.

Another year another anniversary and I plod on!
Love you and miss you so much!
Rest easy and rest well

Always Jeggan’s mum

And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
– Philippians 4:19

Poem A Mother’s Lament – I did not ask to be here…

I did not ask to be here, nor do I want to be here.
At the time, life seemed normal and hopeful.
Then, without warning, the tsunami hit
Leaving a trail of destruction in its wake
My world, changed forever!
How could this have happened?

I did not ask to be here nor do I want to be here.
For the center no longer holds.
In a flash, dreams, aspirations, future, all vanished,
In front of my very eyes and without trace!
Brokenness, pain and loss quickly filled the void
Nothing made sense, nothing mattered.

I did not ask to be here nor do I want to be here.
Forgetting that at his birth, I had no say in the matter
Only to be his caretaker was he given.
Then came the day, the Master had need of him
He pried open my hand and reclaimed His own.
So, I wondered why I held on so tightly.

Somehow I have ended up here and it is what it is.
So as I navigate the waterways of life without my son,
I am grateful for the time we shared together
Like magnet, I cling onto memories made
Memories that I will forever cherish
Hidden in the deepest recesses of my soul.

So on this fifth anniversary of your angel date Jeggan
I am left to wonder and imagine and fantasize.
What would five years have been like for you?
Marriage, children, more education, more living?
Who knows? The possibilities are endless!
And all I can do is imagine and say thy will be done.

Kindly donate to the Jeggan Cole Memorial Foundation (JCMF) in honor of Jeggan’s memory and legacy.

The Foundation presently supports and mentor disadvantaged students in the rural and urban areas of The Gambia, as well as working towards establishing a community library. Thank you for your donation.

From My Family…

I met Pamela in the ICU, as part of the team of physicians and nurses taking care of Jeggan.  I was in his room just a brief few moments every day…   But what struck me was Pamela’s firm trust in God through the most difficult part of her life.  Alone, in a country far from home, with her only son unresponsive day in and day out for weeks on a stretch, she grew closer to her Savior instead of growing bitter and angry and turning away from God.  One day, as I checked in on Jeggan one early morning, Pamela was playing a contemporary Christian song that stuck with me for months.  I remember listening to that song on the way home from work, with tears in my eyes, thinking about Pamela and Jeggan.  Here are the words:

Sometimes all we have to hold on to is what we know is true of who you are… so when the heartache hits, like a hurricane, that can never change, who you are… And we trust, in who you are… Even if the healing doesn’t come and life falls apart, and dreams are still undone…You are God, You are good, forever faithful One… Even if the healing, even if the healing doesn’t come.  Lord, we know your ways are not our ways…So we set our faith in who You are…   Even though you reign high above us

You tenderly love us – We know your heart.  And we rest in who you are – Even if the healing doesn’t come and life falls apart, and dreams are still undone…  You are God, you are good, forever the faithful one – Even if the healing… even if the healing doesn’t come… You’re still the great and mighty one – We trust you always.  You’re working all things for our good.  We’ll sing your praise…  Even if the healing doesn’t come and life falls apart and dreams are still undone, You are God, You are good, Forever faithful one, Even if the healing, even if the healing doesn’t come      *The song is named ‘Even If’ writtten by the Christian group ‘Kutless’

We had special moments with Jeggan:

*A few times last summer, I remember pushing Jeggan in his wheelchair.  Jeggan and I would see how fast his wheelchair could safely go before one of the wheels would start to whobble and rattle; I don’t know what Pamela thought of those experiments!

*I had all kinds of great ideas.  I remember one day telling Jeggan that I was going to drive him to a nearby mountain at the Red River Gorge and personally hoist him up onto the ski lift so we could ride up the mountain together. He flashed me a little smile of appreciation; it was a special moment for me.  I just don’t know how well he realized I wasn’t joking!

*We have special memories of our 2 children, Adrielle & Elijah, playing the game ‘connect four’ with Jeggan.  My wife told me that one day Elijah (who was 2 years old at the time) said to Jeggan ‘Why don’t you talk to me?  Talk to me, Jeggan!’  Well, it wasn’t for lack of trying…  He kept whispering to us, but with his brain injury it was usually very difficult to catch what he was saying.

Finally, I wanted to share the lessons the Lord has been teaching Amanda and me, and I wondering if you would join us in wrestling through them:

1. Real love is such an amazing, beautiful, powerful thing to see and to experience.  Seeing Pamela leave her family, her career, her entire life in Gambia to stand alone in defense of her son’s life while he lay in a coma… to sleep night after night in a chair next to her son’s bed after he woke up from his coma and was awaiting financial support for rehabilitation… to waking up throughout the night conistently for weeks on end to administer medications, clean him, bathe him, feed him.  This grueling schedule affected Pamela’s health, but she kept her focus on Jeggan and the progress he was making.  One of the doctors in the ICU told us recently that there is no possible way Jeggan could have lived as long as he did and made the progress he did without all that Pamela did.  What a powerful thing to see Pamela’s love in action.  I found out later that this was only the tip of the iceberg of what Pamela has done to support Jeggan.  The sacrifices she has made to advance Jeggan through high school and then to get him to the United States for college and from there to graduate school…  Pamela related to us something Jeggan said to her years ago: ‘Thank you for being a mom and a dad for me.’  What a powerful testimony to her love.

2. God uses tragedy to focus us on the things that really matter in life; yes, that includes spending time with your spouse, your family… But even more than all of that is the condition of your soul before God.  For some reason, these last 2 weeks, a particular verse in the Bible has continued to run through my mind: ‘For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul.’  Sometimes I think Jeggan is saying that to us…  I still remember the day when Pamela came upstairs with a look of amazing calm and joy on her face; she told us about how she had prayed with Jeggan, his audible Amen — how he had finally accepted Jesus as his Lord & Savior.  And just recently Pamela said to me ‘I would not trade anything in the world for this last year with my son. This last year was worth it even if it were only to know He made peace with His Maker.’  If Jesus was right about the afterlife, which I believe He is, then there is both a Heaven and a Hell, as unpopular as that concept might be today.  And it never ceases to astound me as I read the New Testament how many times and in how many ways Jesus tells us that the path of life, the path that ultimately leads to Heaven, is narrow, and only a FEW are willing to abandon everything to walk that path with Him!  Sometimes God takes everything away from us to make that choice glaringly obvious.  But for most of us, He doesn’t; and we’re forced to make that choice with all of the glamor of life to distract us.  Jesus said “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.” (John 12:25)  “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”  (Matthew 6:24).  I wonder if we agree with Jesus – and with Pamela – that Jeggan’s soul is worth more than his excellent education, than the future that lay in front of him, than the money he could have made, and the fun he could have had.  Jeggan’s life puts this stark question in front of us: was Jeggan’s last difficult year of his life more valuable for him than all the others that came before?  The things that seem so important to us could crumble to pieces today.  Will our souls be at peace with God if that happens?

3. Finally, we need to see the pain in our lives for what it really is; it’s God’s call to grow closer to Him and lean harder on Him.  Searching for God is a pursuit we will never regret.  If we know Him, He will be there for us even when the healing doesnt come and the dreams are still undone.