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Words have come a lot harder than the tears this past week so please forgive us for not saying sooner…  Thank You

The entire family thanks you for the many meals you’ve provided for our sustenance.  Thank you for the fragrant flowers sent to remind us that there is still beauty in a world shadowed with pain.  Thank you for the all-embracing hugs and condolences given to comfort us.  And our appreciation too, to those of you who have been here in spirit when you couldn’t be here in person.  We have benefited from your prayers and love as well.

It has been easy to dwell on the sadness when our heart clasps our breath at the most unlikely times and tears burn with the reminder we won’t see dad chopping wood, cooking dinner or reading his favorite book, today.  How greedy life makes us when we lose someone we love.  What deals we would make to have them back.  Yet as we are mired in loss for now,  we must keep remembering that the deal has already been sealed.  It has been most definitely sealed with the blood of our God’s son.  A promise that must lighten our hearts every time the thick gloom takes hold.  And we’ve seen that light in the love that is continuing to be extended to our family.  So, again, thank you for giving us a glimpse of the kind and loving world we will next see our father living in.

So how do you say goodbye to a Grandfather, a Father, a Husband, and a Friend?   You gather your closest and pray in earnest, you shed your tears on other quaking shoulders and embrace in a strong longing hold and then you remember.   You remember all the things about him that you loved and even the little things that irritated you and then you calm your voice and sing in praise for the hope we share.

And that is exactly what the Cook Family did.  On May 21, 2011 we gathered.  Along with friends and with those of you there in spirit, we remembered Dad.  Lloyd Yandell, a long time friend of father’s gave a heart comforting discourse on the life of Rayford Ennis Cook.   He described dad’s love for his family and for his God Jehovah.  He told of his generosity toward others, his love for the ministry, the hospitality he extended and the back-breaking work he was willing to do to help out when needed.   He even recounted dad’s frugality with a little humor.   Remember the red and white truck?  Well, it is still in the yard, though a little worse for the wear.  So it seems there had been a long-standing joke between Lloyd and dad over the need to replace it, or at least the old tattered broom that stood at the ready in the back of it.   Dad would laugh convinced there was no need for himself to become “materialistic” just because Lloyd had a newer more shiny one.  Lloyd got the better of him though.  Dad was quite surprised when he discovered his old rusty Ford truck was sporting a shiny new broom courtesy of his gloating “materialistic” friend.

We were comforted by the scriptures Dad appreciated the most and reminded of the many times he quizzed us to teach us how to reason on them.   It was with that reasoning we were strengthened with what the bible really teaches about the sleep like condition of the dead and the resurrection that awaits them.   Dad’s belief in that promise was sure right through the end.  He could still be heard trying to share his faith and love for Jehovah even with his last breaths.  Along with his stanuch faith there came his last request…. That he be welcomed back to that New World by each and every one of his loved ones.   With that we all stood and sang the following song as if the words of Rayford Ennis Cook where echoing in our ears.

Tamie’s husband, Randy Mason then helped us all in his closing prayer to appreciate the value of leaning on Jehovah while we continue to look forward to seeing our father again in Paradise.

Following a lovely reception at the Kingdom Hall, hosted by the Reedsport Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses the Cook Family made a stop at Lake Marie….one of dad’s favorite fishing spots.    There, along with a few close friends we paid our final tribute in love to the man who had stood on those very banks fishing for trout when he wasn’t “fishing for men.”

Earlier that morning I had found a poem written in my father’s hand, tucked next to his Bible. It was fitting that it be read aloud as my brother Roger cast a line into the lake and planted one of dad’s fishing poles into the bank of Lake Marie.

The Long Garment of Love

You
can’t stand on the banks of the river of waters of life, watching them slowly
glide by.  The river flows eventually
into the Lake of Everlasting life where there will forever be islands of
paradise and always smooth sailing.

However
as the river winds its way – there will be eddies, ripples, rocks, even some small falls.  These are really your Brothers
and Sisters, some rough cut – not too clean yet, immature, not so nearly as
nice as you.  They will cause you some
bumps, bruises and scrapes…  Nothing more than skin deep.

Enduring them will be your very greatest challenge!!!

Not to worry!

The waters of truth will
cleanse all who Go with the flow – the others will be washed ashore.

No way to avoid the bumps – but you can
avoid the bruises and scrapes if you stay fully clad in the buoyant, water
resistant, heavy duty, all purpose, long garment of Love

written by

Rayford Ennis Cook

After this reading the men who loved him wrote personal sentiments on rocks before skipping them across the peaceful clear water before us. The daughters and granddaughters in remembrance of their “Poppy;” then continued the tribute by tossing in after the stones, beautiful little orange and golden poppies. Mom completed the family service on the shore by tossing in a last bouquet of poppies and softly saying, “Goodbye Honey.”

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Amazingly, I am calm. My Dad is struggling to stay alive and I am calm. Hospice has come and gone and told us to expect his death perhaps sometime tonight or during the next day or so…and I am calm.  Teri is gone to work in Texas and I had to phone and tell her and listen to her sob…her heart broken breaks mine….I am calm. Mom is walking around in a daze, not knowing what to do or what to say, in her own private hell, and I am calm. How? I do not know. This response does not fill my expectations.  In my projections of these hours, I always thought I would be sobbing, anxiety-ridden or even yelling at the top of my voice and demanding that God do something to keep this man, my father, alive.  Right now Dad is laying in his bed, breathing shallowly and his good friend, Chuck Harvey, is reading the Bible to him.  These are his last hours, according to the Hospice nurse. He is in no pain, but fading fast right before Mom and I.   I am calm…yet  I am perplexed by what I am feeling and also by what I am not feeling.  How do you watch someone you love die? I cannot find the instructions.

I look at this dying man, whom I have called Dadda, Daddy, Dad, Father and sometime; I admit, I have called him some other names, albeit under my breath, that were not so pleasant. I know…Shame On Me… but that was when I was a rebellious teenager and he really made me mad. This is afterall, Former Drill Instructor, Sgt. Rayford Cook.  This man is responsible for my birth, for raising me…I am who I am, in a large part because of Rayford Ennis Cook. The range of emotions that course through my heart are too complex, too special, and too immeasurable to describe in words. The relationship that I have with Dad is amazing and it is all my own. When you share a father with four other siblings, you sometimes feel like he belongs only to you. Sometimes I forget that my siblings have their own version of this story…But this story belongs just to Dad and Me, we crafted it together since 1958, and I cannot imagine closing this chapter just yet. I will always cherish the unique and wonderful lifetime of memories that my Dad has made with me…a precious gift.

As selfish as that sounds, it must be acknowledged, that when I think about the pain my siblings are going through, it breaks my heart all over again. Does anyone know how many cracks you can have in your heart before it falls into tiny pieces?  My Dad loves his family….all of them…each and everyone of them, right down to the newest baby in the Cook nursery.. He and Mom have done their best to create LOVE…and they have done quite well holding the apron strings just taut enough.

I will remember. I will remember my Dad. I will shut my eyes and see his healthy face, his stong voice and feel my hand in his big strong hand…I will rewind until I get to the times when Dad was invincible, before the “C” Monster gnawed on his soul and devoured his life.  Please be assured, the damnable “C” Monster did not devour my Dad’s spirit. That spirit belongs to my Dad and to his heavenly father, Jehovah…Jehovah will remember Ray Cook. Jehovah will remember my Dad and Jehovah WILL bring him back to our family.. STRONG, HEALTHY, VIBRANT, AND ALIVE. Dad’s hope is sure and he has a guarantee. So it is not a question of what will happen to Dad when he dies. I know. Shoot, it was Dad that showed me from the Bible the condition of the dead, where they are and how Jehovah will resurrect the dead to a Paradise right here on earth….That being said, Jehovah put eternity into our hearts, and death is our enemy.  I want Dad ALIVE. Not like he is now, but healthy and happy. I want my Ray Cook. I want my Dad.

 Dad tells me that I used to stand in my crib and call to him and say: “Daddy?”  “What Tamie?”  ” I love you Daddy!”  He said I would do it over and over again every night and even though it was a delay tactic on my part from going to sleep, he said he never got tired of hearing those words. Every single time I have visited him, he has reminded me of that story….he repeated it again the other day. I will keep repeating those words tonight and maybe tomorrow too, for however long Dad keeps holding on…I will say:  “I love you Daddy!”

Teri and I sat up all night last Saturday watching over Dad as he struggled through a long and worrisome night. At one point, he even said “Good Bye”. Early Sunday morning, we called Hospice and a wonderful nurse came around noon.  It was amazing to see the transformation. Dad literally perked up right before our eyes. His voice got stronger, his posture straightened and you could almost see his determination take on a new life of its own. It was as if he had seen death and decided NO STINKING WAY!  

New medications were prescribed and Dad has responded better than expected since Sunday; although, personally, Teri and I feel that it might have been the arrival of Grandsons… Brandon, Ryan and Jason, that might have done the trick. Or it could have been the smells wafting from the kitchen, courtesy of Elena (a true culinary genius, with a golden giggle) and Roger…or maybe it was the laughter and the pitter-patter from the feet of Dad’s Great-grandchildren Dakota and Aiden and their pretty mama, Kaila….Who cares what it was…we will take it and be thankful!

Dad continues to be very weak and tired, but the medications seem to help with nausea and loss of appetite; although, Dad is still very jaundiced, wobbly on his feet and still exhibiting a host of other symptoms that are not so pleasant. Yesterday’s hospice visit was reassuring that the medications are keeping Dad more comfortable and pretty much pain-free. We are realistic that at this point…we are not going to get a cure despite our fervent prayers. The “C” Monster is a dreaded beast and is not going to retreat quietly…but neither is Rayford Ennis Cook!  His lifelong stubbornness, determination and True Grit have served him well this past week. So despite his firm faith and confidence in a resurrection, he isn’t quite ready to close his eyes…not just yet. 

Dad is more than delighted to have his family circle the wagons and stoke the family fires.  The reminiscing has kept us up all hours of the night and you can wave your hand through the air and touch the love. Teri has set up Skype and Dad has been able to talk with Leanna, Danielle and Sophia, and then Randy, Dustin and Kate also Skyped. He has received numerous calls from other family members and visits from local friends. That, along with being able to reach out and touch Grandsons that have been separated by a Continent and sit with Son and Daughters, has planted a smile on Dad and Mom’s faces. We worry that all the activity might be to wearing on him….but when asked, he says “Bring it on.”  This time is a gift…this Cook Family Reunited…Ray and Carol Cook’s Progeny.

So Brandon returned to Florida and Jason and Ryan went back to their jobs. Elena is home and Roger is leaving later today and get this…Teri, Mom, Dad and I will be heading to Salem for a two-day Circuit Assembly. Yep…Dad does not want to miss the Bible convention and is determined that we should go. Teri and I have more than a little bit of concern about this trek, but we are going to do things the RAY WAY. His attitude is “What do I have to lose?” 

On another note….YOU, our friends and our family, are amazing! Your comments have strengthened us, your prayers have built us up, your love has warmed our souls and we feel so blessed to count you as our loved ones. Thank you … it means more than you can imagine. We read each of your comments to Dad and each one elicits new remembrances from him that are so precious. We have learned so many things about his life when he was younger, times spent being raised with his cousins. He absolutely loved and adored Aunt Rosa and his cousins…and truly appreciates the sacrifices that his Aunt and Uncle  made to raise him when his parents died when he was just a tot. The stories are amazing.

Dad speaks of the people in Covina and South Gate who embedded themselves into our hearts. He also loves hearing from our girlfriends, Allison, Paula, Leisa, Tammy and Linda….and all the other honorary “Cook Girls”…and he expresses his gratitude and appreciation that your friendship, support and love has proven to be lifelong and true. You know you are his other daughters and he adores each of you.

He is proud that we continue to choose the best of friends. Last week, we received a beautiful gift basket of pears, apples, sausage, cheese, pretzels, popcorn and chocolate from our friends, the Harding’s in Ventura, whom he has only met once or twice and he was so touched by the their generosity and comforting words. 

WE HAVE THE BEST OF FRIENDS…YOU!! Thank you so much. Truly, we are so blessed….and you are so LOVED!

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