Brother and Sisters hear me when I say As a people, we must never allow ourselves to be defined by others. As a people, we must never allow ourselves to be dependent on the resolve of others who fight on our behalf, sometimes because they believe we can simply not achieve greatness on our own. As a people, we must stand up and demand that the time is now for society to remove any and all roadblocks that still exist in our paths and denounce those who inherently want us to fail. As a people, we must grow and nurture our communities. We must transform them from wastelands devoid of opportunities, where those of us who succeed run from, into an oasis filled with promise where not only would we not run, we would move toward. As a people, we must return to the days when we built upon the family, helping one another, being positive role models to our children, and creating foundations that will make each successive generation stronger. As a people, we must challenge our young to achieve. We must not coddle them, we must not provide them with excuses, we must not be satisfied with mediocrity, and we must not fear greatness. From the moment they take their first breath, we must instill within them that excellence is to be strived for, excellence is expected, excellence is the norm. As a people, we must insist that we honor our past and remember the sacrifices of those that came before us so that we can march forward toward excellence. As a people, we must realize that only when we look inward, only when we summon the courage to be great, will we ever indeed be free as a people.
The first three lines of this post were intentionally left blank because in reality words can not state what I feel about the most amazing woman I have ever known my mother Frances Cooke. Such an extraordinary woman nothing can ever match a mother’s love. A shoulder to cry on when you come on as a child with a scrape knee. A shoulder to cry on when you come home having been rejected by a girl when you’re an teenager. A shoulder to cry on when you’re an adult when life throws you an unexpected curve. My mom was always there for me and even today I know from above she is still there for me.
Last Sunday, I spent a good part of my morning and afternoon cooking for the week. Italian meatloaf (really turkey loaf), Cornish game hens, collard greens, black bean soup, and spaghetti with mussels. Rewind almost a year ago, and I was recovering from a cardiac arrest. Those who were there have told me the Doctors on the scene worked to bring me back longer than they should; the priest who stopped in to see me each day in the ICU called me miracle man. My recovery was quicker than was expected. My physical rehabilitation progressed nicely. Three months after the event, I went home from the rehab center and returned to work shortly after. A miracle? Maybe but more likely just another day for the Lord Almighty, who chose to reach down and touch me and say, not yet, my son, there is still work for you to do on this Earth. Now I won’t lie; it hasn’t been smooth sailing since the event some days are better than others there are bumps along the road health-wise. Despite that, every day, I wake and can see and smell the wonderful world around me and know of all the love my family and friends have for me, a love so apparent during my recovery and no doubt a significant factor in it. For this, I am truly blessed, blessed that the hand of the Lord has touched me and given me this second chance at life. It allowed me to spend a Sunday cooking for the week because despite what bumps maybe along the way, in my mind, I know He stands over me and will allow me to wake another day, so I might as well have something to eat on those days. I do not know what His ultimate plan is for me, but I know he has touched me, and he is guiding me, and I am eternally thankful for that.
For the better part of a decade-plus, I let anger and bitterness fill my heart when it came to a particular family member. The reason for my anger is neither here nor there but suffice to say it was Ironic that despite the fact I was harboring a grudge, I knew that the result of their actions played out to my benefit. It laid the very foundation of the man I am today, and I am very proud of that man. Despite this indisputable fact, I continued to curse the decision and the way it was revealed to me.
Hebrews 12:15 – “looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.”
Not acknowledging my bitterness and true feelings during this time robbed me of a family bond that should never be broken. My anger cast a giant shadow on my very being. The rift between that family member and myself by its very nature spilled over to that family member’s immediate family. In essence, I cut myself off from them while not acknowledging that I was doing exactly what I was doing. I missed the birth of many children and the growth of others. I became a stranger to an entire branch of the family tree. I can never put into perspective what those losses have had on me as a person, but I know it could not have been positive. Family is always family, and through anger and bitterness, I had forgotten that.
A recent health issue was the catalyst for me to re-examine and reenergize my faith. Through prayer, the Lord spoke to me and guided me to realize that the very lack of forgiveness is sin. That same lesson is taught to us in “The Lord’s Prayer.”
Matthew 6: 12-15
12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation,but deliver us from the evil one.‘ 14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
For me, this realization was like a bright light shining onto the darkness in my heart. The next day, I picked up the phone and called that family member to start the healing process and mend the rift between us. I expressed how wrong I had been and how I wanted us to go back to being a family again. It was an emotional call for both of us, but upon saying the words, I want us to be a family again I could feel the weight lifted. My heart had been released of the bitterness it had stubbornly held for over a decade. I understood that I had finally done the right thing. After all, a family is a family and nothing should break that bond.
The reality of life is that we all will face setbacks and obstacles. It is our reaction to this that defines who we are. We can accept it as our fate, we can take it on head first alone or we can face it with the help of those around us and with a faith that whatever deity you believe in will give you the courage and strength to overcome.
For some going at it alone is the best course of action. You believe you got yourself into this you can get yourself out. You believe it is a sign of weakness to rely on others. But this way of thinking is flawed as the universe connects us al on higher plane. We are part of the whole and choosing to reject this limits what one can accomplish.
Tapping into the power of the whole is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength. You understand that those around you will provide your soul with a motivation to press on when you might be ready to give up. That they can provide you with sounding board to express the range of emotions you are going through. That they are the light that will help guide you even in the darkest of times.
Your faith is equally important. You will be stronger simply in the belief that a higher power is working to provide you with the strength to overcome. You will be comforted in knowing that a higher power is touching and uplifting your soul. You will be relived of your worry because you believe that the higher power is working to heal your body, clear your mind, remove your obstacles and provide you with a roadmap toward a better life.
So embrace the whole, rely on your faith and your problems will be a thing of the past.
So I haven’t had a new post for the blog for a bit, and there’s a good reason. After a routine medical procedure at the hospital, something went wrong, and my heart stopped. Luckily for me, I was still in the hospital, and they worked on me for 40 minutes. It was still touch and go after that, and I was heavily sedated for about a week; let me tell you if you’re heavily sedated, your mind takes you to some weird places, but here I am today. Doctors and nurses called me miracle man because of how quickly I rebounded from where I was. No doubt this has been a tough year for me medically after dealing with Legionnaires disease last summer, still wondering where that came from, but I believe the hand of the Lord has saved me twice now as if he was telling me ain’t your time yet kid you have big things yet to do. These setbacks may seem difficult, but it’s all part of the overall plan. I genuinely believe that I have the faith that he will help me through this rehab part of my healing and guide me to finding my ultimate purpose for being on this earth. This incident has taught me the overwhelming amount of love my family and friends have for me. Even friends who live outside of New York traveled to be by my bedside. Others stopped by every day, and of course, my sister Carole who has been my rock. She has not missed a day; she has slept overnight in the hospital only to have to get up at a ridiculous hour to go home and get ready for work. I don’t know what I would do without her, and I won’t even try to use words to describe how thankful and how much I love her. It is truly overwhelming to know how deeply my friends and family care about me. Their visits, their words of encouragement, and their prayers have been such a positive factor in overcoming this latest test of faith, but thanks to them, I am well on the way to doing just that, and I thank all of them.
Hard to believe my dad would have been 105 years old today plus today is also dad and mom’s wedding anniversary. Over the years, I have said how much they mean to me and how much I love them, so I won’t rehash that narrative. Suffice to say; there are moments when even In a room full of family and friends, I feel alone but then out of nowhere, I feel something that tells me I’m never alone; they continue to walk with me to look out over me. Should I expect any difference? Not really, after all, they are my parents and great parents they were
You read to me when I was a child. You wiped the blood from my knee and the tears from my eyes when I fell as a boy.
I am who I am because you were who you were.
You encouraged and believed in me when I was a teen. You were always there for me when i became a man. Through it all you put up with my nonsense and loved me unconditionally. You may be gone from this Earth but you walk with me everyday.
I am who I am because you were who you were.
You were: Loving, Caring, Demanding, Forgiving, Understanding, Supportive, Nurturing, and a million other things I could never list.
I am who I am because you were who you were and you were Frances Cooke my mother!
Over the past few weeks, my Facebook feed has been filled with pictures of my friend’s children graduating elementary, high school, or college. Going to the junior prom or the prom. All of them are accompanied by posts expressing pride in their children’s accomplishments or lamenting the fact that the years have gone by so fast. I admit that I look at these posts with both jealousy and regret. Jealousy that I don’t have what they have. Regret that I made so many wrong turns in my relationships that I screwed up any chance of having it.
Growing up, I believed that I would live the fairy tale, marry the love of my life, have two children of our own, and adopt one to provide a loving home to a child in need. But life, more often than not, is not a fairy tale. The character Sonny in Bronx Tale said – You’re only allowed three great women in your lifetime. I have had three long-term serious relationships in my life, each of which started with the thought that this might be the one, my soulmate, the woman I start a family and grow old with. Each ended with a broken heart and me thinking, well, here I am again. Each one was devastating in its way, but none more than the last one.
She was the first and only woman I asked to marry me and when she said yes I thought finally I had found the one, my soulmate, the woman I would grow old with. The woman I would post pictures of our children’s accomplishments on Facebook with, she came into the relationship with two children, and she was upfront that she wouldn’t have another child. Despite that, as time went on, I started to feel more and more as I finally had found the family I always wanted. I knew I could never take their father’s place, who was still very much in their lives, but still, it felt like a real family. Only weeks before the breakup, the oldest child drew four pictures. Her mommy, her sister, herself, and me and put them up on the refrigerator. Looking at those pictures brought a huge smile to my face because it was confirmation that not only did I see us as a family, but they did as well. When only a few weeks later, my fiancée informed me that she was now my ex-fiancée; it wasn’t just breaking up with her; it was breaking up with my family. I won’t lie; it was my lowest point. I had never been so depressed, and it took me a while to find myself again, but I eventually did. Despite that, I still wonder if my window has closed that I will never find that woman to grow old with. That I never will be able to post with pride pictures of my children’s accomplishments on Facebook. Not that I’ve given up hope, and I’m still out there swinging, but I still wonder and hope that my window is cracked open just a little bit.