James Cottrell: July 22, 1987 – February 23, 2003.

February 23, 2012

[I wrote this back in 2006, which is a scary long time ago (I mean, seriously, xanga references?). Regardless, I re-post this almost every year, because no matter how much time has passed, the lesson remains the same and honestly, I need the reminder.]

You know, there’s always this cliched hype about “never letting a moment pass you by and living each day to fullest.” It reminds me of the CEC trend where Carpe Diem showed up everywhere–xangas, AIM, etc., for awhile. But honestly, how many of us truly adhered to that mantra in those “every moments,” and are to this day striving to keep that ingrained in our mind, not just marked in colored font in our profiles?

I remember one particular Friday in November of 2002. I was standing in the hallway right outside of my mom’s classroom along with my brother and James, as Mrs. Cottrell and my mom wrapped up their conversation about the next day’s lesson plans as usual. Then in addition to the typical parting goodbyes, my mom gave James a hug, as he was scheduled to go into surgery for his pacemaker that weekend. I stood there awkwardly, not sure if I was supposed to follow suit or what. Then somewhere in that limbo of unease and sharp discomfiture, my moment passed. I didn’t give him a hug.

And then…I never saw James again.

In the time between November and February, James went through dire surgery complication after complication. His life hung by the thinnest thread for three months–one minute he was going strong on his pacemaker, the next instant he was being frantically hooked back up to the machine. I sat at the hospital countless nights, prohibited from seeing him, staring hard at the sterile hospital surroundings, watching the hearts of his parents being wrenched out from within them, wondering how much hurt a human was capable of withstanding. But nothing could change what God was about to ordain, not a mother’s love, not the many fervent prayers, not even having Uncle Frank Ing as one of his doctors.

The morning after James died was like that of a movie in its most depressing scene. Except it was actual, tangible reality as I watched the dark clouds roll in, spreading a heavy, mournful covering across the sky as I silently rode in the car. The fat drops that splattered against the car windshield mocked the wet beads threatening to spill from my own eyes. My mom and I went to take breakfast to the Cottrells before heading to school. Their house was as desolate as the somber sky. The windows were shut, and no light touched a surface save what daylight snuck in when we opened the door. Shades of black, gray, and sadness were all one could see inside. It was agonizing to see Mr. Cottrell sobbing yet still able to find the grace to be hospitable as he ushered us in. It was excrutiating to hear Mrs. Cottrell wailing in deepest sorrow from within her room.

Sadly, it takes moments like these to drive us to realize how truly short our time is here on earth, especially for those who have the vastness of eternity stretching before them. It’s those memories of a missed hug seared in our minds–incidents that occur over a span of mere seconds that remain etched in our memories for a lifetime.

And let’s face it, kids, no one’s perfect. Humanly, we can’t possibly live each little, every single moment of our lives to the fullest, but we can pray for passion. A passion that would drive us to madly seek after God. A journey of pursuit that would then result in an overflow of our hearts. An overflow of such love for God that we wouldn’t want to spend our time any other way, than fruitfully for Him. An overflow that would engender boldness and courage, impelling us to grasp so tightly onto those “every moments” so as never to leave room for a ‘what if,’ ‘if only,’ or ‘would have been,’ and squeeze out any potential regret.

I pray ardently for your hearts and mine, and may God always be glorified.

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One Response to “James Cottrell: July 22, 1987 – February 23, 2003.”

  1. Julie Romero Says:

    Lauren, thank you for reposting this as I’ve never read it before. I appreciate the chance to think about James again and learn the lesson you hoped to learn.


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