Her son was killed on his third birthday when he chased a ball in the road in front of his house and was struck by a car. Her resolve to remain calm while everything around her was falling apart was an inspiration to me.
I asked her if she knew where the mother was. I'll never forget the calm expression on her face as she looked at me and told me, "I am the mother." She was a source of strength for me.
Recently, I've started reading to my wife while we're lying in bed before we go to sleep. We're currently reading a book by R. T. Kendall called "Total Forgiveness." It may be difficult to forgive when someone hurts us, but what about someone that causes the death of one of our children. In order to receive total forgiveness of our sins, we have to totally forgive someone of their trespasses against us, even if they killed one of our children.
One of the things I pray for when I go to work is that the Lord would direct my paths and prepare me to minister to people that I come in contact with.
On July 20, 2007 at 4:45 PM, I arrived at the Sheriff's Civil Office at the Marion County Judicial Center in Ocala, FL and I was asked by my sergeant to handle a child custody order that was in another deputy's zone. The child custody order directed the sheriff's office to remove a child from a mother who happened to be the former girlfriend of the deputy who was originally assigned. The mother's residence was approximately 10 miles outside my assigned zone.
While en route to the residence, I heard the dispatcher trying to make contact with another deputy on the radio who didn't respond right away. I could tell from a voice in the background that something was wrong. I pulled up the dispatch screen on my MDT computer and saw the call where a vehicle had struck and possibly killed a 3-year-old child in the Hunters Trace subdivision. I was two blocks away, so I abandoned the child custody order and responded to the accident scene.
When I turned the corner onto the street where the accident occurred, I saw a car parked in the middle of the road. Two women were kneeling over a child's body that was lying in the roadway. I ran over to where they were. One woman, who I later determined was the 71-year-old lady that hit the child, was upset and crying. The second woman, who appeared to be in her late-20s, was doing CPR on the child while she was on the phone with the EMS dispatcher.
I knelt on the opposite side of the woman and took over the chest compressions on the child while she handled breathing into the child's mouth. The child was covered in blood.
When the medic unit arrived, one of the paramedics yelled for everyone to get out of the way. She ran and scooped up the child and ran to the ambulance. While the medics were working on resuscitating the child in the ambulance, I turned my attention to the woman who had been doing CPR and asked her if she knew the mother of the child.
She had a calm look on her face as she looked into my eyes and told me, "I am the mother."
Her child's blood was on her face and her hands as she turned and went back to her house. I saw her on the side of the house using a water spigot to wash off the blood. I walked over towards her and she told me that she still had a 4-year-old child inside the house that she had to check on and asked me if she got all the blood off. I told her that she still had some blood on her upper lip. She wiped it off and went inside the house.
I used the same spigot to wash my hands and the first woman (the driver of the vehicle) did the same thing. I later noticed the driver standing by herself near her car and crying. I went to her and hugged her and tried to reassure her.
Eventually, the mother and her 4-year-old son came outside to the driveway where we were standing. She stated that she and her son were going to do "prayer hands" and asked if we wanted to join her. She knelt down with her son, lifting her hands to the Lord, while I stood with my hand on her right shoulder and the driver stood with her hand on her left shoulder and we prayed silently. The mother then took her son inside.
The Florida Highway Patrol arrived to do the accident investigation. I spoke to the paramedic at the ambulance who shook his head and told me that the child wasn't going to make it. I observed one of the child's sandals lying in the street. I again saw the distraught driver standing by herself and crying. The mother came back out of the house. However, instead of going to the ambulance where her son was, she went to where the driver was standing and hugged her in an attempt to console her.
The child, Ethan Cook, was pronounced dead at the hospital. It was his third birthday.
Ocala News Article
The mother, Cathi Cook, spoke at her son's funeral talking about her memories of him. Many tragedies like this that I've responded to bring out the worst in people. I saw the best come out of Cathi. Her response to her son's death was a source of strength to me and a silent testimony of compassion to everyone who was there.
Copyright © 2007 Glen Michael Robinson
Update: I've remained in contact with the Cook family and we've become friends over the past months. They are currently expecting another child in April 2008.