Win Today with Christopher Cook

Get Unstuck. Reclaim Your Purpose. Win Today.

When a Legacy is Born

It was an unseasonably warm week in late November 2012. Though the calendar indicated that the holiday season was upon us, it meant nothing, for my family’s world was under siege. The fiery explosion of autumn’s colors painted a backdrop for absolute horror to unfold before us in the most devastating and unpredictable manner. My mom, at the age of 55, was fighting for her life after doctors had given up hope for the medical efficacy of her almost two-decade battle with multiple myeloma—a rare, medically incurable form of cancer.

Six weeks prior, with tears in her eyes, my mom’s oncologist placed her into hospice care—the very organization for which my mom, a professional counselor, was once the bereavement coordinator. If you’re unfamiliar, when someone is placed on hospice, death has been declared imminent. Despite this prognosis, as a family, we were relentless in our pursuit of healing; it’s simply all we knew to do. Through six weeks of sleepless nights and tear-filled days, we poured ourselves into her care, often ignoring our own needs in order to provide for her in the most personal and intimate ways while protecting her dignity. Despite her total dependency, our love was stronger than any embarrassment or shame because my mom’s worth, value, dignity, and beauty were not clouded by the terrible disease destroying her outer shell. Multiple myeloma was not her identity. She was not cancer. She was Laura: wife, mom, grandmother, sister, friend, author, speaker, minister, counselor, and leader. Confirming our stance as a family, my younger sister, Carmen, like a warrior, penned these three simple words—our battle cry—across a large whiteboard in the kitchen: GET MOM HEALED.

Then Wednesday arrived. That Wednesday.

At 11:40AM, my phone rang. It was Carmen. In an unforgettable tone, she ordered, “Get home now. Mom stopped breathing.” And like that…

It was over. An 18-year battle. Over.

In an instant, she was gone from our presence and wrapped in the arms of her most treasured love: Jesus. What happened in the hours following was like punctuation on a sentence I never wanted spoken. I felt completely stripped and robbed, blindsided and abandoned. Some people offered “explanation” of the situation to invoke faith and trust, but the syrupy coating of Christianese just felt fake in the moment and honestly made me want to vomit. It’s not that they were insincere; I just wanted my mom back. All I remember is collapsing on our wooden stairs, battle-weary, as an uncontrollable flood of tears literally discolored a single plank of wood beneath me. That stain is still there today.

As the sirens of screams subsided, a deafening silence engulfed the house. What remained was a package laid bare at my feet, so beautiful yet so untimely. I didn’t want it. Not yet. Not for anything. Bring it back in 30 years, perhaps? Despite my reluctance to accept the gift, it held a priceless treasure: my mom’s legacy—a heritage now unfolding into my life, the life of my family, and into the world.

That was November 21, 2012. Two years ago today.

My mom’s legacy is a springboard on which I stand, amplification to my message—this message—that your life counts. Hear my heart for you, precious reader: While you are alive, make sure you really live.

The Tapestry of Your Legacy Is At Work

Though the intricately woven tapestry of your legacy unravels into the world the day you die, as it did for my mom, each turn of the needle and each thread-by-thread pattern began to take shape the day you were born.

Your legacy is not established by what you have. Your legacy is established by who you have in your life. Simply stated, you were meant to leave your mark, big or small, upon this world. The size of your mark does not matter as much as the intention and focus with which you leave your mark. The fact is that not everyone will have access to personally reach millions of people. Some will have access to 100, some 10. The point is, make a dent with your life. Live intensely without regret and kick fear in the face. Don’t live passively, quiet, and understated, because whether you’re aware of this fact or not, you are unknowingly inspiring (or uninspiring) other people every single day.

My mom did it in the face of a terminal illness for nearly 20 years. Despite her physical limitations—especially in the last nine years—she was determined to be a contributor. When visitors would arrive to encourage her, she would inevitably encourage, counsel, and strengthen them. Because our dad worked two jobs in order to make ends meet and stay out of medical debt, Carmen and I literally ran most aspects our household for many years. Often, we’d find mom scooting around on her walker, dusting the floor with her fuzzy socks. It was all she could do, but as she said many times, “I just want to help. I just want to make a dent.” Tears fall as I write because, well, she did make a dent…in my life…forever.

Let her strength and perseverance inspire you to live intentionally. In her book, she validated this point when she wrote, “It is important that we allow our personal experiences to bring us into a place of greater compassion toward others in their own pain. When we find a way to turn our focus to the Father, without becoming consumed by the circumstances, the Lord will use what looked hopeless to be a testimony of hope for others.”

Wash, rinse, and repeat: Your. Life. Counts.

What Are You Building?

Make the choice to live your life on purpose. The seeds you are sowing now will not necessarily be harvested in your lifetime, but they will live on deep within the hearts and lives of generations to come. Proverbs 13:22 (The Message) says, “A good life gets passed on to the grandchildren.” The point is, live beyond yourself and beyond the short-term. You might not consider yourself to be creative, talented, or innovative, but I assure you that you have something to contribute to the people in your life. Every life-promoting choice, word, and action collects interest in an account that will pay dividends in the future.

Are You Spending or Investing?

You and I have been entrusted with 24 hours each day—168 hours each week. The question is, will you spend your time on things that will not yield a return, or will you invest your time into things that will produce an abundant harvest both now and in eternity—relationships, memories, contributions to your community, and loving service to those who are less fortunate? Perhaps the focus isn’t as much about what you are building as it is about who you are building.

A Closer View of the Bigger Picture

While your legacy will extend far into the lives of a generation you will never meet, it doesn’t stop in this life. The decisions, investments, priorities, and relationships you develop today count for eternity. Death has a way of bringing eternity closer into view and honing our priorities, doesn’t it? Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 6:19-21, said, “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” Though the context of the scripture is money and possessions, the point translates: Your legacy is not in what you have. It’s in who you have.

Don’t quit before you die. Live PURPOSE-fully. Each day counts because your life counts.

Two Years Later

My momma was the strongest person I’ve ever known. In her 18-year fight against multiple myeloma, she could have quit at any point in time. But she did not. Ever. She touched countless lives and continues to do so through her story of perseverance and enduring faith amidst the tortuous disease that was ravaging her body from the inside out. For 18 years, we labored alongside her in a fight against an absolutely disgusting, invasive, and obscene injustice. At the time of her diagnosis, I was only eleven years old. The lifestyle and posture of faith she modeled over the next decade and a half marked me for the rest of my life.

In the last two years, I have learned to trust the Lord to lead me with incredible Grace in the midst of indescribable pain. You see, faith works in the fire, not just when life is fun. I’ll admit that I definitely have not always known “what” to think, but I definitely have known Who I believe. Jesus is my Hope, and that is not cliché. As I mentioned in a previous post, I needed a real injection of God-breathed hope in my life, and I got one. However, through the journey, hurting with hope still hurts. Though the sting of death has been defeated, it still stings to go through it. And even though she is in Heaven…

…It still hurts like hell.

One thing is sure. She taught me what matters most in life: relationship, simplicity, honesty, compassion, transparency, integrity, trust, and generosity, all founded upon the abounding love of Jesus. As a man of God, future husband and father, communicator, and leader, those core values are central to my life. Her legacy is best summarized in a line from a book she read to me as a little boy:

“Once there was a tree, and she loved a little boy…and she loved a boy very, very much– even more than she loved herself.” ― Shel Silverstein, The Giving Tree

To my Momma…I will love you forever. Carrying your legacy, while my own is delicately woven, is an honor. And I will do so, declaring the name of Jesus with passion, conviction, and truth.

To you, reader, I implore you to live and live fully. It’s your time. I believe in you. Now… go do it.

– Chris

Photo Credit: Claudio.Ar via Compfight cc

  • Rachael Bruno

    Chris, your words are so beautiful and powerful. I feel your mama in them. Thank you so much for inspiring me as a mother and reminding me what’s important. You are a Blessing.

    • Thank you, Rachael. She left a significant legacy to me, and I’m so passionate about adding value to people through it.

  • Kathy Craig

    When I saw that you were writing about your mom, I ran to wash my face so my mascara wouldn’t run into my eyes when I cried! Your message is timely for many. I love the phrase “you are unknowingly inspiring (or uninspiring) other people every single day.” It make ya think! I have been blessed!

    • Thanks, Kathy. These words come from a lot of pain, and a lot of healing. Nothing is wasted in the Kingdom. If you know people that would be blessed by reading, please share a link to this article on Facebook.

  • Caleb Phillips

    Thank you so much for sharing that with us Chris. I know that was really difficult to write it all out for us, but you did it to
    1. Acknowledge your wonderful mother, and her difficult yet beautiful life it seems,
    And 2. Pour into us by showing how powerful and impactful the people of God can be.

    I really appreciate everything that you write, but I especially thank you for being so real with us.

    God bless!

    • Thanks for this affirmation, Caleb. Transparency is a big deal, and it affords us the opportunity to meet people on a personal and meaningful level. If you know people that would be blessed by reading, please share a link to this article on Facebook.

  • Darlene Narducci

    Chris, I just wanted to say that you are a beautiful writer. And your blog was timely and confirming. I had the pleasure of knowing your Mom and was one of her prayer partners for a few years. She really was a strong women. I am very proud of you for her. You have a wealth of wisdom to share. Tonight I was laying in bed with many thoughts. My thoughts became prayers, and I began to tell the Lord that I want my life to have some meaning.Funny thing about tonight is… I fell asleep (for the 3rd time) watching The Bucket List. than woke up and went to bed, and began remembering my last years with my own mom, She went to be with the Lord in June 2011. I too was her caretaker for several years.As we are approaching the end of the year these things you have written about have been on my heart lately. I know what you mean about christianese. We all need to be real and sensitive with one another. After what I experienced with my Mom I look at death and dieing differently. As a believer going through something so tangible you develop a new perspective. I think it is healthy to continuously reevaluate our opinions in these matters, so we can grow spiritually. Which brings me back to your timely blog. I have decided that I want to make a difference in my life to change the generations ahead of me. In closing the next thing on my bucket list is to watch “The Bucket List” from beginning to end.

    • Incredible. Thanks for your thoughts, Darlene. If you know people that would be blessed by reading, please share a link to this article on Facebook.

  • Roseanne Jewell

    And so it is! Faith over fear and His plan over ours! My heart is with you, my nephew! Nicely written. Missing her very much, especially this week.

    • Faith over fear is exactly right! The impact of her life and my love for her will never diminish! I love you!

  • Patty Nolan

    Thanks Christopher. My sister Erin Asdell sent me to your website. We grew up with your mom (and aunties) and even when your mom was so ill, she came to comfort us and hug my mom when my dad passed. Blessing at this anniversary of her transcendence. The fact that you miss her and want to be with her is further evidence that our true home is not here, but in heaven. We will all be reunitied.

  • Lyn

    Tears fall as I read this. Your and Carm’s devotion to your mom’s legacy are like no other. YOU are an inspiration. You all give to others, selflessly, thus continuing the beautiful tapestry of your momma’s life. I am so very blessed to be one doing life with you guys and with the beautiful LOVE the Lord has put in my heart for you.I pray I bless your life as much as you bless mine. Just beautiful. ♡♡♡