On September 29, 2010 a horrible accident claimed our daughter’s life.
The fatal car crash occurred when another driver raced through a red light and collided with the vehicle containing most of the Cooper family.
We were on our way home from a family dinner. It was an ordinary night that should have consisted of some homework, brushing of teeth, a bath, and bed. Instead, it was filled with police, firemen, ambulances, and hospitals.
The next few days were a crush of chaos and confusion, emergency rooms, examinations, and medical tests. It was also a time of anger, shock, and overwhelming sorrow. We answered a lot of questions — for investigators, insurance companies, family, friends, each other. But we had no answer to the most agonizing question of all — WHY?!? Why did our daughter Brianna have to die that awful night?
Brianna was a girl who loved life and all it had to offer. Her smile was one that brightened your day and went well beyond her tiny frame. Out of all of the pictures we collected after she left us, there are only a handful in which her smile doesn’t light up the scene.
Now, all that we are left with are those photographs and the memories of how our baby girl lived to serve others around her.
Over the span of the next several months we started to realize exactly what our “new normal” would be like.
One thing that we never imagined doing at such a young age was planning a funeral. But that is exactly what we did.
When God gives you children, your life is forever transformed. Your aspirations and ambitions expand and your imagination comes alive as you see all they’re capable of achieving. In their accomplishments and struggles you see the person they are, the person they’re becoming, and flashes of the mark they’ll make on this life.
But when you find yourself drafted into that dreaded fraternity of parents who lose their children (a thought most parents understandably expel from their minds the moment this fear even arises) everything: your hopes, dreams, wonders, even your frustrations — vanish. It’s like a part of your very soul is gone. You could very easily drown in a sea of ache and agony.
Fortunately, our family was thrown a life preserver. Our incredible community — through our church, our neighbors, and many more people we didn’t even know — wrapped their arms around us and provided warmth, compassion, and comfort. Thousands attended a fundraiser held on our behalf and came to Brianna’s funeral. Some stopped to tell us they never met her but felt compelled to attend that day and pay their respects.
In the amazing ways only He works, God allowed us to appreciate our daughter through the eyes and experiences of people who we never even knew she touched. We realized in her death that all of our aspirations for what she could accomplish in life — her natural ability to encourage others — were achieved and exceeded.
Losing our daughter was the most difficult thing our family has ever endured, and yet, in the aftermath we’ve witnessed the glory of God’s power to unite and heal. We also have experienced a profound gratitude for each other and our appreciation for our community is intense.
We know we could never repay those who have lifted us up, but we can deliver hope and help to people in similar situations. That’s what the Brianna Cooper Heavenly Smiles Foundation is about, bringing emotional and financial support to other families grieving the sudden loss of a loved one.
Click here for information on how you can support this mission.