When Cohen first started having symptoms, we were all stumped. The doctors couldn't figure out what was wrong with her and none of us knew how to help her. Her symptoms persisted for months until the pressure on her brain built up so much that she needed to have a shunt placed. Her doctor referred her to Indiana University Medical Center, and I skipped my last week of grad school in April 2013 to drive down to Indianapolis with her and her family. The night before we made the trip, I stayed with her at her mother and stepfather's house in Fort Wayne, the two of us unable to sleep knowing what the next day would bring.
As we sat on the mattress in her bedroom, I could still smell parts of the house she grew up in - the wood-burning stove, the trees in the yard, the smell of gasoline and car parts coming in from the garage where Cohen and her father would work on her '63 Ford Fairlane. She had newer, thicker, black-framed glasses on, her vision impacted by whatever it was that the doctors couldn't quite diagnose. I was scared for her, and my voice clearly showed it as we talked, but her voice was unwavering as she told me that she hoped the shunt surgery (and the biopsy that was to follow a few days later) would give doctors an answer and that she would be able to be cured.
As we were talking together late into the night, she said she wanted to tell me about a dream she had. I have no idea if she ever told anyone else about this dream, but it stands out in my mind and will forever. I've shared this with my husband and family, and I distinctly remember the emotional moment I told my brother Brandon about her dream as he rode in the passenger seat of my van when we were driving to my new house in Ohio back in 2014. Like I said, I've been feeling like I need to share this because I don't want to be the only person impacted by it; Cohen loved everyone and took every opportunity to help others and speak into their lives.
She began telling me about the dream she had had a few nights before. In the dream, it was Earth Day and she said all of her loved ones were with her at her father's house, planting trees on his property. There was a red barn at her father's house where Cohen and I used to go exploring to find bats and investigate the treasures inside (it's since been torn down), and in the dream, Cohen looked over and saw a ladder leading up to an opening toward the top of the barn. She walked over to the ladder, climbing it and crawling into the opening at the top. When she got inside, there was a screen set up with memories from her life playing on it. She said she saw a bright light and heard God speaking to her.
As she watched the memories play in front of her, she said God asked her whether she wanted to go be with him then, or if she wanted to wait awhile longer. She said she wanted to wait awhile longer, and I asked her why she chose that. She said that, as she was watching the memories with her family and with me and my family, she wanted to stay for us. She said she hated the thought of seeing us in pain and hurting, so she wanted to be with us as long as possible.
Afterward, she said God told her that he would see her in just a little while, and she crawled back out of the opening and down the ladder to continue helping all of us plant trees. Then she woke up.
I had mixed emotions after Cohen told me about this dream. First, I truly believed that this dream was from God, and I was speechless. But I also felt a profound sadness. If this dream was the "real thing," as I believed it was, that meant Cohen only had a short time left with us, and I couldn't imagine ever being without her. What was even worse was that we didn't even know what was wrong with her yet, but I knew at that moment that whatever it was would eventually take her life. She knew it too, but she was more concerned about us than she was about herself. The illness was the way she would be taken from us, and that hurt her so deeply.
She told me about that dream in April 2013. That same month, she had a shunt placed and a brain biopsy that revealed she had a terminal brain tumor. Later that year, she had a stroke that left her immobile and almost completely blind. Her body continued to betray her over the next fews years, but she had chosen that over going home to be with God because of her friends and family, because she loved us so much.
Cohen passed in January 2017, not quite four years after her dream. The doctors told us she would have 10 years to live, but she only lived for four years after her diagnosis. As God told her, he came back for her after just a little while, and she was waiting for him. I knew it was coming. During those four long years of watching Cohen suffer from a horrible and debilitating illness, I knew it wouldn't be long. I knew because of the dream, and I knew because of Cohen's immeasurable faith. It was so hard to spend four years wondering when her time was going to come, but Cohen's battle was even more difficult. Through it all, she maintained a strong, unwavering faith. Through it all, her positive attitude prevailed and her smile and laughter never left. Even through the pain and heartache, she was still Cohen.
Losing Cohen earlier this year was like losing part of myself. When I saw her on her birthday on January 16th, I knew the time was coming where I would have to say goodbye to her, and I knew it would be soon. Seeing her frail body on the verge of letting go on her birthday and then having to go back to work and school like nothing was wrong was a nightmare. Her birthday was on Saturday, and my phone never left my side as I went about my days on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, receiving the call early Wednesday morning (January 19th) that she had passed. I commute to work and school, so I had plenty of time that week to think about Cohen, what it would be like to finally have to say goodbye to her, and how I would even be able to hold myself up and continue with life afterward. There was a song on the radio that kept me going during the days following her death, and I heard it many times that week:
There's never been a moment I was not held inside Your arms
There's never been a day when You were not who You say You are
Yours forever, it don't matter
What I'm walking through
Cause no matter where I'm going
There's never been a moment That I was not loved by You
The lyrics reminded me that God was present, that he was with me and helping me through this loss. But even more than that, the lyrics reminded me that Cohen was never alone. God never left her. She was so loved by him. Even through her terrible illness, she was loved and held by God.
A couple weeks ago, I was driving to school and missing Cohen. I kept thinking about her, still not quite able to grasp that I was living in a world where she didn't exist anymore. As I was driving, trying to figure out how I was going to get through the day, that song came on the radio. I smiled and remembered God's promise to her - she would be with him soon, and hearing that song then reminded me of her dream and that she was indeed resting in God's presence.