I awoke at 3 AM on Friday. I always wake up at least once to use the bathroom now (I am a grandpa after all), but sleep eluded me after this one. At 4 AM my bladder forced me up again and I resigned myself to the fact that I would rest no more. Thoughts of my daughter’s imminent death, what to write in her obituary, and what to say at her memorial circled my mind like a tornado ripping through my skull. So I arose.
I took care of most of my regular routine. Allen Nelson called and talked to me, then another good friend and pastor, Phil Sessa reached out and prayed with me. I have prayed for many hours throughout my life and done so with innumerable men. But Phil called out to God with tears in his own eyes. The man who primarily led me to Christ came to the hospital and had fellowship with Erin and me the night before, my good friend Nate Samblanet. We talked and laughed and visited Bailey’s room. Then when Nate prayed for her he cried in a way I don’t remember seeing before.
It was a strange thing for me to have dry eyes at that moment. I told him I felt like I should be crying too. But all I could do was hold him as he begged God for mercy through his tears. You see, I had cried so hard on Wednesday that I wondered if I’d injured myself. My eyes hurt that night. The last two weeks have been alternatively crying and laughing, remembering and forgetting, sadness and joy, anger and humility. The one constant has been worship and faithfulness. We have not failed to remember our God and worship Him in spirit and truth.
We have not reviled Him nor railed against Him nor complained about His providence nor questioned His goodness. And it is truly by grace that I can say that.
By 7:30 AM I was overwhelmed with a desire to be with my daughter, worshiping by her side and pleading for her. I had committed to fasting* and praying until she died like David did with his baby in 2 Samuel 12.
Then he said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who knows, Yahweh may be gracious to me, that the child may live.’
I had two major things to overcome which I’ll tell you about (there were more than 2 in total). One of those things was doubt that God would save my daughter’s soul once her brain had been so damaged. The other was that due to our family situation and my prioritization of my wife’s desires, I hardly had time to be with my daughter at the hospital.
Long story short, I knew that it was not going to be possible for Bailey to call on the name of the Lord physically. According to the doctors, she could not even hear due to the brain damage. They can measure these things, and her cortex wasn’t registering much at all in relation to the external environment. She had become nothing much more than a brain stem which, with the help of a ventilator, automated bodily functions, sustaining earthly life.
But the same God who called light out of the darkness and created the world out of nothing isn’t limited by these things. I became convinced not only that God could choose to wash Bailey clean by the blood of the only lamb of God, Jesus Christ, but that the hand His sovereign hand had dealt us was specifically able to give us that hope. I could have asked any number of people to help me notify a social media world I’d abandoned about my daughter. I could have simply ignored social media altogether. But I asked Justin Peters who just so happens to have lots more followers than I realized. Suddenly it seemed like the whole world** was praying for Bailey. I became and still am very hopeful, against any demonstrable evidence, that God may have sovereignty elected her unto salvation before the foundation of the world, and His means to accomplish that was the humble prayers of His children around the globe for a girl most of them never knew.
The other challenge I faced was that I was always helping my dear bride get to the hospital, taking care of our younger children who, although they had fabulous childcare, needed at least one parent present, and working a bit in the mornings to save time off and continue getting a paycheck. But I had never just gotten to sit with Bailey and talk to her privately and read to her and pray with her. This was my chance. Through tears of sadness and resolve I busted into our bedroom (startling Erin awake for good 🙁 that day) and told her I’m leaving and to please support that. She did, of course.
Armed with my Bible and the indwelling Spirit of Christ, I got to OSU by about 8 AM. I continued my fast*, even avoiding water, and began reading scripture to her. I opened the book of John and read it to her. The nurse, Gayle, heard bunches of it and even commented on it to me. The custodian heard a chapter or two. I sang 6 or 7 psalms to her and prayed for long periods. I cried out as many tears as I could; partially that I may be more composed that evening and able to serve others. My wife, two older children, and mother and father-in-law would be there with Bailey as she died and I wanted to be strong for them.
There was more crying than I imagined that day. I am not embarrassed to say it, but I’m kind of a wailer when I cry. It’s LOUD. I no longer cared. The nurses shut Bailey’s door all the way for the first time though while I was there … visitors came in the afternoon and the rest of the day lacked the kind of privacy most parents would desire in those moments. But I had spent the entire morning at my daughter’s side and prayed for her and for those who will remain more than I even had prayed in one day in my life. I read a dozen psalms or so, laid my hands on Bailey, rubbed her feet, stroked her hair, kissed her head, and massaged her calves. It was a day of worship of God and calling on Him who is merciful to act on Bailey’s behalf.
By about 6 PM we did the honor walk where everyone stops to watch as Bailey was wheeled to the OR where she would be prepped for surgery. You see, after she was deceased she was expecting to donate her organs to help others. 8 of her organs were spoken for. People were waiting somewhere for a match and Bailey was a match for several potential recipients. But there is one thing that had to happen. When Bailey’s breathing tube was removed to allow her to die, she had to die within 60 minutes in order for her organs to be useful. In fact, I think her liver was unusable if she lived more than 20 minutes. Details aside, we understood this.
So we sat by her side as they removed her tube and her body started gasping for air. She was stronger than they expected and 23 minutes passed like it was nothing. She would not stop. It was the most horrifying thing I’ve ever witnessed. It made me hate death and sin even more, resolving me to greater faithfulness and holiness. But it was hard to watch too because a father’s instinct is to help his little girl, not watch her struggle. Thankfully, I do believe she was not only unable to feel pain or anxiety due to the brain damage but she was given plenty of help to ensure that was the case.
Proverbs 316 Give strong drink to him who is perishing,And wine to those whose soul is bitter.7 Let him drink and forget his povertyAnd he will not remember his trouble any longer.
When 60 minutes passed there was a collective disappointment in the room. It was an emotional roller coaster between the natural parental idea of not wanting her to die, and knowing it was inevitable and had to occur in that window to help so many others. We were moved to a hallway and told they’d bring her back to her room where we could be with her that.
That wasn’t to be. She had her tube removed at about 7:04, then died at 8:19 while we were in the hallway. 15 minutes too late for her organs to be used. We watched as half a dozen doctors who expected a useful organ packed up their things. It was heartbreaking but blessed be the Lord who decides all these things.
They wheeled Bailey to us where she looked more peaceful and colorful than she had in a long time. We trust that God is the God of miracles, specifically the miracle of the new birth, so our hope is in His mercy and Goodness alone. We are thankful for His kindness throughout our circumstances and know that He will use Bailey’s life and death for His own glory and for that we are glad and confident.
We will have more official obituary once the plans are finalized with the funeral home, but until then, here it is:
Bailey Alexis Coughlin (22) of Miamisburg, OH died at 8:19 PM on Friday, April 21, and met the Lord Jesus Christ after spending nearly two weeks on life support at OSU hospital. She is survived by her dear son, Kylen (2), her parents: Michael & Erin, her siblings: Nicholas (20), Allie (19), Wesley (9), and Michael Robert (6), and she leaves behind 6 grandparents: Mark & Fran Bailey (whom she was named after), Ron & Carol Shown, and Brian & Sandie O’Neil. She will be missed by her Uncle Mike & Aunt Mis, Uncle Dan & Aunt Jen, Uncle Kevin & Aunt Carlin, and numerous great aunts and uncles, along with her dear cousins Justin, Jake, Evan, Connor, Catherine, Thomas, and Rita May. Bailey was the type of person who could pick up any instrument and make music that was exceeded in beauty only by her sweet, infectious laugh.
A memorial will be held at Berean Baptist Church, 12985 Tollgate Rd, Pickerington, OH 43147 on Friday, April 28 at 11 AM with a service at noon and a reception lunch afterward.
* If you are concerned that I am in violation of Matthew 6:16-18 because I told you I fasted then I would be happy to help you understand that scripture. If you are interested in the discipline of fasting and the practical application thereof, I would love to tell you what I know and help you. It’s often misunderstood/misapplied.
** Just like when the phrase is used in the Bible, “the whole world” does not mean every person everywhere. 🙂 It refers to people from all over the world.