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. In lieu of flowers, monetary donations for the benefit of Bailey’s son, Kylen, are suggested. Checks can be made to Michael Coughlin, or you can contact Michael to make other arrangements.
We are pleased to provide lunch with you if you come to celebrate Bailey’s life with us that day. Please record a response here so that we can plan properly for your attendance at the meal after the service.
Bailey’s Memorial Lunch RSVP – John 3:30 (michaelcoughlin.net)
* 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.
Brooke Anglin says
Michael, this is heart wrenching. So thankful that you have shared this. I am praying with and for your family. I would like to know what you have learned about fasting.
I’m on the mission field in The Philippines and have been following and praying for your family since Justin shared your situation. I can’t fathom a more Godly response than yours in the face of such uncertainty and pain. If glorifying God through this was any aspect of your aim, you definitely achieved that goal. GREAT IS HIS FAITHFULNESS
Michael Coughlin says
Michael Coughlin says
Thanks my friend.
Dear Coughlin family,
Your solid scriptural foundation is evident and very reassuring. Like Job, you remain faithful despite the providential allowance of extreme, assaultive trials.
Thank you for evocative posts that were heartfelt, honest and replete with Biblical soundness.
The overwhelming love you have for Bailey never wavered, that love was given voice in every word you recorded.
He will heal your heartbreak and bind the multiplied wounds you suffer.
I have grown spiritually from your account of Bailey’s journey. I see in real time how a mature believer brings every thought captive to the Word of God.
He will richly bless you!
Michael Coughlin says
Cherone Day says
While you sat waiting for your dear daughter to die, I was sitting with my 83 yr old mother to pass( she had Alzheimer’s I was praying for y’all while I sat with my mom for a week. It took 11 days for her to pass ( after she stopped eating/ drinking , became unconscious)
Her death was terrible She was skin and bones at the end People romanticize death and I hate that. It’s ugly It’s horrible However Christ is our hope in life and death and He overcame the grace! I cling to that I can’t imagine losing a daughter I am so sorry As I grieve for our loss, I am also grieving/ praying for you We have been expecting this for a long time regarding my mom- for you this is so much more. May God grant you His perfect peace May He be your anchor in this storm
Your brothers and sisters grieve with you You are not alone
Michael Coughlin says
Melanie Wright says
I have been praying for your daughter, hoping for a miracle. This is just heartbreaking to read and I am so sad for all of you. I have only known Erin through FB and loved her pointing to Jesus in the words she shares. Over the years I have seen pictures of Bailey that popped up on my feed here and there, so saw her growing up in a way. I have just felt so sad as a I read your updates, but what you said about her salvation in Christ through the prayers of others is beautiful. I have joined my prayers with all of yours. I pray that the Lord will speak to each of your hearts in the way He knows you need through this tremendous grief and carry your sorrow until all reunited with Jesus together.
Christine LaValley says
I’m so sorry for your devastating loss. May our God of all comfort strengthen you today and always.
Rebecca Burt says
Praying for your family. ❤️
Karol Landman says
You have shared many beautiful thoughts and some heartbreaking moments and I so appreciate it. I walk through a small event like this 2 years ago and the agony of the unknown is overwhelming but God is sovereign and is able and willing. So great is our God. Prayers to you and the family. 🙏🏻🙏🏻
Chris & Barb Ferguson says
Michael and Erin,
We know the Lord will hold you closest when you miss your daughter the most. We will keep all of you lifted in prayer.
Mark Escalera says
Our little congregation in Wyoming found out about your family from Justin Peters and we were praying in our prayer meeting this last week. Cannot imagine but praying you all gain comfort and strength from our sovereign Lord.
Deborah Harris says
There aren’t enough words to say how deeply sorry I am for your devastating loss. May Gods love envelope you all during this time of grief.🙏❤️
Jana Kienzle says
Micheal and Erin
I am praying for your family as you go through the hardest time in your life. Just konw God is with your family during your time of grief. I will contuine to pray for everyone
Michael and Erin,
My sincere condolences for the loss of Bailey. Truly, Truly, Yahweh has stood by your family and by Bailey’s side and sovereignly stired-up and mustered the collective prayers of His saints all over the world as a means and sign to confirm Bailey’s election to His eternal Kingdom. Is there anything impossible with God? It’s impossible for even a dying brain or an unresponsive tongue to thwart the will of God. It is God who justifies and surely in light of all these things, what shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or death, or sickness, or danger, or sword? He who sustains even a dying body to the point of death is able to sovereignly save it’s soul in the blink of death. Be encouraged brother for He who testified “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?” adding life-span to His beloved is such a small thing to Him so much that He was able to answer the prayers of His saints and gift Bailey with a new birth in her deathbed.
My prayers are with you and your family. My heart is breaking for and your family. Praying for God’s peace and comfort during this transition. Thank you for sharing your daughter with us. I also am interested in the practice of fasting and would appreciate your sharing that with me.
Michelle May says
After reading your last post I’m led to share with you a personal experience that I pray brings you hope. In 2002 my husband was in a motorcycle accident and had a serious traumatic brain injury. He was unresponsive and in a coma, with brain bleeds and torn brain lining. He couldn’t respond to any of us. During his coma a Pastor friend came to visit and pray for him. It was a good visit but my husband never responded. After he eventually woke up, weeks later, (Praise God) he asked about the preacher that came in the hospital. He told us that he heard and remembered the pastors prayers and that he was crying and screaming out to Jesus for salvation and forgiveness while the pastor was there. We told my husband that he was absolutely still and quiet, with closed eyes. He never made a sound out loud, but inside God called him and he responded! I knew at that moment that just because someone is unresponsive doesn’t mean that they can’t be born again! My husband still remembers his salvation vividly and I’m so thankful that God’s ways are so glorious! My prayers are going out for you and your family. I’m so very sorry for your loss!!
Linda Johnson says
Rachel Austin says
Your words of strength and sadness is heartbreaking, as a parent, losing a child is the worst pain in the world… I m sure she knew how much she was loved. I know your strong faith will help you endure and heal. My thoughts and prayers are with you all,
Anna Wood says
God bless, comfort, and be with your precious family, brother, both now and in the coming days. Our family have been praying for yours since we first read of this and we will continue to do so. Soli Deo Gloria
Zach Lamb says
No words, brother. Prayers for the Peace of God which surpasses all understanding in Jesus’ name. Soli Deo Gloria.
Linda Johnson says
Souls can hear without much working brain, probably without any, definitely in comas, and they can turn to the Lord to be saved. It helps so much to know that God wants our loved ones saved, even more than we do. The Bible says so, over and over.
Praying for you! Cling to Christ! Yes, God is just, but God is also merciful. God is faithful. God is sovereign.
Lifting your entire family up…your words have given me fresh love and urgency for my prodigal. Your transparency in showing your heart is so appreciated. Praying for comfort for your family from the only One who really can.
Bryan R says
It is with a grieving heart of a father that I read this. The day that your most precious gift passed from this life unto death, my daughter was born. To know that God is sovereign in all things…both in life and in death is to be praised. I weep and mourn for your loss and pray that the Lord provide unlimited comfort for you, your family, and your grandson.
19 Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness.
20 Surely my soul remembers And is bowed down within me.
21 This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope.
22 The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.
24 “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.” (Lamentations 3:19, NASB)
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:36, NASB)
Mark Ralston says
Thank you for your courage and humility and mostly your selfless heart that the Lord has given you. That even in your greatest pain you are serving others in order to give God glory.
God bless you and continue to bring comfort to you and your family at this time.
Ben Cuenin says
My heart goes out to you, Erin, and family, I join you in your grief and pray that God will bring you all much comfort and healing.
Michael Ortega says
I’m so sorry for your dear loss brother , she is so beautiful , my condolences to you and your family and her son, God bless you all and her son .. I know i didn’t know her but she is so beautiful.