Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Hope in the Midst of Loss

We've been storming Heaven for the last couple of weeks to pray for Paul and Ann Coakley, as he bravely fought cancer until his death yesterday morning. Without having known Paul well (just college acquaintances and blog followers) and without knowing their whole story (just second-hand bits and pieces) I don't feel like I can comment too much on the life of Paul Coakley, besides Mary did a great job of that already.

But I will say this, everybody seemed to know Paul, and everybody knew that Paul was a happy, fun-loving guy who seemed like he truly lived each day to the fullest.  In so many ways, this makes me feel frustrated and sad.  How could God take from this Earth such an amazing guy, a faithful husband and devoted father?  Why did we have to lose one of the great ones at such a young age?  Is it true what Billy Joel sings, that Only the Good Die Young?  

Yet, we must remember that what seems unfair also was a grace because Paul did seem to take each day as a gift from God.  He did embrace all the ups and downs of his life with a trust in God's knowledge.  He didn't waste an opportunity to spread joy, he didn't waste time here suffering in vain, he put it to good use, offering it up for other's prayer intentions. 

 This image of Ann and Paul will forever be the portrait of a marriage that I will call up in my mind.  They showed us what true love and true faith really looks like, and have blessed us all for it.  

Ann had commented that scrolling through their Facebook page and seeing how people all over the world were (and are) praying for them was so inspiring.

It inspired me as well, and keeps me hopeful in this living communion of saints.  When I scrolled through the photos of Franciscan Alumni, family, and friends with their multitudes of children, I couldn't help but think that this world can only get better.  All of these wonderful families are raising all of these wonderful children, teaching them the power of prayer, the lesson of hope, and the value of love.  They are our future prayer warriors.  They are our future voices in the world.  They are our future.  

And so I am hopeful that life will conquer death.  I will choose to believe that God, in His Divine Wisdom, will use Paul's death in an even better way than He used his life.

As Ann wrote:

"My husband lifted his arms and went joyfully running into the arms of God & our babies this morning! Praise God, Paul WAS joyous & victorious! So many thanks for all the prayers that have fortified us on this way of the cross. Paul had a beautiful life & a beautiful death. I truly believe he wore a martyrs crown when he entered heaven. Love & thanks to you all!"


  1. I went to their FB page yesterday after hearing what happened. So, so sad.. but also heaven has gained another saint. I'll hug my husband and children even more tightly tonight -- and always. The Delima's are praying for Paul and his family.

    and that picture of paul intubated but looking intently at his wife is a sweet, sweet photo.

  2. I can't stop thinking about him (didn't know him either - but definitely knew of his adventurous spirit!!) and his family and getting choked up. This was a great post/reflection, Colleen. Thank you!!

  3. I caught my breath yesterday when you posted this picture. It truly is an image of great love. Thank you for sharing his story and giving us all the opportunity to pray for him and for his family. I honestly believe God will take Paul's suffering and pain and use it for His glory!

  4. Your post reflects well the thoughts and questions many of us have on our minds. The lives of these beautiful Sarah Harkins' and Paul Coakley's of our day inspire us even when our lives hardly or never intertwined. They call us to sainthood, to something more. They leave us saddened at our loss here on earth, but hopeful of Heaven's gain.

    Thank you, Colleen, for sharing Paul and Ann's story with us so that we could pray along with them. And now, we will continue praying for Paul's soul and his family that presses on without him.


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