Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Did God answer our prayers...

...and provide a miracle for our friend and family member Paul?

Well I believe He did.  What I have witnessed the past few weeks has been miraculous.  It's been beautiful and terrifying.  It's been sorrowful and joyful.  It has brought a community of people together.

I have been so all over the place since Christmas week- when I got the text from Ann that said, 'we think Paul might have cancer'.  I truly feel like I've been living in slow motion, under a thick haze these last few weeks as Paul's condition went from bad, to worse, to worse still, to desperate, to the end.

Two weeks ago, Ann sent me a text message that simply said, "brain tumors. Love you".  I got on a plane, that night, with my brother.  We went to go see our friend.  We laughed with him and Annie.  We gave them a bag of dollar store gifts to make them smile...an orange ball, a bag of peanut M&:Ms, a wand to make it all better.  That was fun.  But, it was the last thing. The last thing we did? The last thing I did with my friend?  We prayed.  Brian had his hand on Paul's head, I had my hand on his shoulder (and can't let go of the fact that I think I held it too hard), Ann on his other side holding his hand.  We prayed. We thanked God for friendship. We prayed it be the will of God to cure Paul. We told God we trusted Him.  Nurses came in, Paul was preparing for a surgery, they said we could finish.  So we prayed.

Then we hugged.
And I cried on the elevator back to the car.
But the last thing I did with my friend was pray.
Paul and Ann assured us, they were going to glorify God through this circumstance.  That night, at the hotel, engaging in a couple too many budlights, I cried to my brother and said, 'How?  How can it be God's will to take my friend? How can Paul give Him the greatest Glory in death?'  And Brian reminded me, that if and when God calls Paul, we have no idea how Paul would be used.  We can't understand the great mystery of life entirely.  But we have a God who loves, who works all things to his Glory.   I believe that.

Last week- several times, it appeared Paul would die within the hour.  Some of these times were at night.  I haven't slept, like so many of you.  Anxious with worry.  And so I prayed. I begged to understand our God.  And I felt called to read the story of Mary, Martha and Lazarus.  Since then I have read it over and over and over again.

When Mary and Martha sent word, "Master the one you love is sick!" (John 11:3)

How we've been doing that.  
"Master, Lord, Blessed Margaret, sweet Lady... the one you love is sick!"
We started a facebook page for prayers and support.  You guys, there are well over 7000 people on it.  All of us begging, "Lord, Master, the one you love is sick".

Now Jesus Loved Mary, and her sister Martha and Lazarus (John 11:5).

What comfort I have taken in God's reminder of Love.  Jesus loves us.  My friendship with Paul, it was built on faith. I can't tell you how many times I have prayed with him.  We knew Jesus.  We knew Jesus as friends.  We knew Jesus in our adventures.  We knew and know Jesus.  Ann, sweet Ann, and their children.  They know Jesus.  And Jesus knows them.  He knows them by name.  And he loves them.  And in this story, the story of sisters losing a brother- we are reminded first, that Jesus loved them.

"Martha said, "Jesus, if you had been here, my brother would not have died" (John 11:21)

The sorrow.  The sorrow of saying, 'Where are you?'  Saturday, my friends, I was angry.  "stop praying for a miracle" I wanted to shout.  "Pray my friend dies in peace, he is SUFFEREING- Jesus, stop making him SUFFER".

"The teacher is asking for you" (John 11:28)

I am still learning about The Teacher through Paul.  Saturday I raged, Sunday I understood.  Paul was suffering.  Paul was most likely not going to get his miracle in the way I wanted it for him.  But, Paul would not give up.  He would not give up because HE WANTED TO SUFFER WITH JESUS FOR US!  He wanted to pray.  He wanted to fight.  He wanted to use every ounce he had for grace.  To bring people closer to Christ.

"When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became deeply troubled" (John 11:33)

Death was not in the original design.  Death is the most horrifying, terrible end.  Death seems so final.  Death hurts.  Death brings disbelief.  How many times have I said, "I can't even comprehend what is happening to Paul. I cannot comprehend I might not see my friend on earth again".  It's too hard for me to understand.  All of us, in such disbelief.  You guys, ONE MONTH AGO MY FRIEND WAS ALIVE AND AS FAR AS I KNEW, WELL. And now he is dead?  How. how is that possible?  How is it possible that two weeks ago, my brother and I gave Paul a gift of dollar store smiles (including rotting teeth and a smiley face stickers), we laughed, we told him he would fight.  And now he is dead?  Dead?  Dead I will never see my friend again here?  Dead, my children will not know him but through stories?  Dead, his wife, my sweet friend, can't hold her husband?  Dead, his babies.  My gosh, you guys HIS BABIES. He has an unborn child.  His siblings.  His mother.  dead?  not possible, my grief screams.  Not so!  Please. Not so.

And Jesus wept (John 11:35).

We weep.  We weep for our friend.  I saw the world with this friend.  Can it be true our adventures are over here on earth?  Can it be possible I won't hear the Pauly laugh anymore?  It hurts so much. So deep. My heart, and so many of my friends, not to mention Paul's family and his sweet Annie/Children...our hearts are shattered.  Grief so profound.  But friends, I have a God that sees that grief and he WEEPS.  He knows the outcome.  He knows the glory.  And yet, he looks at the suffering of those meant to live with loss and he WEEPS.

So they took away the stone.  And Jesus raised his eyes and said, "Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe you have sent me...and when he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice, "LAZARUS, COME OUT" The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth.  So Jesus said, "Untie him and let him go" (John 11:41-44)

Can you imagine?  Can you imagine after seeing the crowds, the anger, the questioning, the sorrow, Jesus Weeping...and then He says, 'Untie him and let him go".
You see.  My God defeated death.  It is no more.  This morning, I couldn't breathe with grief.  I drove in the car and all I could think about was my friend's last breath.  But when I thought of it, I thought of his next eternal breath.  Paul, who lived his ENTIRE LIFE for Jesus.  Not just in word, like so many of us...but so completely.  So fully.  Until the very end.  It is so very fitting that he gets to see Jesus first.  Paul is free.  I believe with all my heart that Paul is in heaven- with all my heart. I believe he entered the kingdom today, something he was waiting for.  And he knew, after all of his suffering, in a way we can only glimpse right now...that JESUS DEFEATED DEATH and GIVES NEW LIFE.

My friend's battle is over.  The battle that kept him vehemently shaking his head that he wanted to keep going with treatment, though his fragile body could barely stand it.  The battle that doctors say kept him so worn out it was like he was running on a treadmill for days.  The battle he fought so hard for this last month, with every inch of his will, in order to suffer well and bring others to Christ.  It's funny- there is a slight irony that, this week, the cover story of People magazine is the young woman who chose to die rather than suffer or have her loved ones watch her suffer. That image of our culture, up against the image of my friend, the true warrior, battling for every breath so that he might use it for good.  I am so glad he fought.  But I am so glad he gets a reprieve.

With the battle over, the miracle has already been beginning.  My inbox, phone, facebook, instagram...filled with people saying...

"I did not know him, but his story has changed me"
"I cannot stop praying for this person I do not know"
"I am closer to Jesus because of his example"


THAT'S the miracle. It was granted.  Paul and Annie told us all repeatedly...they were willing to go where God wanted them to go, to bring him glory.

And glory has been brought.
And we are all better for it.

I'll miss you dear friend.  More than words can say.  More than I can possibly imagine on this day.  And yet, when I got the message you had 'gone home'...I looked up at the sky- I stared and I knew where you were.  And I knew you could see me.

I expect you'll be taking care of us all in a special way now my friend.  And I can't wait to watch that story unfold.

Did God answer our prayers?!?!


Please consider helping out Ann as she moves forward without her beloved.

Oh...and after you donate, listen to this song.  It is about my friend Paul. Every word.


  1. This is beautiful. I like so many others, did not know Paul personally except for being a FUS alum. I've been praying for him and his family and friends nonstop for the last two weeks. I can tell you, and I hope this gives you some peace, Paul did what he was here to do. I have been lapse in the last few years and in the past two weeks I have prayed more and harder then I have in years. My faith has always been strong but I strive to be "team Coakley" strong. God bless them and God bless you for writing this beautiful reflection of your friend.

  2. Oh, Mary. I love you so much. I am so so sorry for the loss of Paul on this earth but you are so right. In some ways his work maybe is just beginning. He was (is!) an awesome human being and that doesn't stop today. Paul's faith, your faith, Ann's faith, your brother's faith…it has all challenged me and strengthened mine. Thank you.

  3. Mary...this was so beautiful. I knew Paul in college and have been praying fervently for his healing. Now I am praying so hard for his beautiful wife and family. And you. He died in the same hospital my sister almost died in the week before. Now she has received a double lung transplant and has left Vandy able to breathe. Why is she able to breathe and Paul is not? I ask these questions and there are no answers. Only a great appreciation for this moment. At this moment I thank you for your beautiful words on suffering and redemption.

  4. I'm sorry for your loss, but I can't help but parallel his life compared to the young lady you mentioned who took her own life, not wanting to suffer or have her family see her "that way". Some touted her as a hero, but in my opinion, Paul was the true hero, letting God decide, as it should be. He taught his friends and family how to die.

  5. Oh Mary I'm sad for the loss of Paul for all those who loved him...his death reminds me of what I often thought about while JPII was dying...in his suffering, he taught us how to live.
    Paul, pray for all of us!

  6. I am in tears. This is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing your friendship with Paul with all of us. Jesus has truly shown His hand in all of this, and you are right, lives have been changed.

    I am so sorry for your loss, Mary. I will be praying for you.

  7. I'm so sorry for your loss. I did not know Paul but I know so many who did. I weep for your loss, but praise God for his faith and perseverance through his suffering unto death. His witness was so beautiful.

  8. I am so sorry for your loss -- for Paul's family's loss, for your family's loss. Count me among the many who did not know Paul, but have been so moved by his story -- and ultimately, his death. I'll continue to pray for you all.

  9. I just learned Paul's story today through tweets, blog posts, facebook posts,etc... and I am reminded of my mom who died November 2012 at the age of 50 yrs old. In her case, she had passed from a heart attack in her sleep. fter getting to know Paul's story earlier today, I went immediately to pray in front of my Our Lady of Czestochowa (aka The Black Madonna) image for Paul. I asked that whatever happens, let it be God's will. I also asked Our Lady to stand by with open arms and embrace Paul as he prepared to depart and begin a new journey. Paul, you will be missed.

  10. Would you be willing to start a petition asking People magazine to run a story about Paul and the massive outpouring of love and support from strangers he and his family received? He deserves the coverage more than that woman. What a testimony. Even if they don't go with it, undoubtedly we could get some Catholic outlets to run the story. I have contacts whom I'm sure would be willing to run a story, if you'd be willing to kick this off. Contact me.

  11. Mary, This had me crying ugly tears. What a beautiful way to describe what goes on within our souls at the death of a loved one. I remember you from FUS and I remember Paul. Thank you for allowing us to love him even more through your friendship and the way you have honored his memory. I will be praying for your heart as you grieve the loss of a dear friend. God bless......

  12. My heart is breaking for your loss and for the Coakley family, prayers.

  13. My heart is breaking for your loss and for the family, prayers.

  14. Mary, thank you for writing this. You wrote it so beautifully. So well. ...Paul was the best swing dance partner I ever had (and as a dancer, I have had lots)! I loved teaching with him on Tuesday nights, which were often followed by walks talking about God, girls, and guys. I was not outgoing or adventurous as you all were, but I loved to watch you and Paul and the rest of the crew go out for some crazy adventure. The most adventurous and daring that I ever got was to learn and master the moves from Swing Kids, which Paul and I did together. ...Thank you for writing this. Thank you for being there for Paul and Ann, especially when so many of us wanted to be. Thank you for being such an amazing friend. Thank you for using your talents to share and help spread the Gospel. We have been given some amazing examples in our lives. I have been honored to call Paul my friend. I have been honored to witness his life, his love, and his death. May we all live life to the fullest like Paul...and may we all fight to the last with courageous love, just like Paul. You are in my prayers. Many many hugs. Again, thank you for putting words to so many thoughts. God bless you and bring you abundant peace.

  15. Thank you for sharing this wonderful message. Paul's story has had me going to his page morning, noon, and night for the past week. Everyday reminding me to pray and hoping for a miracle. But after reading is blog my heart has shifted from heavy to joy.....I can only imagine his happiness upon meeting our maker. Peace be with you all. Continued prayers for a family and friends. Faith F. (From Hanford, Ca crossed paths with his parents on several occasions..as well as some lemonade from Daniel)

  16. It is helpful to read your blog after hearing of Paul's death. So thankful to have known Paul and his family through Facebook requests for prayer. My FB friends and family joined in support and the Monks at Mt. Tabor in Northern California held him up in prayer during his battle. We will continue to pray for the family with his smiling face ever in our memory.

  17. You are an amazing friend and writer. I have so many thoughts on Paul's suffering and life and death that I can't even formulate them yet. It was like I couldn't live normally for the past couple of weeks, knowing he was dying. And I barely knew him! I am so sorry for your loss, Mary, and will continue to pray for Ann's strength as she and her family try to move forward.

  18. Thanks for what you shared on this post, Mary, It was just what I needed to hear. On my own blog this morning I wrote this (before I read your post.)

    " I can't help but think, why bother praying for a person's recovery if God is going to take them away anyway. What use is our prayers? Deep in my heart I know our prayers are valuable and that Paul and the family received much grace - grace of a peaceful death and strength to endure the cross they are bearing. I know that I cannot see all that God sees and the countless lives and souls that Paul's death has touched. Even now, as I sit hear crying to God, God has taken this opportunity to draw me closer to Him. To remind me that this life is fragile and that we are not our own, but children of God. He knows the bigger picture and the blessings that this particular cross will bring.

    Paul sparked that. A man I didn't know existed a week ago and yet he has touched the lives of all of us in the family as we prayed for him. God knows exactly what miracles that will take place because of Paul's life and fight at the end. So while, I still struggle with it, I do accept that our prayers are efficacious, but only God knows exactly how. I can only imagine how many more lives Paul will help now that he is united with God."

    Continued prayers for Annie, the kids and family and friends.

  19. Beautifully written. So true. Thank you. I will continue to pray for those he has left.

  20. Mary
    ~ I'm so so sorry...I clicked over from Bonnie's 7QT post this AM and while I'm honored to learn about your dear friend, I am so moved by your words....it will be a privilege to continue to pray for his family and for his friends.. All left behind.

    So sad and yet, so beautiful....thank you for sharing your heart.

  21. I just cried and cried for someone I never met. But he clearly had an impact on so many lives. Thank you Mary for the reminder that his life and death glorify the Lord and we will all meet again one day in heaven. What a celebration it will be!

  22. Hi Mary,
    Thanks for this beautifully written post. I am also a testimony to the miraculous life Paul led. I am a Franciscan alum who did not know Paul personally, but have many friends who did. Here is my blog post about how his life has changed me: http://thelionofdesign.com/reflections/hope/glory-god-man-fully-alive/