Naomi Cole of Wayne, Mich., can still close her eyes and hear her mother’s reaction the moment her parents were notified that her brother had been killed. He was the same brother who returned after being a prisoner of war in World War II. Naomi remembered, “Oh my gosh, I can still hear her sobbing. Dad got ahold of her hand and said, ‘Come with me.’ They went into their bedroom. I have no doubt they were on their knees praying. It was like she had a mental breakdown but she got through it!”
Naomi, who was 12 at the time, recalled, “Back then it was different. They laid him out in our house instead of a funeral home. I wouldn’t even go through the living room because I didn’t want to see him that way; he was there for a full day before they buried him.”
Naomi didn’t have any idea that the strength of her parents, and their love and faith, had gifted her with a sound foundation; they armed her with survival tools she would utilize many times in her adult life.
She shared memories of her own daughter, Shana Ruth Cole, who passed at age 7, minutes into recovery after open heart surgery. Naomi stated, “Parents shouldn’t lose a child. It’s the most horrible. My mother helped out a lot. She would tell me, ‘You’re strong and you can get through this!’ My son remembers my three older daughters trying to get me to eat; I didn’t want to do anything but sleep. It didn’t take me long to realize I had to go on for my other children.”
She and her husband had been living apart for years for financial reasons. He worked in Michigan while she raised their kids in Kentucky. After Shana died, Naomi told her husband, “We’ve got to do something if we’re going to keep this marriage together and try to go on and survive what just happened in our life; you’ve got to come home or we have to move up there.”
At age 37, she got her driver’s license, and three weeks later they moved to Michigan, where she found a job. They were able to move forward in their new lives together as a family.
Her advice for others coping through the loss of a child: “Focus on something to make it better for your family here, and take it day by day; it makes you feel better to know you’re helping someone else. It doesn’t happen overnight!”
Today, Naomi is a 9-year survivor of breast cancer, and she is grieving the loss of her beloved husband of 48 years. He died in December 2007, and two of her sisters passed months later. She attributes her strength to her faith, hope, family and friends. In her words, “I live every day for them; I’m from a big loving family. Every day, I get up and decide what I can do to make things better for me and my family!”