07/22/09 10:00 AM ET
Mandy Coolbaugh: Seeing past the sadness
Two years later, wife reflects on lessons Mike taught
By Mandy Coolbaugh / Special to MLB.com
Mike's life was a gift.
I knew it from the moment I met him. And I was always aware of how fortunate I was to be a part of his life. What I did not fully understand until these last two years was how precious his life would be to those who did not know him and how the gift of his life would carry forward. With each day that passes, I become more and more aware, through letters, cards and gestures of kindness offered from people locally and across the world.
I am experiencing a pain of unimaginable magnitude. As one friend commented, I could not foresee making it to this day two years ago. I know and believe in my heart that our love is stronger than death. Our love is eternal ... and there are days when he feels so close, like he is right here with us. I know that Mike's heart warms with each special tribute and the many wonderful things that have been done to help his family in dealing with this situation. I know he is grateful for the people in our lives.
Mike would never in a million years have imagined the many honors he has received and the way his story would touch so many. A local San Antonio sportscaster won his first Emmy based on the Rockies' honoring of Mike at the time of the 2007 World Series.
My boys were watching "Angels in the Outfield" the day Mike passed. I often thought that the Rockies' success and generosity was our own version of the story. I wish more recognition had been given to this team for its overwhelming kindness in sharing the World Series share. Scott Price was so touched by the reach of the story and the public response that he recently wrote "Heart of the Game," which not only honors both Mike and Tino Sanchez for the men they are but recognizes the incredible generosity of the baseball fans across America who wrote letters to me and, in some cases, returned the cherished memorabilia Mike so generously gave to them when he was playing.
Minor League Baseball established an annual award in my husband's honor. His closest friends run a golf tournament that I hope one day may extend benefiting others in situations similar to ours. A school district in San Antonio is making plans to name a baseball stadium after Mike.
Round Rock Express baseball has not only continually held fundraisers to benefit our kids, but it also retired his jersey. It hangs in the outfield for our kids to see. As I was sitting there with our children just a few nights ago, looking past the players on the field toward my husband's jersey number, the man sitting beside me told me that he comes into the stadium every day, sees Mike's number and prays for us. I later found out he had been the individual who, a year earlier, had given back a "jersey off your back" shirt signed by Mike that he had won in a previous year's raffle. It is a "signed memorabilia" piece that will be passed down to our daughter, Anne Michael.
There are many close friends and family who continue to focus on Mike's kids by spending time with them so they can help instill Mike's values and ensure that our children know who Mike was and what was important to him.
As I raise the kids, I realize the lessons Mike taught me. He was faithful. He loved his kids and his family. He thought of others first and himself second. He lived each day to the fullest. His priorities were correct and in place.
I laugh harder; I cry louder; I hug longer. Every time I see an ambulance, I fear someone else may experience this hurt -- and it never goes away. Each day, I answer questions that my kids pose. And I wish Mike were here to help me answer them. They range from, "Does daddy stay the same age in Heaven?" to "How does he see that double I hit?" or simply asking, "Can you spike my hair the way daddy did?"
It breaks my heart to watch them interact with other kids and their dads, knowing that they are aware of Mike's absence. And it is ironic to me since Mike was the most devoted and loving dad I have ever seen. I dread the day I have to explain this to Anne Michael, who doesn't yet know that this incredible man is missing from her life.
God says this life won't be easy. It is a training ground to make us worthy of God's home one day. The only thing that gives me peace is the verse that God takes the good young, so they don't have to see the hurt of this world.
Mike was so genuine and so unselfish. He understood the purpose of this life.
I continue to pray for Tino every day. I hope one day he can find peace. I also hope that one day people will see past the sadness of this story and, instead, be inspired by all that Mike stood for.
Mandy Coolbaugh is a special contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.