Nancy Cooper: The Gift of Grief

With each day that unfolds I learn more about myself and others than previously imagined. In the most counterintuitive of ways, I am personally coming to view the grieving around this incredibly tragic and unwanted event as a gift.

Last night after tending to the multiple unanticipated issues and ever mounting to-dos that ship with the freight in these kind of events I finally pulled into the driveway around 9:00. Both my kids were out in the yard chasing fire flys. Theresa could not get them to bed and was also out of energy. Had this terrible event not happened my typical response would have been something like this “Aidan and Liam. You know the rules. We stay in our rooms after 8:30. Now GET UP TO BED.” That did not happen last night.

My 6 year old’s transformer had broken into three parts and my 3 year old wanted me to sing “Don’t Worry” (Bob Marley Song I sing to him every night to keep monsters away). Normally I would have said no because they BROKE THE RULES.

Instead, as if in an out of body experience, I observed myself peacefully walk in to the bathroom where there was good light and work together with the boys to fix the Transformer. We all worked on it together. No fights just fun. Then my 6 year old went to bed happy and I sang don’t worry to the 3 year old and he smiled and said he was going to dream about fire flys tonight.” I kissed him on the forehead…he was already asleep. I then went back into the 6 year old’s room and he too was just dropping off. He told me how much fun it was having me around and asked whether I could take him skating tomorrow. I told him I had to go to work but that we’d go skating together on the weekend. Instead of throwing a fit, he too just smiled and said good night dad. It was as if I had become a child whisperer.

As I was processing this with a person who has become a friend who is also a therapist with a wonderful gift for words, he assured me that this often happens in times of trauma. It is at times when you are most stressed that things like this can happen: Huge reservoirs of patience and self reflection open up just when you least expect them. Then he said something else, “in your case it might be useful for you to think of this as the gift that Nancy gave you.

I did not know Nancy as well as many in our community. But I do know that she was a child whisperer. She radiated love for her kids and for all kids. She had patience beyond belief and kids loved to be around her. Last night I got to experience a little bit how awesome it is to be a child whisperer and I truly hope that it continues.

Thank you Nancy for this gift, even if it was just once last night, I will treasure it always.

Leave a comment


  1. I am so sorry about all that you and your community and especially Nancy Cooper has been through in the last week. I’ve been following it in the news and wishing you some semblance of peace. It sounds like you found it, at least for one night.

  2. The Child Whisper

    What a beautiful note you wrote about the patience and love that surfaced in you when the kids were up past bedtime. What a beautiful thought to consider it a gift from Nancy. I really enjoyed the detail again. Reminded me of a space I could live today in.

    I just lost a dear friend of mine – he was 55 – to liver disease. He too was a child whisperer. I have two beautiful pictures of him with my son – intimate, warm, connected – playing music. He taught my son to improvise on the piano. And he taught me to whisper, and the art of saying “shhh”. When I was upset, he would gently say “shh” to calm me down, to quiet me, and it would work. I now do that with my dog – who has PTSD from really bad abuse before she was rescued – and when I say “shh” ever gently, she quiets her trembling, and slowly begins to quiet down and rest.

    Thank you.

  3. Tony, I am so sorry for your loss. At odd times like this you do get some gifts such as this and I’m really touched by your story here. My little boy used to get so distressed as a baby and I too used to Shh him and sing Lennon’s “Beautiful boy” to him. A habit I’ve sadly forgotten until today resorting like you to yelling and stating the rules. I have my own little project this fall with my wife to try and help people through their grief by providing them with a lasting memory such as this which has been spurred on by my own situation right now. A topic for breakfast on Thursday perhaps?


  4. Good job on becoming a child whisperer. I know its hard, but its good we learn how to be better people everyday. Im happy for you that you are learning more about yourself as well as others. This is a beautiful post, you have my heartfelt condolences, sorry for you loss.

    God bless you,


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