Seth Cook–Joyous Giant
On this third week of Advent, what better time to share some good news that brings great joy? Introducing our friend Seth who–though only 3 feet tall and a mere 25 pounds–was a JOY-GIANT!
(Please read to the end to discover a link where you, too, can hear more of Seth’s story.)
He was full of life … He may have been short in stature, but he was a giant (as shared by Seth’s dad, Kyle Cook, to reporter Carol Smith in the Seattle PI).
I was first introduced to Seth when our family happened upon a 2006 edition of Dateline NBC. At the time, our son Ian was eight and Jacob, not yet seven. Needless to say, we were smitten by this boy who exuded joy despite being trapped in an old man’s body.
Seth, who was in the sixth grade when interviewed by Dateline’s Rob Stafford, had been diagnosed with the rare aging disease known as Progeria in 1995 when he was only two–though, as a teenager, he was still just the size of an average toddler. Our young sons were amazed by his story–with his sense of humor and tender heart, not to mention, his courage. It was then that an idea was sparked!
“Let’s send Seth a Bible,” one son suggested after the show ended. “He said he loves Jesus, just like us.”
“Yes, and don’t forget treats for his dog Bullet,” the other exclaimed. “And maybe some bubbles too!”
I wrote the next day–asking the producers via email how one might write to the Cook family, who lived in the small town of Darrington, WA, and I was thrilled when I received a response.
By week’s end, the boys and I had assembled the care package and sent it with a prayer. Imagine our surprise when, several weeks later, we received a letter back–along with a black and white photograph of Seth.
This began a friendship, too, between me and Seth’s mom Patti. She wrote the next month and included a cassette tape of Seth’s personal testimony, as given at their church.
Our family listened intently as Seth shared how he’d accepted Jesus at the age of four while grocery shopping with his nana; how he faced Progeria with courage; and what helped him persevere, with joy, even in the face of this life-threatening giant–a disease that, as he stated in an interview, wasn’t so much a burden as a blessing.
“I’m one of 40 kids in the whole wide world that has Progeria, so it’s really neat!”
Bill and I were to travel to Seattle in late 2006. Darrington not being that far from Seattle, Patti and I began to talk about how we might meet while I was there. Although the boys couldn’t be with us, I knew they’d be inspired, even if it was just me who had the opportunity to spend time with this teenager who’d become an inspiration. And I was looking forward to meeting Patti, too–her words in our exchange of letters an encouragement as she spoke of leaning on Christ in the face of her son’s certain decline, which would inevitably lead to his death.
In one letter, Patti wrote–
How can we know our true worth if there’s no ‘refining fire’? It’s during our struggles that we remember God’s faithfulness and mercy. It’s those struggles that give us a chance to display God’s faithfulness and mercy to others in our lives. Sometimes we fail, but we can learn from that. Other times we’re a reflection of God’s glory. That’s when God says, ‘That’s my Girl!’
What a wonderful opportunity then when, during our visit to the west coast, I was able to meet Patti and Seth at a Red Robin restaurant. Having arrived a few minutes early, I watched through the window as Patti parked her car, then gathered small Seth into her arms before carrying him inside and to our table.
For an hour, we visited over milkshakes. Seth had recently suffered a stroke and was quiet, but he smiled shyly–even offered a gift. Opening the colorful gift bag, I discovered a plastic Jack-O’-lantern. “For your boys,” Seth said. “Tell them thank you again for sending me the Bible. Tell them Bullet loved his bubbles!”
Patti and I visited like old friends, and I learned that her husband Kyle was originally from the mountains of western North Carolina. “Do you ever get back there to visit?” I asked, hopeful they did.
“No. I’ve never been, and Kyle hasn’t been back in years. Maybe one day…” Her voice trailed off.
And I understood. So much of what was “one day” was either on one side or the other of the hurdle of Seth’s health. There was no way to say “one day” without wondering if that day would come prior to or after his passing, because, without a miracle, those who suffer from Progeria only have a lifespan of about thirteen years–the age Seth was at the time of our meeting.
And I’m still waiting for that “one day”–the day that perhaps I’ll be able to visit with Patti again, whether in Washington or when they make a visit east. There are no more hurdles to overcome for Seth, as he’s now with Jesus–having passed into His keeping on June 25, 2007, just a month shy of his 14th birthday and only nine months after our first and only visit.
I know Patti’s heart is at peace too. Despite loving him so, she always knew that Seth’s earthly life would be brief but that his happiest moments would be spent in heaven–free from arthritis, brittle bones, and the cardiac conditions that are all common for those with Progeria.
And although I only met him once, Seth taught me, as well as many others, much about looking to Jesus and having joy, even when facing giants like Progeria.
His personal testimony and the manner in which he lived his short life tell it best. Like David’s three smooth stones, Seth used the weapon of God’s Word to claim victory.
As Joshua 1:9 says–
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
As Hebrews 12:1-2 says–
… let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him he endured [death] ….
Yes, even when sickness and other results of life’s imperfections make you weak! After all, the death rate is the same for everyone–not just for those suffering with diseases like Progeria. In truth, 100% of all people will one day die, but Jesus conquered death, and He gives us strength, even as one faces death.
Revelation 21:4 says-
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.
Oh, to have known him longer, but I’m so thankful we have the gift of eternal life through Jesus, and I know I’ll see Seth again one day.
And I know I’ll see his mom again too–though, selfishly, I’d love to see her sooner than later.
Not long ago, I wrote to Patti to let her know of my desire to write about sweet Seth. Almost immediately, she wrote back, and I knew, yet again, that God was at work–His timing having been perfect that first time our family learned of a boy named Seth Cook on Dateline NBC and then again, on the day I wrote to her more recently.
Her words were confirmation–
I don’t dream of Seth often. But I did yesterday. He was healthy… And after giving our dog some affection and pets, he climbed into bed and laid [his head] on the pillow next to mine. Stroked my hair and held my hand and asked me if how I’d slept. So him! What a wonderful way to start the day!
And what affirmation from a loving Father that He is the Giver of good gifts and at just the right time! Patti has the assurance that she and Kyle will one day see their son again–healed and whole–because, as she also wrote–
There are no geriatrics in heaven.
Oh, such faith–another example of how Patti, too, has been an inspiration–the death of her only son certainly a refining fire. Through it, she is indeed a reflection of God’s glory, and I can almost hear Him say of her–
That’s my Girl!
Dear Jesus, please tell Seth hello! Tell him thank you for being a lot like Your boy David–the one who fought Goliath. Though Seth, too, was small–his life short–he showed the world that those with hearts like Yours always win, and he gave us a great BIG gift by showing us the secret of unceasing JOY.
Oh, and thank you, Jesus, for my friend Patti. She sure looks a lot like You! Amen.
***To see and hear a bit of Seth’s story for yourself, click here! I promise, you won’t be disappointed!***