Unfortunately it took the February 21st tragedy to introduce the Tampa Bay area to Brooke Coats but it’s clear from the St Petersburg Times article this teenager who barely entered the sport of life had already become a dominant player. Unlike too many young people who stray into the myriad of negative influences, Ms. Coats made a practice of joining positive expressions; she was a “member of the swim and tennis teams and part of the “wrestlerettes,” a group that keeps time and scores for the boys’ wrestling team.” (tampabay.com)
We can picture Brooke four-wheeling down a dirt path off highway 301 in Hillsborough County in a Chevy truck donning her cowgirl hat dressed to conquer her favorite sport of bull riding. I believe the Tampa/St. Pete community shares my condolences for the family and friends of Brooke Coats. Though the bull riding ring claimed her life, her best friend tells us, “She died doing exactly what she wanted to do … just what she loved.” (tampabay.com)
She loved sport as well as her family who supported her from the blue bleachers that evening. From the referenced article, we learn she also cherished her friendship with best friend 17-year-old Autumn Lewis. The testimony to their friendship is a pair of photo collages the junior high girls made for each other and sealed with a note and a promise not to read it “until the day we die.” Ashley qualified to break the seal to her best friend’s heart all to soon, and shares it with us.
“You help me with my problems and make me smile no matter what … I love you sooooooo much and I hope you know that I will no matter what happens. Till death, love your best friend, Brooke Ann Coats.” (tampabay.com)
This reminds me of another close relationship of best friends. One of the friends knew it was a matter of days and comforted with words like, “I will always be with you no matter what happens.” In fact He promised as all follow the path of Brooke He would be waiting there for us with outstretched and open arms, smiling and saying, “Welcome home friend.” After all, Jesus said He was a friend that would stick closer than a brother.
It’s hard to understand the pain the family of Brooke feels and it’s not a time for words, but a time for prayers and comfort, especially from their family and friends. But if anyone qualifies for words of hope, it would be a little child who talks about a best-friend relationship that never dies like Brooke’s and Autumn’s.
Her name is Lindsey Steele who refers to an encounter she recently had with Jesus. Her response may be the biggest comfort for you, me, Autumn Lewis, and Brooke’s family. After six-year-old Lindsey felt the brush of Jesus’ presence she said, “Mom, Jesus is now my ‘forever-friend.’” Our hearts are touched by the loss of such a vibrant young teenager, but we thank God for the comfort of forever-friends.