LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Coping with loss and the Chick-Fil-A drive-thru line don't have a lot in common. But for the Anderson family of Lincoln, buying chicken sandwiches for strangers is exactly the way they deal with the grief of losing their son.
"It was a process for us in terms of getting to that point of choosing to look at the beauty in the ashes," said Barbara Anderson, Cole's mother.
Cole Anderson died when he was just 15. Today, January 25th, he would have turned 21. To celebrate, his parents donated $2,500 to SouthPointe Chick-Fil-A to buy people free meals.
"You don't come here and expect to have something paid for, it was very nice. A very nice surprise for sure," said Jay Lechner, who got a free meal while going through the drive-thru.
January 25th can be hard for the Andersons, but they choose to celebrate the life of their son.
"It's a bittersweet day for us," said Barbara. "But we've chosen to take the best part of Cole and the best part of the day and chosen to remember him that way instead of choosing to dwell on the pain and the hurt."
Cole's parents said he was friendly, loved sports, shooting trap and hunting with his dad.
"He loved hanging out with his brother," said Barbara. Mike, Cole's father, agreed: "Yeah, he was a good big brother, he really was."
Every free ticket was given away with a card. On that card, Cole's picture, a photograph he had taken the last time he went hunting with his father, and several comforting Bible verses.
"This way they get to know him, even though they didn't physically get to meet him," said Barbara.
The Anderson's remember their son through random acts of kindness, and they're passing down his legacy with something as simple as a chicken sandwich.
"Just a small gift of kindness can make a huge difference," said Mike.
In total, the Anderson's covered over 334 meals. Chick-Fil-A matched their donation of $2,500 to pay for $5,000 worth of food. Mike is also the owner at Anderson Auto Group, where in honor of Cole's birthday, people can get some free services for their car.
The Anderson's said their faith has been the anchor of their hope in the 6 years since Cole's passing, and they want to share that hope with others.