*As part of our reunion planning we have been soliciting remembrances of our classmates who are no longer with us to tell their own stories. David's sister, Mary, spent many hours with laughter and tears penning these words. And she expressed so much gratitude for having been given this opportunity to reflect upon his life and share it with others. With her permission, I am posting it here, as David's journey began with all of us - inside the walls of LHS. And it is as true for him as it is for us all - we don't reach our final chapters without having a story to tell. And that story matters.
This is David's.
A Biography of my Brother David Michael Cochrane 2/1/1955 - 6/22/1999
Introduction David was my brother, 2 years older than I. We were a family of 7, our Mother and her six chickets. She raised us alone after my father left us, with David, the oldest at 14, and me at 12, we had to bear a great deal of responsibility for our four younger siblings. David was always a happy youngster and even as he got older, he was usually pretty funny and could make people laugh even with some of his lame jokes.
Others thought of him as respectful, but too grown for his age but, that probably came from being in a military family. My dad, was in the Navy, and would tell David “now son, when I’m gone you are the man of the house.” Well, my dad left and never came back, I was 12 and David was 14. I think David thought ‘since I'm the man of the house now, you can make my bed, fix my meals and wash my clothes!’ AHA moment for him, because none of us were going to adhere to his demands. It is funny to look back on now because he would tell us all the time “Dad said I was the man of the house when he wasn’t here.” AHA moments to laugh about. He knew that wasn’t the case in this situation, but he really tried to use it to his advantage. David was really was a good friend to have and would do anything for anyone, if he could. He spent a great deal of time at the Perry residence. Rusty was one of his best friends. He spent so much time at their house my mother once asked him “why don’t you move in with them?” He responded with “I don’t think they have room for me.” Another AHA moment for us.
David left Ledyard after high school to join the U.S. Army and dedicated many years to our country, not only stationed in Germany but also tours to Iraq. He’d tell me about some of the things he experienced over there (but not all). They were heartbreaking. I gained a whole new perspective and respect about the duties of our military men and women. David enlisted at the young age of 18, a child in my eyes, but he certainly came out a changed man.
While in the Army, David met the love of his life, Kathy, who he married and they settled down in Lincoln, Nebraska. In April 1986 they welcomed their first son, Ian. I had my son, Jerry, just two months later and, our youngest sister, Maureen, had her son, Ryan, in February, just 2 months before Ian was born. In 1986, our already big family was getting bigger.
Sometime in 1987, we got the devastating news that David was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. I don’t recall having to bear such bad news since 1975, when we lost our brother Jerry in an auto accident. David went through six weeks of radiation treatment and it worked! We learned the tumor had shrunk from the size of a golf ball to the size of a marble. We were all marveled by his and Kathy’s strength and courage they faced so early in their young vibrant marriage, but so very thankful to God. His wife was an RN and she took great care of him and also kept us informed throughout his treatment. I remember one of my calls to him. He said he was thinking about going back out on another Army tour, and I begged him not to. I asked him if they would let him stay behind due to his condition ...His response was “Mary Margaret, I am no different than the guy next door. If he can mow his lawn, so can I.” I never realized how those words would resonate with me later.
David continued to live his life, on his terms, with his devoted wife Kathy, for years after those radiation treatments. They extended their family and gave Ian three brothers; Micah, Ethan and Tyler. Those boys were David’s heart and biggest joys! He was so very proud to be called Dad. At some point, he and Kathy made the decision after the Army, that he would stay home with the boys and she would work full time as an RN. Kathy was so amazed one time, she called my mother in CT, and said “Where did he learn this stuff?” She had come home from work and wanted to know why all the curtains were off their windows. David just laughed and responded “because it was time for me to wash and iron them.” Another AHA moment my Mom shared with me.
In April 1997, my mother called to say that David was coming home (back to Ledyard) and that we should all come home if we were able. We lived all over - from Seattle to Baltimore. He came home as did we and we visited with David for about 2 weeks. His wife and boys were still in Nebraska, so we knew he was home to say his goodbyes. By now he was becoming paralyzed on one side but could still, amazingly, walk with a cane though his speech was almost unrecognizable. All that came out when he tried to speak was “GABEAR”. I joked with him that I was going to get us all T-shirts that had that written on it “GABEAR” know it was just a sound he could make, and again, we laughed together. He had such a great sense of humor, even given what he knew was ahead for him, but we made the best of a horrible situation. Rusty Perry came and got him at Moms, and they spent the day together. One of their stops was at UCONN so he could get his 4 boys sweatshirts. It was amazing to me that of all the things he could have been doing, his thoughts were still on those 4 boys and his wife. They all attended Catholic school and attended church regularly and I knew and could feel in his solemn times, he was already missing the life he was going to miss out on.
Nearing the end of his stay, he wanted to go for a ride and so we did; just he and I. We went around Ledyard, the lake, the schools, Indiantown Rd, up Rt 12, all the way into Poquonnock Bridge in Groton. About the time we approached Dairy Queen, he was pointing and GABEAR-ing for me to stop. I went in and got two of the biggest cones they had and came back to the car. He had the biggest smile on his face and I handed his to him and then proceeded to get into the car. By the time I sat down and looked over at him, David had ice cream all up his nose and his face! For an instant I forgot about the disabilities he faced but, the two of us just sat there and laughed and laughed until we cried, as the cones were just melting away and I was wiping off his face. It was just so incredibly funny to remember these two grown adults acting just like we were kids again.
Sadly, David returned to Nebraska and we thought this was the last time we would see our big brother, or was it? During this time, my mother had been diagnosed with colon cancer and was not well herself, but refused treatment until after David went back home. For the next year and a half, keeping in close contact with Kathy and David about his condition, Mom went through three surgeries and a series of chemo treatments. Sadly, on November 24, 1998, she lost her battle and the matriarch of our family was now gone.
Once again, Kathy brought David home, this time in a wheel chair, with all four of their young boys in tow, to attend the funeral of our Mother. Through our sadness, we appreciated being able to spend yet another week with our brother and his family until they had to returned to Nebraska, his one final trip.
Seven short months later, with so much sadness still in our hearts, David passed away at home with his beloved wife, children and their Priest at his side. He was finally at peace. He lived so much longer than any of us thought he would, even his doctors; 12 years he kept going; living and laughing. He and Kathy continued their lives with their beautiful 4 boys. David passed on June 22, 1999. His funeral was held on June 28th, which was also my 42nd birthday. Once again, we all gathered, this time in Lincoln, NE, to remember the brother, father, husband and friend that we all loved so much.
David had a heart of gold and it was apparent that his boys had inherited the same gift. While attending his funeral, his then 10 yr old son Micah, wanted to give me rosary beads made from rose petals, their Priest had given each of the boys that day. They were blessed by the Pope when Father visited the Vatican, but I just couldn’t accept them from Micah, especially on that day. So, on his own accord, Micah went to the Priest and told him that his Aunt, and explained in detail who I was (not knowing Father and I had already had a long conversation prior to David’s funeral), and he told him that it was my birthday. Father gave Micah another set of those blessed rosary beads so Micah could give them to me. If I ever felt loved, if I ever felt blessed, that was certainly the day. A gesture so pure, my young nephew, through his own grief and loss, felt so compelled at 10 years old, just melted my heart. I actually felt my brother’s presence in that very moment. After the service, we gathered back at their house and yet, another surprise. A birthday cake - for ME! In all the sadness and joys my heart was holding, I just knew it had to have been David saying “She’d better at least get a cake today!”
I will forever remember, love and cherish David and our memories. Keep on smiling Big Brother, till we meet again, keep smiling!
~ IN OUR HEARTS YOU WILL REMAIN ~
Lovingly submitted by:
Mary B. Miller (Cochrane) “Sis”