Here is copy of the piece that I read at my son Cooper’s service:
Cooper was a gentle giant. Pure … Raw … Rugged-Ass … Exuberant … Resilient … Unstoppable, honest, authentic, genuine—Real. God, he could make me laugh! He was full of passion … passion … and so much love! Always eager, curious, confident, ready to go. Cooper had big beautiful exuberant emotions, and raw devastating down-the-toilet-bowl emotions. He felt everything. His greetings, every time he saw you, were always full—open arms and open heart. There was an unabashed fearlessness in the risks he took for love. There was nothing more real or more intense than the love, loyalty and the deep connection he felt for the people in his world. Yes, he lived his life large, with certainty, devotion and conviction; and yes, he was fragile.
There is no mystery to hold onto. Cooper was not a hero. The truth is that he was struggling with the conscious conflicts of growth, and died in the shadow of his struggle.
Cooper swung always from the extreme ends of the life/death pendulum. There was courage and hubris, and there was no turning back. And he worked so very hard to find the balance in between—to hold the tension of those opposites. He was able to take a good hard look at himself and own responsibility. His courage, and resilience was often at odds with his ability to accept his own wounds—especially when it involved hurting someone he loved. This became tightly wound in the constant measure of his successes and failures, and in the fear that comes with the loss of innocence. In the end, he couldn’t hold the tension, and used his own body to act out the terrorism against his soul.
To grow up—really grow up, we all have to come face to face our own mortality, again and again. And then, we have to have the courage to choose to live. Cooper didn’t make that choice.
This hurts, the devastating pain is like nothing I have ever known. All of our lives are forever changed. I don’t know how we will all get through this. Or whether we will ever stop asking the question, ‘What could I have done?’ The pain will always be there—this I know. Like a brick that I will always carry. It’s what I have instead of my son. So, what I do with that brick really matters.
As you carry with you the love of Cooper, and the pain of his death, carry also the responsibility to accept that there is meaningfulness in your own lives. Please remember Cooper for the life and love that his beaming smile and radiant laugh sparks in you. For the creativity he ignites. And please, don’t make him your hero… he wouldn’t want that. Cooper would challenge you to see the truth of the whole picture. I am hoping that you will do that; I am hoping you will honor Cooper’s life, by allowing his death to be your wake-up call—by using it as the tool to kick your ass. Make his death be a catalyst for a meaningful life. This is what Cooper would want. This is where his beautiful over-the-top energy needs to go. This would be the way to honor Cooper’s memory.
Two things among an infinite number of other wisdoms, that Cooper leaves me with, is the courage to turn the mirror around and find forgiveness, and the strength to take the risk to love fully, again and again.