Life is precious. We all know this, yet we often get mired in the stresses and strife of living, forgetting that at any second our time on earth could end. I headed back to Halifax last week because someone very dear to me had lost his battle with cancer. My cousin Lawrence Cooper passed away on June 17 at the age of 44. As our large extended family grieved our loss, we hugged and consoled each other.
Lawrence's wife wanted someone to speak on the family's behalf at his funeral service. I was honoured when she asked if I would stand up and talk about this warm, funny and loving man. He was one of the few people I have known from his birth until his death. I wanted to paint a picture for the mourners of the boy who became the man they all knew. As a lasting tribute to a great human being, I will share some of the remarks I read at the service, which was attended by so many friends, family members and colleagues from BellAliant.
"Children of the same family, the same blood, with the same first associations and habits, have some means of enjoyment in their power which no subsequent connections can supply." -- Jane Austen.
There are many things I will remember about Lawrence and many memories I will cherish. He was my cousin and yet more than a cousin -- partly because we come from a very close extended family and partly because we grew up in the same house, our Nan's house. I was not quite two years old when his mother Marlene brought him home from the hospital. My sister Dorothy and I couldn't wait to play with him, and by the time his brother Mark was born two years later, we three were well on our way to being best buds.
Little Lawrence, as we called him, was a happy, mischievous boy who smiled and laughed a lot. He had the same laugh his entire life. The grown man reverted to a child every time he giggled. I wish I had a recording of him laughing because it always made me laugh -- such a big man, a tough guy, with that little child's giggle.
He was a funny, friendly and fearless boy who liked the social aspects of school more than academics. At Holly Drive School, he quickly became friends with all the boys in our neighbourhood.
I remember one Saturday night when I was about 15 and Lawrence was 13. He was bragging to me about how tough he was -- strong and able to take a punch. "Go ahead," he told me. "Hit me." He tensed his stomach muscles and waited for me to try, but I said I could never hit him. I must have convinced him that I was too nice or too gentle to ever do that, because he relaxed his stance and let his guard down. That's when I sucker punched him in the gut.
He looked so shocked and the punch knocked the wind out of him for a second, but rather than get mad, he soon started to laugh. "You got me," he said. That was Lawrence. A tough guy on the outside but inside he was very caring and concerned about those he loved. He loved to tease people, especially the people closest to him, but never in a mean-spirited way.
I will miss Lawrence like a brother.
"To the outside world, we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other's hearts. We live outside the touch of time." -- Clara Ortega.
Lawrence had a very kind heart. He would do anything for his friends and family. There is a simple way to honour this man who was so kind to friends and strangers alike. He knew that happiness sprouted from showing kindness, every small act of friendship. The next time you offer someone a lift or invite a friend to join you for dinner, think about Lawrence. In that moment, he will be with you.
A writer's journey