March 8, 2005

Colin Cooper remembered

Today, March 8th, is the anniversary of the passing of my good friend Colin Cooper, whom I came to know through my then-girlfriend, Deborah, up in Edmonton, Alberta. I don't think I have talked about Colin before, so today seems like the time!

Colin died in the evening, while watching hockey with father at his family home on March 8th of 2003. He was to be out with many of us, enjoying a celebration of a friend's birthday, but it was not to pass. Luckily, he went in his sleep, and his beloved Edmononton Oilers won their game that night.

The U of A Physical Education and Recreation Faculty established the Colin Cooper Award, an annual scholarship for students who overcome extraordinary adversity in achieving goals. Colin knew well enough about struggle, having survived cancer that took his leg at the age of 13, and in his late teen years, he contracted a rare disease that reduced his vision, hearing, robbed him of his voice, and forced him to walk with a cane much of the time.

Despite these disabilities, he truly was the example of ability. He rarely if ever complained about his lot in life, saying often that there was always someone worse off than he was. He was a competitive swimmer as long as his ailments allowed him to be, and he was as fast and faster than a lot of able-bodied swimmers. Colin's sense of humour was abundandt, and, despite a failing ability to see, there was light enough in his eyes when he laughed, to be sure. He could read people better than most with an uncanny empathy I have yet to find in another friend.

I had the chance to come to know him well when I first got to Edmonton. I was out looking for a job for many months upon my arrival, and for much of that time, Colin was in and out of the hospital or Edmonton's Cross Cancer Institute. I visited him most everyday, often for a few hours or longer. Not a great place to get to know someone, but get to know him I did.

when Colin lost his voice after having received a tracheotomy, he didn't let that beat him either. He, along with several of us, took a sign langage class through the U of A to help us be able to talk once again. It was a thankful thing in tense moments when the point just wasn't coming across, and just one more way in which Colin proved day in and day out that he was bigger than illness.

Colin even had the chance to get his own apartment, and independence, for a while, living in the Bayswood apartments. There were several of us that would stop in regularly for lunch and make sure all was okay, and he would always have ice cold coke on hand in the fridge. Man, do I miss those Cokes. they don't taste quite the same anymore!

And, the one part of this that I haven't mentioned that showed the truly exceptional character that was Colin Cooper is this: Colin was Deb's boyfriend before me. Between the three of us, we could have just as easily said 'this is too hard to figure out', Colin especially, who had so much else to deal with. But we didn't, and he didn't. And out of that uncompromisingly accepting spirit came a great friendship that I miss dearly, and think about often--this day in particular above all the others.

Elbert Hubbard is quoted as saying "God will not look you over for medals, degrees or diplomas, but for scars." Combine that with a quote from George S. Patton--"It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived."-- and I think I have a picture of Colin that suits well enough. He lived almost half of his life in pain, but took from it the positives, and spread that positivity around to anyone he encountered, and I am so thankful to have known him.

He is missed.

to donate to the Colin Cooper Scholarship:
You can certainly give to the scholarship fund anytime you want. To my knowledge, anyone can give to any scholarship fund at any time. the Faculty contact number over at the Student Awards Office of the U of A is is 1-780-492-3221. contact Chuck Moser (our Faculty's Fund Development office) assuming he is still with the U of 1-780-492-3917.