- Visitation 2-5 and 7-9pm Monday, April 2, 2018
- Funeral Mass 10:45am Tuesday, April 3, 2018
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April 6, 2018
(Jack Cotter eulogy, part 3)
Jack apparently knew the road ahead, for he made a videotape—27 years ago—with his last wishes, including three items he wanted with him in the eventual casket. One was a set of Rosary beads from his grandmother in Ireland. The second was a small St. Jude statue. His mother had prayed intently to the saint of lost causes, starting in Jack's earliest difficulties, and I knew from early on that my friend and Jude, to put it bluntly, were tight. "Scoff if you will," Jack once wrote, "but St. Jude and I, we got this thing going on."
The third item he wanted along was his wallet. What he wanted in it was nothing. Except for one thing: a wedding photo of him and Toni.
Jack is no longer with us in the way we're used to seeing him. But if I could imagine a Heaven for my friend, it would look an awful lot like The Creek, with the theme from "A Summer Place" occasionally playing from off in the forest. Jack has the strength of his youth, but no crippling cystic fibrosis, as he and Maureen dive, splash and laugh—with his mom right in there with them. Together, they wait for the rest of us to join them.
Our faith tells us that the true objective in our time on earth, a heartbeat compared to eternity, is to reach Heaven. In that way, the most important way, Jack really had a wonderful life.
In the end of his time with us, the Almighty beckoned. But He did so with one reminder I'm sure Jack heard loud and clear: Don’t forget those swimming trunks.
April 6, 2018
(Jack Cotter eulogy, part 2)
His parents set the tone for teaching Jack and Maureen how to improve their odds. The disease typically killed its victims before age 10, so the kids learned what they needed to keep healthy. The elder Cotters' unfailing love instilled in Jack a lesson we all could use: It has to be done, so you do it. By his late teens, CF patients were living till 40 at best, but he resolved to manage what no one could cure.
Jack would speak often of early trips with his parents, Maureen and Helene to East Durham in the Catskills. Treatments didn't take vacations, but one particular brook fed into a deep pool they called The Creek. He and his sisters would jump into the water from an adjacent rock face, and memories like those were among the best of his childhood. Hearing either of two songs, Nat King Cole's "Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer" or the theme from "A Summer Place" would take him back without fail.
Where Jack truly stood out was in his kindness to all he considered friends. It was in how, no matter what was going on with him, he wanted to know what was going on with you. While Mark Zuckerburg was still in diapers, Jack served as the social network for all around him. If I hadn't heard from a certain friend in some time, I'd ask Jack, hey, what's Frank up to? How about Bob, Danny or Richie? Or myriad others. He always knew.
While Jack was always great fun to be around, Toni, his wife, particularly brought this out in him following their 1987 wedding. He truly flourished in her loving company, and just as his parents were his rock throughout his boyhood, Toni took on the same role whenever Jack took sick.
(Please scroll down for part 3.)
April 6, 2018
(Following is the eulogy I was honored to deliver for John Cotter at his funeral Mass. Because of a 2,000-character limit Dignity Memorial imposes on memories posted, I needed to split it into three parts. This is part one.)
John Matthew Cotter, Jack to many of us, was my best friend for 50 years. He was a husband, a brother, a son, an uncle and a friend. His suffering is over, but our challenge has begun: to acclimate to a world without him near.
Especially in the last four months of his life, Jack struggled in a world over which he had little control—especially difficult given his fiercely independent streak.
Nevertheless, to paraphrase a line from perhaps his favorite movie, I can say with all sincerity that Jack…really had a wonderful life.
For anyone who knows the details of Jack's last battle, that declaration might raise some eyebrows. How could anyone say that a life limited from birth by cystic fibrosis could be described in that way?
You'd have a point. It was during Jack's year in kindergarten that his parents learned about CF, what he would later call "the large elephant in the middle of the room." And that he and his older sister, Maureen—now no longer with us—had it.
From age five, Jack would undergo what he and Maureen would come to know as their treatment: Twice a day for hours, they would use machines to shake loose the excess mucus that accumulated in their lungs. As difficult as this was, stubborn infections sometimes developed anyway.
This has been much of his life, yes, and it's easy to dwell on that. Still, I believe that so many people have come not to dwell on the shadows of Jack's life but on the very bright beacon of his example. It shines no less brightly today.
(Please scroll down for part 2.)
April 4, 2018
Dear The Connor Family,
Sorry for the loss of John, I can see that he was a great smiling admirer. I am sure that he was a fun person and wonderfully father.. Also, his late mother and older sister, Maureen would be thrilled to see him up there - they would be altogether w/ their joyous and happiness. God Bless u all. Amen..
Love with my prayer,