Good Morning,Thank you for making Coach's sendoff so amazing. We were and continue to be overwhelmed by your love and outpouring of spirit.I had a number of requests for Dad's Eulogy, so I thought I would post it.He is finally at peace.With love,Grace
Eulogy for Coach Jim Cotter
Good Morning Cardinal Sean, Fr. Sheehan and Esteemed Friends,
It is an honor to be with you to celebrate my father’s life. On behalf of Agnes, Kelly Mike, Uncles Don, Frank and the extended Cotter family and village, thank you for love and care of Coach. Your many acts of kindness and outreach truly sustained Dad the past four years as he met with each phase of surrender to his illness and I believe that we had him for these four years because of the care and love of Agnes, our family and each one of you. I have this powerful image of him today looking down with those smiling eyes, very much at peace surrounded by his parents, our family in heaven and his boys.
My role today is to say thank you and to share a few thoughts that Coach and I talked about as we prepared for today. I have heard so many folks say wonderful things about our care as a family of Dad, but for as challenging as the transitions of his care and the stages of diminishment, there were true moment of grace. Our role was to keep dad safe, filled with hope, surrounded by love and in control with dignity. As has been said by so many, Coach not only taught us how to live but he taught us how to die. And I think we as a family learned how to accompany someone through illness.
What does it mean to accompany a person though a disease like this? Well Coach set the tone by his response to his diagnosis when he said: “Gracie, it is not the crisis but how we respond to the crisis. Strength and resolve. We are Cotter’s, we have been through worse and we will get through this together.’ So the game plan was laid out by himself and he continued to Coach and teach from his chair. However, he or we couldn’t control the plan and like coaching and teamwork, we had to make lots of adjustments and to use the football analogy, not every play worked and there were times we needed a new offense and defense and to rely on the second and third string because the team was tired, or we just knew that we had to punt, but we shared a common strategy and a desire to give 180% in a season that we knew would not be completely successful. We did our best and that is all Coach asked of us.
I recently read a book by Gail Sheehy called Passages in Caregiving. And I was struck by one particular chapter that talks about the caregiving labyrinth. As we all know, a labyrinth has one defined path that eventually leads to the center and then back out again. A maze creates chaos and a labyrinth orders chaos. One cannot get lost. However, the path is not visible, nor is it predictable. Our labyrinth has been just that but just as we have come to a chaotic place, we had angels who stepped in to guide us. I would like to acknowledge some of Dad’s angels today who have shared in our journey. First and foremost, Dad wanted me to thank Agnes for her love and fidelity and devotion to dad. Aggie, we will never be able to convey our gratitude to you for love and care for dad. You are remarkable. To my siblings Kel and Mike, what can I say but that our humor sustained us and bond of friendship and love continues to grow and we made dad laugh. To Uncles Fran and Don, Peg, Uncle Tom and Mary, Lenny and Kathleen and families, thank you for your support and for just being with dad everyday. From coffee to chatting to stories! To our families, spouses and the grandkids for making Papa and Agnes the priority. You allowed us to just go and be without questions. Luke, Moe, Annie, Matt, Casey and Mikayla ~ you were and are the spark in his eyes ~ papa wanted you to remember that and be the best that you can be. Papa has high expectations, To dad’s best friends, the Space Cowboys, Frank and Peggy, John and Betty and Jack and Karen, thank you for being his friends, body guards and for spending time every week just talking and listening. You sustained Dad. And to his boys, all of you know who you are; for your cards, visits, e-mails, post Hall of Fame Eire Pub chats, breakfast after mass at the Egg and I, lunches at Florian Hall, calls from the football fields of IOWA and Stanford, to the baseball fields of Virginia, from Coach York on the way to the National Hockey Championship, to the shout out from Senator Hart at the St. Patrick’s Dad breakfast, to the foothills of Mount Greylock as you ran and dedicated a race, to author Paul Kenney and editors Brendan Hughes for making dad’s autobiography a reality; Coach and we will ever forget your thoughtful acts of kindness. To Bill Kemeza, Steve Hughes and the entire BCHIGH community for your reverence and love of Dad and the giants that these halls stand on. To our employers, colleagues and to the Jesuits for understanding that family is a priority. And to our unsung heroes and heroines of Compassionate Care. To Dr. David and the team at Mass General who care for ALS Patients everyday; you do God’s work. To Janice Hayes – Cha and Steve Durant for guiding us through the healthcare maze and reminding us to put the oxygen mask on ourselves first. To Ratt Kennedy and the Angel Fund for your friendship and personal commitment to accompanying dad through his journey. To Brenda and Ron from Compassionate Care ALS; we certainly did the dance together and we could not have done it without you. And to Dad’s A TEAM at Norwell VNA Hospice who loved him like their own Dad. To Meg, Sheila, Carol, Kelly, Mary Ann, Kim, Jack, Cheryl, Jodi, Dr. Gazelle and our adopted sister Kara ~ for your love and care of Dad and all of us. We will be forever grateful for you and your commitment to dignity.
Dad’s faith carried him through this past four years and his was a quiet, personal faith and yet his faith defined him. Dad loved and lived the quote from Micah that says: “This is what the Lord asks of you: only this: To act Justly, To Love Tenderly, And to walk humbly with your God.” Dad did just that by being a good man, a fair person, a person for and with others and a person who had an ego about his work and vocation, but not about himself. We have heard countless stories the past four years, but specifically the past few days that have struck each of us in a profound way. Kelly came upstairs last night and said, this BCHIGH alum said, “I was just a kid, not an athlete and struggling to figure it all out. Your dad sought me out and I was nothing, but he made me feel like I was his quarterback. That is a gift.” We were all so moved last night by the tribute to Coach and the desire of so many to pay their respects. Whether from his first class or the young guys from the early 2000 coaching years, there was a common theme; “I love the guy. I would never have become who I am. He got me into school and I had no business getting in. I knew he must have been sick because he wasn’t at my mother’s wake. He saw in me things I never knew were there and I am grateful. He is the reason I am successful; he took a chance on me and gave me a start.” I was particularly moved by the Rochester boys who found their way to BCHIGH West because of Coach’s lifelong friendship with Jim Scannell. The two men came up and one of them said, “I was just saying to my wife tonight ~ if it wasn’t for Coach, I wouldn’t have come to Rochester, met you and had our friends and our beautiful son.” There are countless stories and the lesson for me in all of this is that Coach cared, he paid attention and at the end of the day, his grounded approach to life instilled values and here at BCHIGH, being a man for others is the order of the day.
As dad's condition changed the past few years, he made adjustments and put his trust in God. The Jesuit motto we use these days is ”With You Always” and the passage from Matthew actually says, “Jesus’ final words to his followers, ‘Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” I think Dad knew that and he never complained or felt sorry for himself; he just made an adjustment in the game plan. I remember watching all of the Kennedy funeral last year with Dad and Agnes on the Cape and it was profound to share that with them, but I also recall a quiet morning where I read Maria Shriver’s eulogy of her mother Eunice to dad and we wept together, but there was a passage that truly captured the essence of dad’s journey when she said:
“Over the years, all of us learned so much from her as well. As she softened, she gave me permission to do the same. As she sat still, she taught me how important that is in one's life. She taught us that real strength can also be found in real vulnerability, and that it's OK -- even important -- to lean on those who love you.”
As we leave today, I’d like to share my favorite poem Anyway which has been attributed to Mother Teresa. I am not in any way comparing Coach to Mother Teresa, but they did share a philosophy of life. This was Coach’s approach to life and I ask you to think about these words and remember Dad because this is the way he taught all of us to live our lives.
People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you've got anyway.
Thank you for accompanying us and for joining us today as we celebrate Dad’s life. “Coach has fought the good fight. He has finished the race. He has kept the faith.” He is at peace. “Well done good and faithful servant.” We will miss you dear friend.
Grace Cotter Regan
July 23, 2010