I am the youngest of three kids and the only girl. My brother’s were seven and eight years older than me. Because of the age difference, it was more like having three Dad’s. They were not disciplinarians, but very protective of me.
Danny was the younger of my two brother’s. Danny played sports all through his life, excelled at them all, and later helped with the local youth sports. He had no children of his own, but was the kind of man who should have had a village of kids, because he would have been a great father.
Danny was more of a father figure to my two boys and my niece. He was there for every moment of their life.
In February of 2016 Danny went to the doctor with some stomach pain that he had been having and thought he just had a bug that would not go away. He was diagnosed with Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer. Danny passed away on February 9, 2017, almost a year to the date of being diagnosed.
To describe who he was and the battle he fought, can best be described in the words I said at his funeral.
It was 1982 and the Mountainburg Dragons were already turning heads by knocking out an unbeatable Ozark in the Coke Classic Basketball tournament. It was a tournament that they didn’t even belong in and were playing out of their league. They were going up against Van Buren in what was supposed to be a blowout with the Dragons going down in flames. The Dragons were on fire and leading. Danny went up for a shot, was fouled, and came down and his face hit the hip of Mike Thomas. Danny’s eye was gashed open and he went to the bench to get mended, with Coach D yelling “get him fixed up and back out there”. Mike Thomas said that he lost his running buddy when Danny went out and Van Buren took the lead. Danny came back in, but they were not able to battle back. After the game he went to the emergency room to get stitches.
Danny was a team player. No injury was going to keep him from his team. He didn’t play for himself, he played for his team. He was selfless.
About a month ago a young man that would have been about 10 years old when Danny was a Senior, told him that his Dad would take him to the basketball games and when they got home he would ask the boy “Did you see Danny tonight” and the boy would talk about the plays that Danny made and the young man said his Dad would say “no, I mean how he handled himself on the court”. Danny was humble.
How Danny played sports, is how he played the game of life. He was a team player, selfless, and humble.
Now something you may not know about Danny is that he is Momma’s favorite. Is, was, and always has been. It’s ok. Steve and I have always known that and we are ok with it. Let’s be honest if you had to pick between the three of us, who would you pick?
And Danny’s favorites? That is easy. That was his niece and nephews, Cassie, Bryce, and Jayce. If you ever heard him talk about them, you would think that they belonged to him. He was so proud of the three of them and wanted to give them the world. He was way more than an Uncle to them. The night that he was first admitted to the hospital and was waiting in the ER, Daddy had to go get Danny out of the car because he was sitting in there listening to Cassie’s basketball game on the radio. Danny was one of the very first people to hold Bryce and Jayce after they were born. A couple of years ago one of mine, that I won’t name, was frustrating me. I asked Danny to help knock some sense into him. Danny replied “Ok, but I have to be the good cop, I can’t be the bad cop”. And he couldn’t. Those three could do no wrong in his eyes. Each one of them had a special place in Danny’s heart and life. I pray that they know how blessed they were to have Uncle Dan.
Let me address something for a second since this was a question his favorite 3 all asked at some point in their lives. “Why do we call him Uncle Dan when his name is Denny?”. Well, his name is Danny Gene Cochran. When I was little, I called him Denny. Not sure if I couldn’t say Danny, or if I was just being the annoying little sister and called him that to be ornery. Either way, it stuck and over the years “Denny” caught on.
Danny said he wondered if he made a difference and how he was seen. So, I ask you, did Danny make a difference in your life, as a friend, a son, a brother, an Uncle, a teammate, a coworker, a boss? I can imagine that most can say yes and that he has helped you out at some point emotionally, financially, or physically. Maybe you have seen how he handled his life for the last year with grace, no bitterness, and no blame, and you want to live your life that way. I will be honest, I am not sure that I could be that dignified.
After he was no longer able to receive treatment, he said he was still hoping for a miracle. We talked about what if the miracle was all of the people that now went to church consistently and faithfully because of him, what if the miracle was that Danny grew his relationship with God, what if the miracle was that we all got a wonderful year to have more quality time and conversation together with him, and maybe the miracle was not a cure. He said he truly believed that.
When something bad happens to a person we love, we want to ask why. There is no answer to why. Good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. Just like bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. God did not give Danny cancer and it was not the work of the devil. God never promised us a perfect world or a perfect body. Our bodies are very complicated and sometimes there are glitches….for lack of a better word. What God did promise us was that he would walk with us through times like this. God is with us during our happy times and our lowest valleys. Our days will never be the same, but we will be ok.
To Danny’s Georgia Pacific family. He loved his job. He didn’t love it for the glamourous job that it was and the early and long hours, he loved it because of the people. It was you that made him love his job.
When we were younger, at every Holiday, Grandma Gracie would have a chocolate pie that she had made and stuck in a guest bedroom that was just for Danny and no one else. I have no doubt that Grandma Gracie was the first person to greet Danny in heaven and she had a fresh made chocolate pie just for him. I have to admit I am a little jealous of that.
When people have cancer and pass away, people say “they lost their battle with cancer”. That is not true. I am going to borrow some words said by ESPN anchor Stuart Scott. “You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and the manner in which you live”. Danny beat cancer. Danny fought and he got tired and had to go to the bench to rest. It is now time for us to go in and fight. Fight like Danny…fight to be a team player, fight to stay humble, fight to grow your relationship with God, fight to lead others to Christ, fight to show more love, fight to be a peacemaker, fight to be a good role model. Fight like Danny.
Whether you are in a battle of your own or battling to grow in an area of your life, don’t give up. I challenge you to Fight Like Dan.
Ps. Cancer Sucks!