Reflection from the Celebration of Life held on September 29, 2023 at Portland United Church, Portland, ON.
“Suck it Up Buttercup!”
The day I met him, in March 2013, the St. Patrick’s Stew supper was taking place at Portland United Church. I had just started a New Call at the church on Feb. 1 of that year. I was informed there were many newcomers to this town since I last finished my internship in May 2010 and completed student ministry on Aug. 1, 2010. I was told that there was a great couple, Larry and Connie, who lived literally under the shadow of the Portland United Church’s building on Queen St., but they were in Florida now and would be coming back soon.
Well, at UCW’s St. Patrick stew, when I was welcoming people with the person who was receiving payments for the dinner, Larry and Connie came in and I introduced myself as their new minister. Larry hugged me and said, “We Are Partners!” – he knew what ministry is from the get-go. The rest is history.
We literally worked together through different aspects of the church, from V.I.B.E. gatherings to Church Visioning, through Council, and M & P (Ministry and Personnel). No one can forget how he helped the Greater Community of Portland as well, and the extended Rideau Lakes Township. He always said, “The Church is the Greater Community, and the Greater Community is the Church.” Larry lived to produce the Fruit of the Spirit over and over again, no matter where he was and what he did.
He was a man of knowledge and cleverness, but he also was open to learn more – not just through life, but also on a spiritual level. He always said, “Growing old is not a choice, but growing up is.”
He knew how to count his days on this earth, like the Psalmist prays “Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts” (Psalm 90:12 CSB) – counting our days, not a mere countdown, but a deeper understanding of God’s Wisdom and the lessons learned in this lifetime – and help make this world a better place.
One evening after a Portland Council meeting, he said, “It is true we cannot just refer to God as a Father, because God is beyond gender.” Moreover, he stopped saying “Get’er Done”, when I shared with him how it disturbs me to hear “Get’er” as it almost sounds like “her”. He obliged and started saying “Get it done.” He embraced learning, even though he was an educated man.
He also played a big part in our summertime Vacation Bible School. He prepared little skits for the kids to learn and perform on the last day of VBS. He barbecued when we needed a chef. He also built a Noah’s Ark, which is still displayed in the Portland United Church and today, I hear, it is in the hall downstairs for us to see. He paid attention to the smallest details of making God’s Character and Love evident to all.
He always said: “When the Bible says God created us in God’s Image, that means, our character must be like God’s Character … This image is NOT about our face, it is all about our character and who we are”.
In March 2014, only a year after we had met, when we were moving into our house in Portland from the manse in Elgin, he walked and worked with us every step of the way and helped us add a couple of new bathrooms, and get a full kitchen put in place – I am certain those notebooks in which he marked measurement details of our house still exist somewhere in his office. His notebook rarely left his hands – this notebook was his Love in Action. I have this image in my mind and heart that Larry has obtained a notebook of some sort in heaven and is going around with Jesus and planning how to make Heaven a better place for all of us before we arrive there in the future…
I still remember the time that he helped the rest of the “A” Team of the Portland Beautification Committee to make planters at the Good residence. Those planters still serve this beautiful community in many locations – and now they also will be a reminder of Larry.
Beloved, today I offer you two thoughts, which I offer at almost every funeral at which I preside. First, think of butterflies – once, they were crawling caterpillars, however they have grown beautiful wings and are no longer crawling. We need special tools to capture butterflies. In the same way, those who depart from this physical world leave us special tools such as precious memories, pictures, words, and laughter to help us to catch a glimpse of them over and over again.
The second thought that I share with those who grieve is to think of the physical and the spiritual DNA that is passed on from one generation to the other. Just like physicists say, energy never dies it only changes form. We are all energy. Look how obsessed the world is in counting calories – confirming to us that we are all energy, and we never die, we just change our form.
Beloved, Larry took seriously the words of Jesus: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” Larry was not just a Christian; he walked the walk and lived a life of love. But most of all, Larry was not just an engineer, but an Imagineer. Yes, the word exists, and it was made famous by Walt Disney. The word means Creative Engineering … it is made of Imagine and Engineering – Imagineer. Larry knew and lived according to this word. He knew deep down inside that we are called to imagine the greatness of God who loves us and seek to co-create a better world with and through that Love together.
If we pay attention to today’s reading, (Galatians 5:13-26 NRSV), we will recognize the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, were evident in Larry’s Life. And if ever you felt hurt from anyone, he would turn around and say: “Suck it up, Buttercup.” These words were not to diminish your pain but to remind you not to dwell on negative things of life but to go on and Live Love.
Truly, thanks be to God for a life of a servant man who knew that to love was better than divisions and hate. Thanks be to God for the life of an amazing man, Larry Eugene Cochran. Amen.