Just a thought… Sometimes, only one person is missing, and the whole world seems depopulated. [Alphonse de Lamartine]
Ah, dear friends. It is with the heaviest of hearts that I pass on the sad news that my radio partner Mike Cooper’s wife Debbie has died from complications of colon cancer. She was only 66. I can’t believe I just used the word “was.” In the past few weeks we have known that treatment for this sweet, caring woman was, at best, trying to manage pain. As Mike asked in desperation last week, “What did she ever do to deserve an end like this?”
The answer: absolutely nothing. No one deserves to leave this world in pain, to face the ravages of disease; no one could have led a kinder, gentler and more joy-filled life than Deborah Cooper.
After enduring a difficult childhood, Debbie met her true love. She and Mike found each other in high school: she of the flaxen hair, he of the sparkling blue eyes that wandered only when it came to her test and exam papers. Amidst a sea of radio marriages that foundered and ended in divorce, theirs was one that famously withstood plenty of would-be tests: Mike’s boy band good looks were catnip to young radio fans, but he never strayed from Debbie’s side. She has always been his anchor, his home, his mischievously nicknamed “Tender Morsel of Passion Fruit.”
CHFI listeners – and those in the decades before – came to know Debbie through Mike’s stories of them as a couple, and through her joyful companionship to us all on listener trips. Nearly everyone who met her was touched by her kindness and an innocent streak that one might wrongly call naïve. She just chose to see the good, to hear the positive and always to look on the bright side.
Her fight against cancer would prove this in spades. From the moment of her stunning and dire diagnosis over five years ago, Debbie began to tackle cancer head-on. Living a sober and healthy life already, she dove in to juicing, eating only the foods that would not only help her with her post-surgery physical limitations but with her overall wellbeing. And you never, ever saw a healthier cancer patient in your life.
Here she is exuberantly hitting the gong, a tradition after her final chemo treatment. (Debbie’s were exceedingly careful treatments because of the heart attack her initial one brought on.)
The Coopers fought cancer with everything they had as a couple and a family. Stylish and active, Debbie cherished her workouts, her yoga classes, her painting in the special studio Mike built among her glorious flowers, her hours spent on Buckhorn Lake alone in her kayak and especially her ducks – the greedy ducks who came to her like their momma – and her time spent with her adoring husband, son and daughter. I can honestly say that I have never seen a tighter knit family.
That closeness is a tribute to Debbie as a mother and a legacy that will last for decades. Doubtless her family is the reason Debbie’s fight lasted so long and was so valiantly carried out. I will never say that she “lost” or that cancer “won”; I won’t use the popular wording of defeat for Deborah Cooper and colon cancer.
She won. She leaves a legacy of love, of laughter, of memories that will never fade. I could write about her for days – and may in the days to come – but for now, let me just say that our hearts are broken and we mourn for the joy she brought us.
After a valiant fight and a life too short but so well-lived, she’s among the angels with whom she felt such a closeness and affinity. She gets to romp with their beloved family Labs again and to play among the stars with a welcoming full moon for her arrival.
Please hold Mike, Sarah and Christopher in your thoughts today. I wish that Rob and I were closer in terms of geography, but can only hope that Mike will let his friends hold him close in their arms as well as their hearts. We’ll be with them soon.
If you want to leave a message on my Facebook page, I’ll be sure to tell Mike, Sarah and Chris that it’s there for them, when they’re ready. Today, they feel they never will be, I’m sure. But I can also assure them that these dreadfully dark clouds will part, ever so slowly. And they’ll feel the warmth of the sun again as Debbie’s spirit guides them through the next days, months and years of their lives.
How very much brighter our world was with her in it. Tomorrow in this journal: Debbie’s own pocketful of sunshine and more pictures on Friday.
We are so sad.