Naked Germans, Duck Calls, and Good-byes
Two weekends ago I was in Jacksonville, Florida, for my Uncle Bruce Cochran’s Remembrance Service. He died in August, but the family waited to gather until his birthday weekend in October.
Bruce was my mother’s much-younger brother, and he always seemed more like a cool older brother than an uncle.
Bruce and Nancy in the early years.
Bruce used to say, “I’m famous, but nobody knows me.” He made his living as a freelance cartoonist and writer. Let me say that again. He was able to support his family through cartoons, wildlife articles in magazines, and wildlife watercolor art. That’s pretty amazing. He was very disciplined about his work. When I visited, he would get up after awhile and say, “I have to go be funny for money.”
Once, when I visited them in Kansas City, I landed in the hospital with acute asthma.
This is the greeting card he made for me, including a stuffed snake one of my sorority sisters brought me.
His cartoons appeared in such diverse publications as USA Today, Field & Stream, and Playboy magazine. He wrote fifteen cartoon-filled books, such as Trout Fever, and Duck Fever, reflecting his loved of the outdoors, as well as the things he found funny about sitting in a duck-blind for ten hours.
In 2017, he won the prestigious Excellence in Craft Award, from the Outdoor Writers’ Association of America.
He illustrated the cover of my book for me.
Bruce found humor in everything. When his daughter was born on October 31st, they had already decided on the name Holly for her. But, considering her birth date, Bruce wanted to name her Holly Wynn. His wife Carol vetoed that. When their second child was born, they named him Wesley. Bruce said, “I wanted to spell his name W-E-S-5-L-E-Y, and have the “5” be silent, but Carol wouldn’t go along.”
One thing Bruce didn’t find humor in was funerals. He really disliked them, feeling they often didn’t reflect the life of the honored person. That’s why his Remembrance Service was different. We were invited to wear camouflage, and to bring duck calls, in honor of his love of the outdoors. The minister was a good-humored sort. She even brought extra plastic duck-calls, for those who didn’t have their own.
The morning of the service, we drove to the church and found the road blocked with police cars, lights flashing. Turns out, the road was blocked for a 5K run, and we were waved into the church driveway. Bruce would have loved that!! He would have said those police cars were in his honor, and maybe they were.
Bruce’s favorite hymns were sung, duck calls were blown, and we left reflecting on the pastoral blessing and the strains of “Drop Kick Me, Jesus, Through the Goalposts of Life.” It was just what he would have wanted.
And there was icing on the cake. Many of us stayed at a local hotel, which had a nice hot breakfast. When we came down for breakfast, the day of the service, we found out we had just missed some excitement. Apparently, a naked German man had been in the lobby and police took him away. Darn, hated to miss that. The story was, he offended a prostitute and she left with his clothes. What kind of Best Western was that, anyway?
Bruce loved it, I know.
I drew this picture, imagining a welcome for Bruce, including his beloved black labs.
Have you been to a Memorial Service that really reflected the deceased? More and more people today are choosing to have no service at all. What do you think of that?