A Larger than Life Spirit

In memory of Dr. Robert Cochran

I remember as a child going to McMahon’s children’s shoe store in downtown Spartanburg to buy my Easter white Buster Browns. The salesman would measure my foot, go to the back room and return with the perfect pair. He would  ask me to stand, push down hard on my big toe to check the fit and then with near glee pronounce, “And she still has room to grow!”

As I began 2017, I felt God’s thumb pressing down on my spirit. The words, “She still has room to grow,” popped into my mind as I prepared the eulogy for a man I never knew but whose larger-than-life spirit has left an indelible mark on the cover of my heart. Gifted with 82 turns around the sun, he managed to climb every major mountain peak, skied all the double black diamonds, played a hot game of tennis and ran multiple marathons. To see the stars he even built his own telescope. A lover of music, he enjoyed the operas of Tosca, Carmen, Marriage of Figaro, and La Boheme. An amateur photographer, a collector of fine wines, an avid student of history and a horticulturist of orchids. All of these pursuits plus being a doctor who authored three books on pain and helped countless patients in need of hope. What a show of spiritual gusto! He was hungry for experiences, relationships and the sheer adventure of it all.

His life reminded me of a prayer in The Pocket Cathedral:God, I am going to show up at heaven’s door, my humanity in tatters, not a stone left uncovered or bottle uncorked, hugged every moment. Given you my all and more. At the end, I’d like to hear you say, That was a life worth my breath.” 

There are certain human beings across space, time and history who by gift, by choice or by sheer will leave this world with much larger spirits than when they came. I would even venture that the DNA of these remarkable spirits mystically lives on in the cells of every soul blessed to have known them.

I want that kind of spirit.

Oscar Wilde once said, “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” Life’s great tragedy is that we come to the end and realize we missed the point. There is nothing more devastating than death-bed “if only’s…” If only I had been more passionate, daring and adventuresome. If only I had let go of the anger and just plain forgiven. If only I had loved more, bigger and better. If only I had not been so restless and leaned into God’s plan. If only I had done something in my life that was larger than myself.

I am convinced God wants us to experience the fullness of life. We find joy and meaning in the adventures and triumphs, but also in the moments that are less obvious; the silver linings in the midst of suffering. Remember, setbacks are great excuses for comebacks. Resilience is sexy! Who doesn’t love to watch the underdog rise up and win?

Ultimately, the size of one’s spirit is measured by the circumference of their heart. Each of us carry the soul of God within us and thus our lives are designed to serve a higher purpose. How many people can we love in one lifetime? The beautiful redemption plan that God put into place works because people like me and you are greasing the axle with love. Archbishop Tutu said, “Do your little bit of good where you are; It’s those bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” Could there be anything greater said about another human being than they spent their lives giving hope to others? Peter Strople said, “Legacy is not leaving something for people. It’s leaving something in people.” The good doctor I eulogized did just that.

Here’s to enlarging our spirits in 2017!

Live in Hope,



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