This year I am riding in the Courage Classic Bicycle Ride to raise funds for Children's Hospital in Denver. Each year, different teams raise money for specific causes. The Wheels of Justice team is honoring my friend, student, and neighbor, Cooper Deming. Cooper died of a DIPG (Diffuse Intrinsic Pointe Glioma)- a brain tumor, in May of 2017, days before his 13 birthday.
Let me tell you about Cooper. I had the privilege of tutoring him when he could no longer attend school due to his tumor. Cooper was kind, loving, and funny. I especially admired his eagerness to learn, even when he was not interested in the subject. We developed a playful and respectful relationship. Reading books and writing always led to interesting conversations about life and death. After my husband was killed by a drunk driver Cooper greeted me bravely.He gave me an extended hug, we cried, dropped the f -bomb a dozen times and got back to studies. One short month later Cooper would deliver the news of his impending death: hugs, tears, more f-bombs and back to work. How else do you deal with the tragedy of our situations? You go on living to the very end and Cooper did.
One of his favorite books was Winterdance by Gary Paulsen. In this book, Paulsen tells his story about running the Iditarod, a sled dog race in Alaska. Inspired by the book, Cooper and his family went to Winter Park for a sled dog ride; Cooper was over the moon about his adventure.
He also loved Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, about an Olympic Athlete turned WW2 pilot who survived several days at sea and a Japanese POW camp. We wrote and talked relentlessly about courage, strength, survival, and resilience. Cooper finally told me, "Don't mention resilience again. I am sick of the word." At that point, like any other kid his age, he just wanted to play video games, talk, and get back to school so he could play baseball.
Part of the 8th-grade curriculum was studying the Silk Road, so I ordered silkworm cocoons. We watched silkworm videos and learned how to unravel the cocoons into silk strains. This process involved soaking the cocoons for days, which created a nasty stink. In the last few days of Cooper's life, when he could barely hold his head up and did not have enough air to speak, he still had his sense of humor and conniving smile. Surrounded by his friends, he called me over to his wheelchair. I bent down with my ear next to his mouth, and he said, "Your breath smells like a silkworm's butt." With that, we had our last laugh. Cooper died a couple of days later, on May 9th, 2017.
I hope you will consider donating in honor of Cooper's LIFE, sense of humor, and resilience. I ride because I miss him and because we must find a cure.
PS: I'LL BE AT THE CANDY TENT ON THE COOPER MILE, SATURDAY JULY 16TH FROM 7:30AM-1:30PM. LOOKING FORWARD TO SERVING YOU.