Farewell to My Friend

Along a quiet road in Southern Maryland sits a small church. To the rear, a pathway leads to a meadow with a recreation area. To one side sits a basketball court with a worn asphalt surface and opposing goals with plexiglass backboards. To the other side, a volleyball net tilted and sagging. With closed eyes, you can imagine, hear and see years of outings in the summer sun. Just steps further is a small graveyard with modest headstones paying tribute to those who have passed on. It’s a rustic, very personal, simple place like a scene from Hemingway. Its easy here--the final resting place of Derrick Cobey. He’ll be happy in this place…close to home and his family who he loved dearly. Circumstances, didn’t allow for a large homegoing for Derrick, which is probably just as he would have designed it. But, after almost 35 years on his left, or him on mine, I couldn’t let the time pass without a word about a person so fundamental to my life.

Derrick was complex, yet very simple. He had an infectious way about him that drew people near. In speaking with many of you since his passing, a common theme was how smart he was. I cannot disagree with these assessments. Derrick was a Cum Laude graduate from the College of Engineering at University of Maryland, but understand that his intelligence was gift bestowed on him from above, not unlike a great musician or athlete. What is important to note is that Derrick cultivated his intelligence into wisdom and shared his gifts with others. I know this because I’ve been the recipient of his wise counsel. Its something that I’ll cherish and continue to refer to during my time here on earth. I guess now, I’ll just have to refer to one of his many home spun stories or sayings when I’m faced with conflict that’s in need of resolution. I anticipate moments in the future, when faced with such conflict or problem, saying to myself, “Now, what would Derrick say about this?” At that moment I’ll come up with something like,”Com’on Jimmy Newton go ahead and cut ‘em deep like pig and make ‘em bleed out slow until they act right!” I only wish I would have written some of this stuff down. You might just think Derrick was from Maryland by way of rural Mississippi. This of course was a game that he loved to play. He’d give you the country boy persona right up until he switched in professorial mode, leaving most people confused because they couldn’t figure him out…and he loved every second of it!


Derrick’s gifts extended past shared wisdom. He was a doer. He showed up when you were in need, even if the need wasn’t apparent to you. He was a giving man who did well in his career, but never forgot to help other people. Oftentimes when we spoke, he was either on his way to, or on the way from doing something to help his friends and family. He was regal, a magnificent man and friend. If nobility is reserved for royalty, then he was surely a king. He was a good hearted soul, who gave way more than he asked for, and did his best to uphold the tenets of friendship, family and love.


We often see the dominant characteristics of a man without a full understanding of the nuisance or many disparate pieces that serve as the building blocks of that image. While it's certainly true that Derrick was smart and sharp as a tack, it cannot be overlooked, the amount of hard work and determination he put into everything that he did. Was he a perfectionist?? No, far from it! He was in fact efficient—a walking talking optimization model. And… it could really get on one’s nerves at times. Yet, I imagine that this attribute is truly the source of much his success in life. Sadly, I guess now I’ll have take the long way home without someone telling me their route is much quicker. And, I can now go to the casino without having books on blackjack strategy read to me on the Atlantic City Expressway. I can even go play golf without having to watch instruction videos the night before. Or just maybe, i'll go ahead and read more strategy books, and look at more videos if I want to be like Derrick. I think i'm okay with that!


Derrick had a burning desire to succeed at whatever challenge was before him. Who knew that after enjoying the best that college social life has offer, that at 2 am a person could pull out their engineering text book and study until daybreak? Derrick knew it, and I watched him do it time and again. He was competitive. He didn’t want you to beat him at anything—and if you did beat him, he would shame you into another round until he either beat you, or you just let him win so you could get about the business of doing something else.


Many of he best and interesting times of my life include Derrick Cobey. I could truly write a book. I’m sure that anyone he touched could share special moments and stories about him. There will be a time to share them. For now, we can hold the warm glow of his memory in our hearts and work to live as he did, sharing our gifts and talents, and working hard to achieve. Many of you have asked me what you can specifically do during this time. I have no specific answer for you. As you can imagine, Derrick’s family is devastated, and today they ask for privacy. Hopefully, one day we can share how much he meant to us, and what a huge impact he had on the world around him. Until then I can only offer you this, if you wish to honor Derrick then; take care of your health; share your gifts; work hard..and then work a little harder; help somebody; take care of your family; go fishing; play golf; sit in a deer stand all day and try to stay awake; play blackjack (don't dare hit a 12 if the dealer shows a 6 up card or the ghost of Derrick Cobey will haunt you); have fun, pray, have more fun, write an advanced directive.


For me the last month and a half has been tough, as it has been for all of you who knew that Derrick was suffering. Since the day I heard that he had been rushed to the hospital, it's been a slow burn. Not to be able to see him as he was suffering was maddening. Some days, just getting some socks on was a challenge for me. But today, I got socks on and my boots and all the other customary amour necessary to shield the spirit and protect the soul.


More than that, we [can] rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5


Caesar had the honor of Mark Anthony to speak for him in the public square upon his death, at least in the Shakespeare play. Well, Derrick has to rely on me, and I'm no Mark Anthony. But, Derrick Cobey was my friend, and I loved him just as much as I have loved anything else in this life. I will miss him, but surely know that I will see him again.


-Jimmy Newton






JAMES E NEWTON

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