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On the LIfe and Death of Alan Cohen

Joshua Marshall's father, Alan Cohen, died two weeks ago and Joshua has written beautiful tribute piece at Talking Points Memo. If you have the time, please stop by and read it.


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Comments (11)

Damnit, KIm. Thanks a lot f... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

Damnit, KIm. Thanks a lot for making me cry at my desk. I was 17 when I lost my dad. Damn if this touching and wonderful tribute by Mr. Marshall didn't bring back some memories... *sigh*...

Yikes, I thought at first t... (Below threshold)

Yikes, I thought at first this post was about Hannity's foil, Alan Combs. More coffee. Alan Combs, of course, appears to have died several years ago.

Peter F. I'm so so... (Below threshold)

Peter F.

I'm so sorry you lost your dad at such a young age. I can't imagine how difficult that must have been.

Kim:Thank you. I b... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:


Thank you. I believe Mr. Marshall views his dad in the same way I viewed—and still view—my dad: He was and will forever be my hero.

There's simply nothing that prepares you for the death of your parents, no matter what age you are, I believe. The loss is always tremendously devastating and cuts right through your soul, especally one so sudden. (Unfortunately, Mr. Marshall's mother also died suddenly in a car accident. But it seems like his father's passing really cut him to the bone.) I just know that whatever pain he's feeling now, God and time will help heal.

Sobering thoughts for a beautiful Tuesday in September...

Peter,You're right... (Below threshold)


You're right about losing a parent so suddenly. My mom was 21 when she lost her mother suddenly from a cerebral hemorrhage. Her parents were out playing bridge with some friends and it was her father's friend who woke her up in the middle of the night. The only thing he said to her was, "I have to get you to the hospital before your mother dies."

I can't imagine being told something like that.

Forty-two years later, my mom still becomes emotional when she talks about that night.

Kim,How numbingly ... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:


How numbingly confusing that must've been for her to be awakened like that. It literally must've seemed like a terrible dream.

My father died while we were skiing at Alpine Meadows in Lake Tahoe on April 1, 1984. (Same day as Marvin Gaye was killed.) My mom, dad and I were skiing that weekend—something we did nearly ever weekend in winter—while my sister stayed home in the Bay Area.

My dad and I used to enjoy nailing each other with bursts of snow in what's known in skiing as a "hockey stop"—like how ski racers stop at the end of a run, hitting the crowd with snow. We were coming down the mountain about 45 minutes before noon, when my dad stopped in the middle of the run below my location. Of course, I saw this as my shot, came down and blasted him pretty good. Now, my dad, who had a pretty good sense of humor about these kinds of thing, turned to me and said sharply, "What the hell'd you do that for?" I was stunned and didn't know what to say. "Now I'm all wet damnit..." he shouted. At the point I got pretty peeved and, being a smart-ass 17 year old turned and said, "Fuck you..." and skied off toward a nearby chair lift. My mom followed.

On the chair lift, I looked back and saw his skiing toward the lodge.

Two runs later my mom and I decided to head down and meet my dad and our family friends for lunch. (We were done being mad at him...for the moment.) I was well ahead of my mom when I skied up to the lodge. It was there that I saw something very odd.

My father, while being tremendously funny, was a meticulous man, very orderly. His closet was neat, his office was always neat, his hair was neat. Skiing was no exception. For security reasons, he "split" his skis; putting one ski some place and the other another place, each pole hanging with each ski. So it was odd when I skied up—almost literally right to them—and saw his skis laying flat on the ground, side by side; his poles stuck straight up and down next to them and his gloves right in between both. I looked around and didn't see him. I figured he had to go to the bathroom or something. So I picked up his gloves and walked across the outside deck to where our friends were sitting.

When i got to our friends I asked them if my dad had been by because he'd left his gloves behind. They said he went downstairs. Like I said, maybe to go to the bathroom.

By this time, my mom had come onto the deck and found us. After a couple of minutes passed, an announcement came over the lodge loudspeaker, and I still remember the exact words: "Would a member of the (my family's name) please come to the information desk." And they repeated twice. We laughed and knew my dad couldn't find us, so I went to go get him.

As i went down the second flight of stairs, the information desk came into view. I didn't see him. In that brief moment, I had recalled something that had happened just the year before, almost to the day and at the very same resort: my dad had gone to the local hospital complaining that it was hard to breath. Not too much of a surprise since he was a pack-a-day smoker at high altitude. They found "nothing" wrong then. (Not that medicine had the ability to detect such difficulty breathing and equating it with heart problems back then. Nor did they have knowledge about arterialsclorosis. And angiograms were still fairly primative and not readily available.) This thought, in an instance, induced the kind of panic and fright I can never describe. I went to the desk and said I was a (family's name), and where's my dad? But I knew.

Before they could say the words "first aid" I was literally sprinting through the lodge in my ski boots toward first aid. I burst through the doors just in time to hear the paramedics shouting "Clear!" and my father's body—WHAM!—leaping off the table.

I can't describe the franticness of the next 30 minutes or so, or how I had to run onto the lodge deck and get my mother. Nor can I describe the sound of her hip hitting smashing against the concrete deck as she fell trying to get the first aid. And there's no way I can describe her scream and the desperation of her voice going "No...no...noooo!". And I still don't know how she drove the the 14 miles from Alpine Meadows to Truckee Memorial Hospital—at her insistence no less.

No more than 10 minutes after we had arrived, the doctors came and told us that my father, at age 47, had been pronounced dead at 1:10pm. In that instant, I remember my mother's knee buckling and falling to the floor. And I remember this big lumberjack of guy, in a red flannel shirt and me just falling into his big body, crying uncontrollably.

There was, of course, a lot that happened after that. We saw his body, the air tube still protruding from his mouth. And there was a slightly scratch just above his right eye. There was the long drive back to our cabin, the collecting of my father's clothes there, the utter silence of it all and the long, very long 4-hour drive back to the Bay Area where my mom had to go and pick up my 12-year old sister and tell her the news. There was very little sleep that week. There were many people who visited; many friends who offerred help. There was the viewing of the body. And there was the funeral where, for whatever reason, I felt the need to stand up and speak to some 400+ people who came to say good-bye and I made them cry and laugh. (I even told my dad's notoriously cheap photographer buddy, who owed him $400 from playing liar's dice during many lunches, that he would now owe that amount to me. This drew great laughs.) And then there were those two last words I said to him, words I've asked God forgiveness for so many times.

After that, you just go numb. A numbness I can still feel even as I write this.

But if I remember that day in such great detail, I also remember the other days with him in equally great, and less somber detail. He was a funny man, a brilliant and highly acclaimed advertising art director who worked incredibly hard to leave his abusive and rough childhood behind him and be the loving and caring father that I knew and will always love.

I missed him at my wedding last year, very much. And, like Mr. Marshall, I will miss him we have our first child. But I always know he's up there with God, watching, smiling and, hopefully, very proud of who I've become.

(Thanks to genetics, I've also inherited the family cholestrol problem. In official medical terms, it's called Familial Combined Hyperlipidemia. In layman's terms, my body, despite diet, mass produces cholesterol like it was supplying WalMart. It has led to me having my own "minor" heart attack at age 33, where I subsequently received an angioplasty. And, just for giggles last year, I had a drug-coated stent implanted in my heart at age 38, more as a preventative measure—my artery was between 65-70% blocked. I imagine bypass is in my future at some point. These new statin drugs do wonders and my current cholesterol concocction—I'm on Vytorin, 2000g of Niacin (not-so fun side effects), Plavix and some blood pressure medicine—my total cholesterol is at 145, with 200 being the norm. Yet there's still no guarantee. But there's more hope for me than there ever was for my dad. With modern medicine and God willing, I hope I don't see him again any time soon...)

Why does the Marshall guy n... (Below threshold)
paul a'barge:

Why does the Marshall guy not have his father's name?

Peter,I don't know... (Below threshold)


I don't know what to say. What a devastating experience, and you wrote about it so vividly. I hope your mom and sister are doing ok.

Paul,Josh was very... (Below threshold)


Josh was very young when his mom and Alan were married.

Kim,My mom met a w... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:


My mom met a wonderful man and got remarried in 1990. My sister married in 2000 and has a wonderful (OK, just sometimes) 3-year old boy. And me? Well, I'm turning on the Sept. 25. We're all in meeting in Las Vegas for a really BIG celebration. :-)

Life is pretty damn good. :-)

Good to hear, Peter! Happy... (Below threshold)

Good to hear, Peter! Happy Birthday and have a great time in Vegas!






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