Thursday, February 10, 2022

Death of beloved brother spawns outpouring of grief, love, generosity

The love of father for daughter is expressed in this photo of Christena Lynn Cosgriffe, taken on
her second birthday.  Christena, born with Down Syndrome, kept Patrick going until last week. 


Six Cosgriffe siblings, 11 years ago, with Patrick center in
black "Clay Day" t-shirt and shamrock hat. From left,
Rick, Olivia, Misha Kelly, Christene (Cookie), Patrick
and Robbie, youngest sibling, who died in 2010. 


THE LAST phone visit I had with my brother Patrick was a philosophical one.  Perhaps he sensed the end was near -- but I had no inkling.
He'd survived 14 surgeries and many hospitalizations, ambulance rides to the ER and long stays in physical rehab. His stamina surprised surgeons and his humor charmed nurses.
He'd conquered drugs and alcohol addictions, accidents, falls, the loss of his spleen, hernias, back and more.  Despite tremendous odds, he'd always returned home to his beloved daughter, his only child, Christena.
OUR GOOD fortune ended Feb. 5, when he was removed from life support after a hopeless decline.
Christena, now 11, believes her daddy is in heaven but asks, "when is he coming back?"
Born with Down Syndrome, she survived several surgeries while still a baby.  
From left, a few Christmastimes ago: Christene (Cookie),
Patrick, Misha, Rick and Olivia at Tate House, Georgia.
Last week, with Patrick feeling chest congestion, and several friends and family with COVID, he was awaiting results of a home test for the virus that killed him.
DEEPLY RELIGIOUS, he teased me for my agnostic leanings.  I thought he should be hospitalized, but he was holding out -- likely fearful of what might unfold. 
"I think you should get to the ER," I urged. "Meanwhile, you'd better talk to your boy,"  He coughed and wheezed. "Cookie, he's your boy, too," he said earnestly. 
I hope so.
I know the old saw -- "there are no atheists in a fox hole," suggesting fear encourages belief in a higher power. I'm no atheist, perhaps a skeptic, but I hope there is a hereafter -- for us humans and our "Rainbow Bridge" animal pals.
My college minor was philosophy so like many of us, I've read Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Zhuangzi and scores of modern thinkers. If there is a heaven, Patrick belongs there. When he was found not breathing, it was too late for the ER and after a few days in the ICU, an MRI revealed what we feared: no brain activity. After consultations with the doctors, we made the decision every family dreads.
Patrick Cosgriffe, left, and Bruce Keller, enjoying
fishing on the West Fork near Nye, Montana. 
PATRICK WAS devoted to his buddies at Alcoholics Anonymous, and struggled to attend meetings, even in a wheelchair or with a walker. After the resurgence of COVID, he attended AA via Skype. His friend and sponsor, Vince, came to his home to watch football with him.
In healthier days, he fished the Stillwater, Yellowstone, Musselshell, West Fork, and a pond in Wheatland County at our cousins' ranch. He inherited my first husband Bruce's antique Gibson guitar, which he played beautifully.
He was a wise and wonderful brother with a lilting laugh and teasing wit, a cherished member of the large and loving clan, a devoted father to Christena. "I want to see the kid to 20," he'd say. "Then I'll be 70 and we'll go out together."
CHRISTENA IS sad, too -- we aren't sure exactly what's going on in her young head.  But she'll continue to be surrounded by love -- from her aunties, uncle, cousins, friends, school mates and "mama Diane," Patrick's partner and fiancée. Although Diane has grown children and grandchildren of her own, she adores Christena and has been her sole mother figure for the past nearly six years.  She loves Christena, "as if she were my own flesh and blood."
Fresh from a run through the sprinkler, Christena is happy
in the mountains near the West Fork of the Stillwater River.
This happy child likely faces more surgeries, and has already survived five for heart and lung defects.  Her immune system is compromised and she bounces back from consistent painful treatments for ear problems -- narrow canals are common in DS children, causing pain and infections which she braves with grace.
She knows the lyrics to "Frozen," loves to sing and dance.  She dresses up for Halloween and loves holidays and celebrations.  Her Christmas gift from us was a pair of tickets to "Shen Yun," with her "mama" Diane. "I could hardly keep her from climbing up on the stage," Diane said. "She was mesmerized." When she comes to our place on the West Fork of the Stillwater, she loves to help me feed the birds then run through the sprinkler, roll in the grass, play with our ancient Yorkie, Nicky. "May I help you?" is her frequent question, as she reaches for a broom or stacks plates from the dishwasher.  
Christena and "Auntie Jane" dress
up for Halloween. She delights
our large, theatrical family with 
her own sense of fun and drama
WHEN PATRICK died, my sister Olivia and his partner  Diane were in the room with him. Niece, nephew, cousins cried in the waiting room. The tubes were disconnected, the heart slowed, he took a last long breath. Good night, sweet prince.   
I used his hospitalization time to do what I do best: write, co-ordinate, make calls, consult the attorney to make sure the codicil to Patrick's will is followed: that guardianship of his beautiful daughter goes to Diane -- loving, devoted partner who helped nurse him through many battles.
We've organized a fundraiser and generous donors who love the child and her papa are responding. (See link below). Huge expenses are the least of our worries. We are heartbroken.  Still, we remember it takes a village to raise a child, and we have one.  We will continue to nurture Christena, fight for Diane's permanent guardianship, and in so doing honor our brother's memory and his love for her -- and us.
Rest in peace, dear Patrick. May "your boy" watch over you, take care of you and save a place for the rest of us.

 Interested in the fundraiser for Christena's care and education?


This stunning big horn sheep stands sentinel atop a rock above a pool
at Hilton Waikoloa Village, near Makai, one of the beautiful hotels.

UP NEXT: A wondrous collection of art awaits
and one doesn't need to buy a ticket to a museum.
A visit to the renowned Hilton Waikoloa Village
offers a world class collection of art from the South Pacific.  Sculpture, paintings, ceramic and more celebrate the genius of master craftsmen and artists from Asian, Western, and Oceanic cultures – with more than 1,800 pieces. We enjoyed our immersion in the heritage, culture and traditions of the many and varied South Pacific people, gaining insight into life in the Pacific. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a new twist on art, music, history, travel, culture, family and more:


  1. I so admire your courage and grace in the face of this latest tragedy to befall you. You've had far too much sorrow yet you find humor and always, love. Bless you and that fine clan.

  2. Well we're all crying in Texas, too. What an amazing story and so beautifully told. We will go on line today to pitch in to Christena's future. What a lovely child.

  3. Santa Barbara SympathizersFebruary 11, 2022 at 12:31 PM

    We know and love your family and send our heartfelt sympathies. The funding of the child's future is a brilliant idea and fitting way to honor your brother.