Left to right: My Daddy, Gary Cottingham, my Grandfather, Billy Frank Cottingham, and my Uncle, Ronald Robert "Ronnie" Cottingham.
I have been holding off on this post as I knew it would be difficult to write. I also knew there was no amount of words to summarize the love I feel for these men, the love my family feels for these men, all they accomplished, all they gave to those around them, and the genuine kindness that filled their hearts.
Last year, in 2013, we lost Ronnie in April and Billy in August. This Tuesday, the 15th, will mark a year since Ronnie passed away and that is so hard to believe as it still feels like yesterday. The 15th of April is also the year anniversary of the Boston Bombing so I know we will not be the only ones with heavy hearts. Our family is extremely close-- saying goodbye to such influential men, and so close together in time, was incredibly painful for all of us.
Ronnie was known for taking care of everyone. He was always the person keeping family plans on track, making sure everyone had the information they needed, and ensuring family traditions lived on. There was no doubt to anyone who knew him that family was a top priority for Ronnie. Ron-A-Boy (another love-filled family nickname) was also notorious for his sense-of-humor, quick wit, and one hell of a laugh that was beyond contagious. You could not hear Ronnie's laugh and avoid a smile. I still hear his laugh every time I think about him. Ronnie's wife and my Aunt is Carolyn. Ron and Carolyn had two children, Matthew and Dea. Matthew is married to Erin and they have three beautiful daughters, Dylan, Iris, and Vera (with twins-one boy and one girl-on the way!)
Billy, "Daddy Billy," the Patriarch. It all goes back to him and his dear wife, my grandmother, Reinette (or as we all call her, "Heidi.") This is where all of our family traditions and roots began. Billy passed at the age of 90, after 68 incredible years with Heidi. Like Ronnie, Billy was known for his wonderful sense-of-humor (a running theme in our family!) He never spoke a negative word of anyone and had a heart as good as gold. I have never known someone to radiate so much love by just a glance. Both my sister and I were blessed to have him "cut in" on our Daddy-Daughter dance at our weddings. My Dad and Ronnie have two sisters, Claudia Bush and Reinette "Cott" Miller. My Dad, Heidi, Claudia, Cott, all of our cousins, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, aunts, and uncles are as thick as thieves. The love, traditions, and soul of Billy and Ronnie will live on through all of us.
Billy and I
Billy and I dancing at my wedding
After Billy's memorial service, guests were invited to a restaurant for Mexican food and margaritas to celebrate his incredible life. Everything had been paid for in advance (by Billy!) Only this man would have a pre-paid celebration with food and margaritas after his funeral--amazing. The picture above is a note from Billy that was so special to everyone. "Adios mis amigos" .. sums up his wonderful personality so well and gave us peace to read something written by him.
Ronnie and I. One of my favorite pictures of all time. Look at those smiles!! We weren't having fun or anything?! :)
Ronnie always coordinated the "Good Guy Shoots" for the men in our family to get together, have a good time, catch up, and shoot some skeet! My Dad has planned an up-coming shoot in honor of Billy and Ronnie.
Billy, Heidi, and Ronnie. Another one of my favorite pictures of all time. The way they are looking at their son... So special.
Our two angels.
Daddy Billy spoke beautifully at Ronnie's funeral, something no father should ever have to do. He spoke of tradition and family-- nothing could have been more fitting for Billy to talk about, especially for a day in honor of someone who was known for cherishing these two things. As you can see, these two had a lot in common. Like father, like son. I know I speak for so many people when I say we miss you both more than words can express. I'm so blessed for the cherished years and love you two so, so very much.