By Sharon Mager, BCM/D Correspondent
LANSDOWNE, Md.—Bill and Jody were obviously flirting with each other at Panera Bread. They gave each other the “eye,” complemented each other often, and even shared a quick kiss. Rumor also has it that they put romantic pictures and mushy stuff about each other on Facebook. A young couple in love? That depends on perspective. The Cochrans have been married for almost 30 years, but they’re definitely in love. Honestly, they weren’t always that snuggly, but recently, they’ve gained renewed passion for life and love after Bill Cochran, pastor of First Church, Lansdowne, fell on ice and life changed as he and Jody knew it.
It happened shortly after the second blizzard hit Baltimore. On Sunday, Feb. 21, Cochran was stepping out of the car, heading to the church to make last minute sermon preparations. He slipped on black ice and all six foot four inches crashed to the ground, landing on his head.
“The next memory I have, sometime later, is of Jody standing over me calling my name and asking me if I was ok.”
Bill didn’t make it to church that day, but shakily walked home. He had a headache and was disoriented. Jody was frightened.
The next day, his doctor diagnosed a concussion and prescribed rest and pain medicine. But the symptoms worsened. His headaches became more severe and he experienced fatigue, confusion, memory loss, inability to mentally focus, lack of motivation and speech difficulties. He went back to the doctor and was diagnosed with post-concussive syndrome.
“During that period I didn’t leave the house and had no desire to see or interact with anyone, including my family and close friends. All of my “normal” life activities, interests, and ministry completely ceased. While it was clear to those around me that everything about me had somehow changed, I had no understanding of what was happening to me or why.”
He missed two weeks of worship. When he returned, he did so slowly, attending Sunday school, then later Wednesday night services, but he was not able to take part in the discussions, planning or in leadership. In fact, Jody said her normal laughing, fun-to-be around husband did not want to talk to anyone.
Bill fell into the pit of despair and Jody feared he’d never get out. Some don’t, she said. Doctors weren’t sure he’d completely recover.
“It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to deal with,” Jody admitted. Zeke Mercer and Scott Hutchinson, two laymen in the church, were always helping; getting Bill to worship and back home and daily offering support and encouragement. “He needed a lot of care in the beginning. He would sit in a dark room with the lights out and wouldn’t even talk.” Jody said.
An avid Facebooker, Bill’s posts had stopped abruptly, leaving friends wondering what happened. But Jody’s posts were heartbreaking, “I want my old Bill back!”
Baltimore Director of Missions Bob Mackey was a big help with Bill’s recovery.
“He would come in and tell Bill to get dressed and wouldn’t take no for an answer. At times Bill was resistant, but Bob said, ‘Do you trust me enough to do what I am asking you to do?’ Bill responded. Mackey went to the therapist with Bill several times. He also sent emails with certain questions to help with Bill’s slow recovery.
Tom Rodgerson, BCM/D’s missionary for ministers’ counseling and support, was also very helpful as Bill had to begin to face his fears as he slowly recovered.
One of those fears was that he would not be able to control his speech enough to preach a sermon. Bill was afraid of saying something inappropriate. His brain therapist suggested Bill prepare a sermon and preach it to him while being video recorded.
Bill said he could feel God’s presence as he preached that sermon to the therapist. “It was amazing. God was in it,” he said. Bill preached on allowing God to lead by the still waters. The therapist, a believer, said afterwards that the sermon was really for him, that God used Bill’s sermon to speak to his heart. It was just what the therapist needed.
Jody remembers when she realized her husband was truly recovering. “We were in the therapist’s office and Bob (Mackey) had said something, I can’t remember what it was, but Bill smiled and chuckled. It was shocking. I realized he can smile, he can laugh. It was like a weight being lifted,” she said.
Eleven weeks after his fall, on Mother’s Day, Cochran stepped back in the pulpit. “He had no fear, reservation or hesitation. God had taken all of that away,” Jody said.
He thanked God for his ongoing recovery and he praised Jody for staying by his side. Jody acknowledges it wasn’t easy and there were many tears.
“Jody was a rock during that time. I shudder to think what I’d do without Jody,” Bill said.
Bill and Jody agree that Bill’s accident was a life changing experience that brought them both closer to God and to each other.
“We went to a marriage conference for ministers and wives in Rehoboth and renewed our commitments in earnest—praying together and putting each other first.”
Bill still struggles with some short term memory, concentration difficulties and some stuttering from time to time, but he’s overwhelmingly thankful that God has restored him.
Bill said several scriptures have been a constant source of strength and encouragement to me.
• Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose,” This promise assures me that even when I don’t understand why, or how or when… GOD does and HE promises that it will ultimately be for HIS good.
• 2 Corinthians 12:10 “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” No matter what difficulties I face, no matter how weak I become… Christ’s strength remains constant. I trust that the weaker I become the stronger HE is able to manifest HIS grace in and through my life.
• Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” I do not have to understand! In fact GOD doesn’t even want me to try. He simply wants me to trust HIM, believe and acknowledge that HE and HE alone is in control. What a relief to know that I don’t have to know… for HE does!