Posts Tagged ‘Dan Kopen’

Dr. Dan F. Kopen: A Celebration of Life

Sunday, May 31st, 2015

Dr. Dan F. Kopen: A Celebration of Life

Written by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Photographs by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Copyright 2015
Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD
The Face of America Project

Because someone we love is in heaven, there’s a little bit of heaven in our home.

Mercy Center in Dallas, Pennsylvania, founded by the Religious Sisters of Mercy, is a place Kitch and I know very well. WhenIMG_9629_sm_MC Kitch’s mother was in the long term care unit, we were there almost every day.

Located on the campus of Misericordia University, this facility and its staff reflect the inner light of Mother Catherine McCauley’s advice to meet people with peace and ease and to treat people with kind words, gentle and compassionate looks and a patient hearing of their sorrows.

At Mercy Center the four charisms of the Sisters of Mercy: Hospitality, Justice, Service and Mercy are practiced every day.

On this beautiful May afternoon, our destination was the chapel in Mercy Center. There we would offer condolences to Kathy Kopen, her children, her mother-in-law and her sister-in-law, and we would participate in “A Celebration of the Life and Loving Memory of Dr. Dan F. Kopen.” Both experiences produced priceless moments of admiration, friendship, gratitude and love.

What happened during the reception is private and personal, and it will remain in our hearts forever.

The celebration of life service was a beautiful and poignant tribute to a great man. This is our attempt to reconstruct the event and share several of the inspirational thoughts that put Dan Kopen’s life in perspective

A Wonderful Man

Shortly after 3 p.m., Sister Carol Gallagher welcomed everyone, IMG_1141smand she set the tone for the service with a quotation from New York Times columnist, David Brooks: I came to the conclusion that wonderful people are made, not born – that the people I admired had achieved an unfakeable inner virtue, built slowly from specific moral and spiritual accomplishments.

She characterized Dr. Dan F. Kopen as a wonderful person. They met 30 years ago when he was a young physician at Mercy Hospital in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. According to Sister Carol, Dr. Kopen was a man of strong opinions, kindness, gentleness and compassion.

Before she finished her remarks, she thanked Dr. Kopen for his gift of energizing love. In so doing she affirmed one of the most001620_CM important instructions of the woman who founded the Sisters of Mercy, Mother Catherine McAuley:

The most acceptable return a benefactor can receive from those on whom he bestows favors, is a countenance testifying the gratitude of the heart.

Sister Carol’s colleague, Sister Robert Marie, led the congregation in singing Amazing Grace.

The beautiful lyrics of this song and the magnificent voice of Sister Robert Marie caused a rush of emotions that made it impossible for me to participate in this part of the service.

After the opening prayer, Dr. Kopen’s children, Krystin, Kaytlin and Derek, read their father’s favorite poem, “If” by Rudyard Kipling. It was a very touching moment, because it reminded me of my high school graduation. On that day, my parents gave me a card inscribed with the “If” poem and a note that read: “If you follow this advice, you will be happy.”

An Ethical and Moral Man

Dr. Thomas Kelly, a distinguished college professor and administrator, has been a friend of Dr. Kopen since the 1950s. He FF Schoolcame to the podium with a notebook and a purpose. He wanted to define his friend by sharing special moments from their lifetime friendship. They grew up in a small town, Forty Fort, Pennsylvania. They participated in Little League, football and wrestling. They were outstanding students and leaders both in high school and in college.

When he was a teenager, Tom Kelly identified several characteristics in his friend, Dan Kopen, the second baseman on the Little League team and the slender young man who had his neck broken in a wrestling match. Dan Kopen was sincere, hardworking and studious. He had grit. Tom Kelly believes that distinguished him and became the foundation for his many successes in life.

Dr. Kelly shared the main point in his reflection in words that were carefully chosen and unequivocal: “Dan Kopen was the most moral and ethical person I have ever known.” Sitting in the back of the room, I could see people nodding their heads in agreement.

Once again, the words of Mother Catherine McAuley apply:

The simplest and most practical lesson I know…is to resolve to be good today, but better tomorrow.

A well-known scriptural reading from Ecclesiastes followed Dr. Kelly’s remarks. It began with words familiar to everyone in the congregation:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.

A Compassionate Man

In 1987, a nurse named Michelle joined the medical team at Dr. Dan Kopen’s office. For the next 27 years she worked closely with Dr. Kopen and his wife Kathy to give patients excellent care. KitchIMG_8980_Michelle and I met Michelle when she visited our home to check Kitch’s reaction after her lumpectomy. Michelle was polite, pleasant and very supportive.

On this day she talked about the boss she loved, the patients he told her to think of first, and the members of her family whose lives were saved by Dr. Kopen’s extraordinary surgical skill.

Five times during her presentation she used the word compassion to describe Dr. Kopen and his interaction with patients. Every time she used this word she provided an example to help people better understand how Dr. Kopen’s kind and compassionate way helped patients and family members deal with the horrifying diagnosis of cancer. He knew when to give a patient a hug. A patient told Michelle, “He could deliver bad news and make you feel good about it.” A patient’s daughter was so impressed with Dr. Kopen’s care for her mother, she decided to become an oncology nurse. He knew that at some point in life we all need to be carried, and he knew how to carry people with compassion, kindness and skill. Patients sensed his quiet confidence and his compassion.

In her Cork Manuscript, Catherine McAuley wrote something that DDK_smsummarizes everything Michelle Rohrbeck said about her relationship with Dr. Kopen and his relationship with everyone he met:

Our charity is to be cordial. Now cordial signifies something that renews, invigorates and warms. Such should be the effect of our love for each other.

Michelle Rohrbeck’s insightful portrait of Dr. Kopen was followed by the singing of the Prayer of St. Francis and a reading from scripture, Romans 6:3-4. 8-9. Then, Sister Robert Marie sang the Alleluia, and the congregation joined her.

After this touching moment, a Catholic priest read the Gospel, John 14:1-6, 23, 27.

A Lucky Man

Sister Kate Morris is a member of the faculty at Holy Redeemer High School. In 1990, she met Dr. Kopen as a patient. During her battle with cancer, she experienced his “wonderful uniqueness.”

In a soft spoken voice, she told the congregation, my doctor was the best. He was dignified, humble, compassionate, gentle, thorough,IMG_4669_DK_OR and kind. He inconvenienced himself to get her information about her condition in a timely way.

She provided a memorable portrait of Dr. Kopen when she shared this story. On the day of her father’s surgery, her mother asked if she could bless Dr. Kopen’s hands with holy relics. Dr. Kopen responded with a comment, “I will take the holy relics with me into surgery. We will both be in God’s hands.”

After her surgery and treatment, Sister Kate became a loyal family friend of the Kopens. She recounted visits to their home and priceless moments she shared with his family. On one occasion, Dr. Kopen told her he was a lucky man. He said his most precious gift was his family, and he believed that all gifts are given by God.

Sister Kate ended her reflection with this description of her friend. Dan Kopen was a brilliant, dignified, loving, caring man. We experienced through him the love of God.
Sister Kate’s heartfelt tribute was deeply rooted in a cardinal rule of Catherine McAuley:

Confidence in God causes us to hope, for everything comes from His paternal goodness.

Community Moments

The final part of this beautiful celebration of life can best be described as a series of community moments. There was a thoughtful IMG_9620_sm_MCprayer of the faithful, in which everyone in the chapel asked a God of mercy to hear our prayer.

We sang a hymn that always evokes emotion and reflection, Let There Be Peace On Earth.

Karen Reiniger, an administrator at Mercy Center, led the congregation in a closing prayer, and Sister Robert Marie sang a passionate rendition of an Irish Blessing.

Before people left the chapel they stopped to talk with friends and acquaintances. They sought out the speakers to offer their thanks for the eloquent words they spoke about Dr. Kopen.

In the chapel at Mercy Center we gathered to celebrate Dr. Dan F. Kopen. Our hearts were burdened by the loss of this great man. KitchK_DC and I came to this gathering with a gnawing emptiness knowing that we would never see Dan Kopen. When we left, the pain was still real, but there was also a building sense of comfort. The mosaic of his life made us certain that he is in heaven. As Kitch said so thoughtfully, “Instead of praying for him, we can now pray to him.”

“A Celebration of Life: In Loving Memory of Dr. Dan Kopen” was a perfect tribute to a husband, a father, a brother, a son, a friend and a surgeon who is loved by many. Dr. Kopen’s life gives great meaning to Mother Catherine McAuley’s words:

If we are humble and sincere, God will finish in us the work He has begun. He never refuses His grace to those who ask it.

Thank you, Dr. Kopen for showing us the way to a life of health and happiness.

Thank you, Dr. Kopen for your inspiring example of what America is at its very best.

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