Jason Cohen Makes Light Out of Loss

From childhood losses, the friendly, chatty junior takes the lesson to make the most of his time with people.


Colin Taylor

Senior Jason Cohen is known at Friends for his generosity and ability to chat with anyone.

Alexander Assoufid, Contributor

We sat in the corner of the room next to the window. Junior Jason Cohen was sitting on the couch with the sunlight completely absorbing his body.

He shared funny stories about how he missed a grade-wide dinner on a field trip and the time he chucked a rubber duck and hit his face. It “knocked me out!” he said, chuckling.

His presence added a bright optimistic light to Ms. Wiltenburg’s room, almost as if he was enhancing the sunlight that reached the room. 

We all see Jason in the hall or in the quad, interacting with everything and everyone that surrounds him. He strolls through the halls telling stories and jokes to those around him as if he’s known them for years and wants to know them for years to come.

But his early childhood holds a darker story, filled with loss.

When Jason was eight, his mother died. He remembers the night it had happened. He woke up to the sound of sirens, and red flashing lights that covered the walls of his room. He ran downstairs to see his father, who told him his mother had just suffered a heart attack. 

The next few days of school, he remembers that all his classmates gave him those bracelets made of rubber bands, that were popular that year. They almost completely covered his arms.

“I don’t have enough arm for this!” he remembers thinking.

But the next year, he became really scared of death – to the point that he couldn’t eat. He was afraid that the food he was given was poisoned. His father had to drink or eat anything before he felt comfortable eating it himself.

“I hadn’t really processed what had happened,” he says. 

During this time, Jason got a lot of support from his grandparents.

His first memory is also of his grandparents. When he was really young, they would drive him to a burger place after school. He remembers his grandfather would always listen to “Rain is a Good Thing” on the country music station. Jason spent a lot of time at his grandparents’ house.

“It was almost my home away from home,” he recalls.

But in 2018, his grandfather died. Jason remembers the day it happened. His father was on the phone with his uncle, and Jason heard his uncle say “pull the plug.” Jason locked himself in the basement to protect himself from what was going on.

After his grandfather’s death, Jason says, his grandmother was most affected by his grandfather’s passing. The next year, she passed away too.

Jason remembers clearing out his grandparents’ house. He says he felt like he was “getting rid of all the memories.”

“What was a lesson that your grandparents or mom taught you,” I asked him.

With no hesitation, he answered that he learned to really embrace the time he had with everyone he’s met.

“I’m so sorry for your losses,” I said to him. I couldn’t believe he shared that part of his story with me. I was afraid I had made him uncomfortable or something.

“It’s fine,” he said.

I looked up at him. The sunlight coming through the window still illuminated his figure and everything around him.