Mariah Kochavi, DVM (4/1/1980-12/24/2009)

December 27, 2009

Dear Friends,

My heart is breaking as I write to tell you that our beautiful Mariah passed from this earth on Christmas Eve.

Army Captain Kochavi struggled to overcome multiple physical disabilities that resulted from a brain stem stroke she suffered while trekking in the mountains of Peru on Father’s Day in June, 2008. Even more difficult than the physical impairments were an intractable depression and inexplicable inability to see and accept the amazing progress she made.

For several months after the stroke, she could not speak, eat, swallow, hold anything in her hand, or even sit up unaided. Eighteen months later she was able to do all those things, and much more. Recently, she was even walking with the assistance of a guide dog for balance.

Mariah was brave, strong, and stubborn. We cheered her on as she poured her heart into work that was frustrating, physically painful, and often without reward, and she did so in spite of an entrenched belief that she simply wasn’t getting better. I’m certain that Mariah would wish us to be brave, strong, and stubborn as we face tough times – like this one – in our own lives.

A final thought: Mariah was unique and as an artist she shaped the spaces, people and ideas around her into unexpected forms. Even in reemergence, she managed to surprise by reframing what that could mean. My expectation was not that she would recover precisely all she had lost, but that she would figure out how to transform the broken parts of her body, psyche, and dreams into a new Mariah, different and in many ways stronger than before. Mariah gave that an honest shot, but she finally chose to give it another meaning altogether. Instead of rehabbing one body for another, she chose to reinvent herself as an angel, as a pure spirit, eternally free of limits. Unconfined at last, Mariah now inhabits the warmest and most intimate places in our hearts.

Farewell, Bunny. God bless you. We love you to pieces.

– Mark

P.S. When we have information about a memorial service and where to send cards and flowers, I’ll post it here.

Perhaps these photos (click on the thumbnails to see a larger image) will help you recall Mariah’s amazing life and works. I hope you’ll find yourself in here, either in person or in spirit.


39 Responses to “Mariah Kochavi, DVM (4/1/1980-12/24/2009)”

  1. Cyndie said

    I will keep you all in my prayers. I know Mariah was blessed to have you as her family.

  2. Kevin Borth said

    Mariah touched my heart the minute I met her. I have met many people in my life and Mariah was one of the most special and wonderful people I have ever met. My heart is breaking right now. I am so sad but I know she is smiling down on all of us. I am blessed to have know her and I am greatful for the time we spent together. My thoughts go out to you all

    Love Kevin

  3. Dave Shanahan said

    Always smiling and warm, Mariah inspired everyone around her. In spite of her disabilities, Mariah’s therapy included kayaking, in which she was deliberate, skillfull and always true on her course – this was the essence of Mariah as I knew her. Mariah was so dear and I pray for her and all who loved her.

  4. Leah said

    Thank you for the post, Mark. Mariah was always an angel. You are in my thoughts.


  5. Terry Sweetser said

    My heart breaks for you, Mark and for Clay. Through this you have taught us about fatherly love and compassion. Now you are teaching us about grief and hope.

    Mariah’s life calls us to our best selves. She had a great Dad, who does the same.

    Blessings and love,


  6. joshua heider said

    I only recently found out about all this. I’m just an old aquaintance from the late 90’s to mid 2000. I just happened to be curious about her and saw this. My prayers go out to you all. I am so sorry for everyone’s immense loss.


  7. Joseph Alroy said

    I am sorry to hear about the loss of Maria. She was one of my favorit student. She was hard working and motivated student!!! She liked to talk to me in Hebrew.
    We all miss her.


  8. Angie Warner said

    All of us at Tufts Cummings School remember Mariah for her enthusiasm for veterinary medicine and love of her classmates. We share your grief and our thoughts go out to you at this difficult time.

  9. coconazi said

    Im sorry for your loss. I will keep you and your family in my prayers. ‚̧

  10. Flecks of Sunshine said

    I just stumbled upon your post and it touched my very being, bringing tears to my eyes and loss to my heart. I am so very sorry for your loss, Mariah sounds like an amazing human being. God bless you and your family.

  11. Dylan said

    I knew Mariah in high school and found her to be exceptionally bright, talented and independent. I’ve never met anyone like her before or since. We are all better for having known her.

    I wish your family the very best in recovering from this tragedy. Although Mariah is no longer physically here, you’ll be able to keep her spirit with you for the rest of your lives, and no person or event will ever be able to take that away.

  12. Sharon Chase said

    Rarely do you meet someone who is not only intellectually gifted but also athletic, artistic, and compassionate. That is the Mariah that I remember from vet school.

    You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

  13. Elizabeth said

    I am one of many who loved Mariah dearly. Although I am heartbroken to hear the news, I am confident that this is not the end of her story. Mariah was a friend, mentor, teacher, and source of strength for so many of us that we will continue to hold her up as an example of how to live.
    Over the course of the past 18 months, you have shown us how to love someone. You have courageously shared your hopes and fears & taught us that it is possible to be both vulnerable and strong in the face of adversity.
    I am grateful to have known Mariah and honored to have called her a friend.
    Thank you for this beautiful message and for sharing your life with us.


  14. Monica Cayanong said

    I am terribly saddened after hearing that Mariah passed away. She was truly an amazing young lady. I will pray for her soul and for all of her loved ones, that God may provide comfort at this difficult time.


  15. Brandon Huff said

    I met Mariah this summer through Team River Runner. Having suffered a stroke myself in ’05, along with losing my leg, Bob Alexander INSISTED I meet with her as she was having a rough few weeks. I first watched her get into her kayak in the WRAMC pool; and, although assisted by Carla, I noticed instantly that the woman with the infectious, glowing smile was not only supremely stubborn, –and after reading all, yes all, her family’s blogs, I see i am not the only one who picked up on this– she was also inspiringly graceful in every movement she made. Every twist and set-up she made with the paddle was just as deliberate as the one before it, each stroke followed by one exponentially more beautiful than its predecessor.
    After introducing myself, Mariah and I got about as acquainted as two strangers can while meeting in their swimsuits: swapping injury information, griping about the social and familial issues associated with paresis, etc. I started telling Mariah about how much easier things become over time, and how they a lot of things become second nature again, but, out of the blue, something sort of dawned on me: I was supposed to be telling this sweet girl how easy things were going to be down the road, but, in reality, the woman looking back at me had come so much further in 12 months than I had with half the damage…so instead i simply peered back into those blue eyes, told Mariah she $*&@ing rocked, and asked her how she got to be so awesome
    I have met a lot of truly amazing people since i first got to Walter Reed nearly 5 years ago, many of whom i proudly call ‘friend’; however, in the handful of times Mariah and I crossed paths this summer, I knew without a doubt this woman was and will forever be my true hero.

    Mariah, I may not be blessed with your presence again in this world but we will see each other on the river again in the next


  16. Thomas Arvey said

    Family of Mariah,

    I am truly saddened by your loss! Mariah was and will forever be such a wonderful “angel” that I will remember forever! Working with her while she was assigned to the National Capital DVC was truly a pleasure and she made that experience all that much more. Always seeing her beautiful smile, her energy, and her overall love for mankind and the animals she worked with.

    Mariah is a trooper and she will be remembered forever!!

    My prayers and thoughts go out to all the family and friends!!

    With all my love,

  17. Ann & Ted Nettles said

    We met Mariah several months ago while visiting at WRAMC. She was having breakfast in the Mologne House cafeteria with her mom and brother. She had the biggest smile that day and every time we saw her. We saw her again just a few weeks ago and were so proud to see her walking!

    Mariah, you were such an inspiration to us…we feel blessed to have met you.

    You are all in our prayers.

    Ann & Ted

  18. Shane McNamee said


    Our deepest condolences from the staff at the Richmond Polytrauma Center. It was a joy to come to know your family and to work with Mariah.

    Shane McNamee

  19. Michael said

    I have nothing but warm memories of Mariah from our years together as Sidwell classmates. She was always such a positive, sharp, and creative spirit. I wish there were more people like here in the world.

    Please accept my sincere condolences. Very best wishes,

  20. Michele Tornabene said

    To Mariah’s family,
    Words cannot express my sorrow when I heard the news..She was in my life for such a short amount of time but her impact was so big!

    Love and Peace
    Michele Tornabene
    Greenbelt Sarge Program

  21. Monique said

    I was so saddened to hear of your loss today. Mariah was an amazing young woman and I was honored to have worked with her during her recovery. My condolences to you and your family.

  22. Heidi Bassani said

    My heart is so broken for you at the loss of Mariah. Since her first days at Walter Reed when her room was constantly FULL of visitors, I knew Mariah was an amazing soul. Like so many others, she touched me in many ways and it was an honor to know her. I believe that she is now at peace, kayaking her way through beautiful, clear waters and feeling the warm breeze of freedom on her face once again. I wish you all, her friends and family, that peace too.

  23. Teela Baker-Burdick said

    I met Mariah in Nov of 2006 at Fort Meade, MD. She was the DVM at the vet clinic I was just starting to work at. I was a new soldier, a single soldier… a lonely, bored, sad soldier.

    She took me into her home at Christmas, fed me dinner and made me feel like I had a friend. I was new there, she didn’t have to do that. She didn’t want me to be alone at Christmas. She showed Gracie and myself her picture albums and told us about what like was like growing up for her. She told us about modeling and her dreams. We met her husband and her pets she had at home. I was already acquainted with the lovely Chai, the stray that she has rescued. I called her Mariah, we became friends.

    At work, she was still “CPT K”, the new vet that cared a lot about the animals we saw on a daily basis. She was skilled, proficient, and trustworthy.

    In April 2007 I had surgery to get my wisdom teeth taken out. She took me to the hospital, held my hand while they put me out, and when I woke up, she was there. She drove me home, helped me get to bed, and even came back later with food and ice cream to help me get through. Everyday she checked on me, everyday she made sure I was okay. I don’t think I thanked her enough for that.

    I went to visit her right after they moved her to Walter Reed and at that point she had socks on, one said yes, the other said no. If you asked her a question she could wiggle her toes to answer. It was sad, but made us hopeful at the same time to know that she was still Mariah, just trapped in her body unable to act like Mariah on the outside. I was pregnant with my son at the time and just a couple months earlier they had thrown me a baby shower. She was smiling and laughing then, so it was so hard to see her lying in a hospital bed after knowing what she was like before.

    It was so hard that it took me a long time to see her again physically. I sent her cards and flowers to remind her that I cared.

    In September of this year I went to see her again. I was getting ready to leave for California. I stopped by the hospital, I bought flowers and a card. I went up the the ward she was in. They had her in the psychiatric ward. I wondered why, but didn’t ask.
    It wasn’t visiting hours but the doctors were so kind and let me go in to see her. They said everyone could use a “pick me up” sometime. I took her the flowers. She smiled when she saw me. We made small talk about her progress and about family. I told her that we miss and love her and that we think about her everyday. After a few minutes the doctors came in to show me out. I hugged her and said goodbye.

    I didn’t think that it would be the last time I would see her. I didn’t think that she would go away. I was hoping that she would recover and get out of the hospital. After 18 months she had made such progress, she was talking, walking and even working a little bit in a diagnostics lab. Her nights were spent in the hospital though. I was hopeful that those days would end.

    Heaven is definitely lucky to have an angel like Mariah.


  24. Irene said

    Mark and Family, I am so saddened by your loss. I am honored to have been a part of Mariah’s rehab in Virginia. I am glad to hear about all of the horseback riding that she did in DC and will never forget that first time we took her out to Lonesome Dove. I take comfort in the fact that Mariah is now at peace, and that you and your family can rest your hearts knowing that there is another guardian angel in heaven.

  25. J.T. Magee said


    I was/am saddened to hear of the news of Mariah’s journey here on Earth coming to an end. All of us here at McGuire would often talk about her and just how infectious her smile was. What a wonderful smile she possesed. Thank You for the photos you have shared. They are wonderful. I feel honored to have known her and blessed to have been a small part of her life. Please pass on my condolences to Clay and the rest of the family.

  26. Ann Gallagher said

    I met Mariah for the first time at my wedding. As I waited nervously before the ceremony, this lovely little girl walked in and kept me company for a while. I remember that she wore her hair in a French braid. Even as a 7-year-old woman, Mariah exuded elegance and grace, both of person and spirit.

    Our hearts go out to her family, whose loving efforts on her behalf we have followed with hope and admiration.

    The Gallagher/Degitz family

  27. Bola Oyeleye said

    To Mariah’s family.
    I am so very sorry for your loss. I don’t even think there are any words that can express the depth of my sadness, and I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult this must be for you. I wish you continued strenght and courage.

    Mariah was a substitute instructor at my Greenbelt Boot Camp class (the Sargents Program). I only met her a few times, but she had this aura of grace and serenity that left an indeliable impression on you.

    In the last 18 months, through this page, I had gotten to learn more about her, her strenght of character, and courage, and always hoped that I would have an oportunity to tell her in person how inspiring she was.

    I salute your courage and fortitude through all this, and I hope you find a bit of comfort in the knowledge that anyone who ever met Mariah can never forget her.
    She will always live in the memories of those she touched.

    Best Regards,
    Bola ‘2k9

  28. Melanie Tong (Tufts) said

    Mariah was a wonderful student and will be the an amazing angel. She is already missed.

  29. Beth Graham said

    Dear Mark:

    Words fail — for those of us who work with you. But undoubtedly for all of you closest to Mariah.

    Please know that in the clumsy words people may use — or in the silences of those who don’t know what to say — and for sure in the utterings of those who are eloquent — please know this truth. That you and yours are loved and that all in your world are holding you close.

    Hugs, Beth

  30. I knew Mariah for only a few years, seeing her annually at our husbands’ company Managers Trips to Hawaii. From the few times I was able to spend with her I learned what a brilliant, passionate and beautiful woman she was. She will be remembered with fondness.
    My heart aches for your loss. Please know you are all in my thoughts and prayers!
    Marilee Christofferson

  31. Bob Kosturko said

    Mark, I’m so sorry to hear of Mariah’s passing. Words fail me . . . Know that I will keep you and your Mariah in my heart.

    Bob Kosturko

  32. Sarah Chapman said


    I am so very sorry for your loss. May your memories of your daughter give you strength in this time of sadness.
    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

    In Peace,

  33. Janet said

    My heart stopped when I read about Mariah’s death. I know how difficult, even impossible, it is to understand a choice like hers. I hope you, Clay, and Mariah’s mother will be kind to yourselves as you grieve, and that you’ll cherish thousands of happy memories as you slowly begin to heal.

    It seems like Mariah did more living, loving, helping, and healing in her few short years than the rest of us achieve in a lifetime. We all share your loss.

  34. Darry Madden said

    Dear Mark,
    I’m so sorry to learn about your heartbreaking loss. I never met your beautiful daughter, but the photos of her tell of an intelligent, warm and kind woman. You must miss her very much.

    In Peace,
    Darry Madden

  35. Kenneth Sutton said


    My heart goes out to you and to your family. Your response is inspiring.

    In friendship,

  36. Tera Little said

    Mark, I am so sorry to hear of this tremendous, painful loss of your daughter. There are so many of us holding you and your family close in our hearts right now.
    Blessings, Tera

    • Abby Shoyeb said

      Dear Mark, Mary, and Clay

      I am truly saddened and shocked over the precious loss of a sweetest beautiful wonderful awesome friend and person God blessed us. May Almighty bless you all the courage strength to bear this precious loss. Please accept my sincerest deepest thoughts prayers and sympathies. May Almighty bless each one of you and keep you all under His loving care including our dearest Mariah.

      Best Regards, blessings

  37. Wheelchair Pete said

    Mariah touched my heart and soul. What beautiful eyes and what a beautiful smile. She worked hard. God bless the child and God bless the family.

  38. Emily Sherman said

    Dear Mark and Clay,

    I’m so very sorry to hear about Mariah – I only found out today, half a year later, after seeing a link to your blog on a college friend’s facebook page, and wish I could have known and been in touch with you earlier.

    I was Mariah’s sophomore year college roommate at the Oldenborg language dorm. She was always, in those days, an incredibly spirited and energetic girl with a love for sports, outdoors activities and the adventure of meeting new people and trying new things around L.A. in general, so I can imagine how hard it must have been for her to feel so limited after her stroke. We weren’t in touch much after college ended, just an occasional e-mail, but I have so many great memories of our fun and friendship at Pomona, especially that year in the German hall. I also have a whole lot of photos – both of her, and ones she took of our hallmates – from that year. If you think it would be joyful, rather than painful, to see some of these pictures of Mariah’s time at Pomona, I’d love to send you copies and tell you some of the memories behind them. Just send me an e-mail and let me know (

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