Mariah Kochavi – Memorial Update

December 29, 2009

Mariah and Dad, Christmas Day, 2007

First, to the more than 1,000 visitors to this blog in the last two days, and to the dozens of folks sending emails and calling to express condolence: thank you.

Mariah touched and inspired hundreds of people, and it seems clear she’ll continue to do so for a very long time. Her obituary was printed in today’s (Tuesday, 12/29) Washington Post Metro section on page B2. The print edition includes two beautiful photos of Mariah. You can also view it online here.

Here’s what we understand about memorial arrangements for her. These may be subject to change, so check back here for updates before making plans.

Mariah directed that her remains be donated to science (she is the gift that keeps on giving), so there will be no viewing or traditional funeral  with a casket.

Next Wednesday, January 6, there will be brief Moment of Remembrance at 0800 in the gymnasium at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. This event is open but intended primarily for the soldiers in Mariah’s brigade.

On Saturday, January 16, at 2:30 pm, a Quaker Memorial Meeting service will be conducted at Bethesda Friends Meeting in Bethesda, Maryland. The service will be in the fashion of Quakers, featuring about an hour of respectful silence punctuated by brief, spontaneous spoken messages that help us feel connected to Mariah and to one another. All are welcome, but seating is limited and available on a first-come basis. Check here for updates concerning child care, time changes, address, etc.

Finally, sometime after 6-12 months, there will likely be a service at Arlington National Cemetery where Mariah’s remains will be laid to rest in a military ceremony befitting an officer of the United States Army. Our hope is that she will be borne from the cemetery chapel to her resting place on a caisson drawn by the same beautiful horses she loved so much at Ft. Myer.

The family is determining where donations can be made in Mariah’s name. That information will be posted when it’s available. In the meantime, please send cards or correspondence only to:

Mary-O King (mother)
4425 Chestnut St.
Bethesda, MD 20814

Clay Steinwinter (brother)
1206 Cotanche St., Apt. #1
Greenville, NC 27858

Mark Steinwinter (father)
181 Cabot Street
Newton, MA 02458

Thank you once again for your prayers and expressions of sympathy. Every single kind word and thought helps us move into a new world illuminated even more brightly by Mariah’s shining spirit.

– Mark


7 Responses to “Mariah Kochavi – Memorial Update”

  1. Rosemarie Annese said

    To Mariah’s loved ones,

    Her amazing spirit will live on in your hearts, cherish each memory for they will susatain you.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you as you cope with this tragic loss.

    Blue to Gold Liaison
    Blue Star Mothers, MA Chapter 1

  2. Billinda Chevalier said

    To Mariah’s Family,

    Mariah was such a light in a dark place to my entire family. When we received the call on Christmas Eve, we all wept. We agonized that we had no contact information to send our condolences to the family.
    She was the first person to touch our life upon arrival to WRAMC last January. We didn’t see her again until April. Thereafter, she just became “one of the family…” whenever she would join us. Indeed, she had come so far. She was an angel and we loved her deeply! Her’s (and Mary-O’s) were the last faces we saw at Walter Reed on December 22, as we were heading home for some long-overdue leave. She looked up and smiled as we called to her from the car as we passed. Her smile is etched into my mind and heart. She will be deeply missed by all of us!

    Our thoughts and prayers are with you, Mark, Mary-O and Clay as you grieve.

    With Deepest Sympathy,
    SGT & Mrs. Bret Chevalier
    Kami, Kayley & Alex

  3. Linda Laskowski said

    To Mariah’s family,

    I met Mariah only through Mark’s blog, but felt part of her recovery. This incredibly talented, beautiful, and spirited woman was such a powerful reminder of all we love. I cheered aloud when she walked down the aisle as bridesmaid — and wept when I read the email from Mark. She touched the lives of so many in a very positive way, even those of us who never met her.

    My condolences for your loss, and gratitude that she was in your lives, even if for far too brief a time.

  4. Bob "Bonehead"Alexander said

    Mariah and I became friends through the Team River Runner kayaking program. Several times a week, she joined our group of patients, therapists, soldiers and volunteers in the pool or river. She loved the challenge of running rapids or climbing boulders; and fell in love with the wildlife and scenery of the Potomac River.

    Mariah’s determination and gracious manner soon won everyone’s admiration, as well as their hearts. She possessed not only beauty and intelligence, but also amazing courage in the face of adversity. Even through her suffering, that radiant smile and pleasant demeanor never failed, and we truly cherished her companionship.

    Mariah’s death left a void in my life that was first filled with tears, but is now overflowing with all the wonderful memories and comfort that her spirit provides.

    God bless you and keep you in this difficult time.

    Bob Alexander

  5. Don Lange said

    “Just listen”

    On Saturday, January 16th, I attended a memorial service for my friend,
    Captain Mariah Kochavi.

    I hesitate to use the term “friend”, because I am not sure I knew her well
    enough to claim that title. However, I think Mariah is probably comfortable
    with it, and considering that she gave me something of considerable value,
    no other term seems quite appropriate.

    Mariah was a veterinarian in the United States Army before suffering a
    severe brain injury in the summer of 2008. I met her through Team River
    Runner, the non-profit group that brought kayaking to Walter Reed Army
    Medical Center, where it is now an adaptive-sports component of wounded
    warrior rehabilitation. Mariah’s struggle to overcome the unrelenting
    challenges of brain injury ended on December 24th.

    I was reluctant to attend the memorial service. I had just returned home
    after ten days of travelling for funerals and memorial services of fellow
    warriors who had fallen in Afghanistan, and I was anxious to return to less
    solemn endeavors. Because Mariah is a Quaker, I was also concerned about
    how I, and her other military friends, would be received. The only other
    Quakers I have met were protesting the war in front of the main gate of
    Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune (they behaved more civilly than any other
    group of protesters I have seen). Mariah, of course, had one of the very
    few positions in the armed forces that can be held by conscientious
    objectors – Veterinarian.

    Although reluctant, I decided to “proceed as the way opened”, and arrived at
    the Sidwell Friends School, in Bethesda, on Saturday afternoon. Although I
    was early, all the parking spaces were filled, so I parked some distance
    away, in the yard – more like a field – adjoining the school. As I dodged
    mud puddles on my walk to the school, I took in all the sights and sounds
    around me (an involuntary legacy of traumatic brain injury and
    post-traumatic stress disorder). At the far end of the yard, in the tallest
    tree around, a crow was calling. It called about every twenty seconds,
    creating a rhythm.

    Suddenly the words “Just listen” came to me, and I stopped in mid-stride…

    At one of the kayak sessions conducted by Team River Runner at Walter Reed,
    I had found Mariah watching from the side of the pool, apparently
    despondent. Pain and fatigue had forced her to sit-out the session. I knew
    I should attempt to encourage her, but our previous conversations had been
    limited to an exchange of greetings. Kayaking and brain injury were the two
    things I knew we had in common, so I tried to engage her on those. Mariah
    did not respond, so I was not sure if my attempt was welcome, or if she was
    really there (I thought she might have “zoned out”).

    I changed topics, and related my experience with Ride-Well, a therapeutic
    riding program at Rock Creek Park. I told her I had been partnered with
    Jackson, a horse that did not like to be touched – especially by men – but
    allowed me to groom him with no resistance. Keeping up the banter, and not
    expecting a response, I said “As a Veterinarian, I guess you probably know
    the reason for that, but I wish Jackson could tell me.” And at that, Mariah
    turned toward me, and with an earnestness best appreciated by another
    brain-injury survivor, said… “Just listen.”

    Mariah had been there all along, completely engaged, but just too tired to

    That was what Mariah gave me. A lesson, an observation, a premonition — I
    don’t know how to characterize it, but I know it is valuable.

    Not long after that, I listened to Jackson as intently as I could, and
    learned why he trusted me. It was because we shared a common
    hyper-alertness to our environment – Jackson, because horses are “prey
    animals” and he had been abused; and I, because of brain injury and
    post-traumatic stress. Consequently, we both were suspicious of anything
    that moved, made a noise, or just seemed out of place, until we investigated
    and verified it was not a threat.

    I am not an “animal person”. Mariah is an animal person, and I have other
    friends who are. Some of them are native americans that I spent time with
    in Washington state. They related to me a cultural belief that when a crow
    calls out, creating a rhythm like that crow on Saturday afternoon, it is
    announcing that someone’s spirit has just traversed the path from physical
    death to eternal spiritual life.

    I attended the memorial service, and remained for a while at the reception
    that followed – and discovered that religious and philosophical differences
    did not impede the courtesy, respect, and friendship that was afforded to
    Mariah’s military friends. I also discovered why I was there: I told a few
    people about the crow and what it might mean, and they seemed comforted by

    When I left the reception hall, dodging mud puddles as I walked to my car, I
    looked for the crow, but it was gone. It did not need to be there, it did
    not need to call out anymore — I had already listened.

    Thank you, Mariah

  6. Andrew said

    I’m sorry. I didn’t know you Mariah, but I went to Pomona a year behind you. I hope you’re in Heaven and happy. The world will miss your bright smile.

  7. Jeff Deitchman said

    I met Mariah when she was about seven or eight years old. I had been leading “birdwalks,” helping novices find and recognize wild birds. Mariah attended one morning with her mother. I was delighted to have a young participant join us.

    We entered the woods, and I pointed out a bird. I led the group through the series of questions one asks regarding the bird’s size, shape, markings, behavior, and habitat. Armed with the answers, I said, we could identify the bird. Then I asked if anyone knew the name of this bird. Mariah tugged on the leg of my pants and asked, very quietly, “Is that a white-breasted nuthatch?” though she knew perfectly well that it was. I turned her by her shoulders to face the group and asked her to tell everyone what she’d just told me; but, I said, leave the question mark off the end.

    Mariah and her mom became regulars on our walks. I invited them one night, when she was still about seven, to a lecture about owls. There, she gently corrected the lecturer on one point he’d gotten wrong. She did it during a break, to avoid embarrassing him. He was an expert, and he had written books about raptors. When he took up the lecture again, he announced that he stood corrected on the point, and he asked Mariah to raise her hand so that we all could thank her.

    Mariah presented me with a calendar she’d created–each month with a watercolor she’d painted of a different bird. I’ve treasured it, and I was thankful to be able to save it from a house fire. It took on a little water, but it’s still in fine shape.

    I lost touch with Mariah and her mom. It wasn’t until a few months ago that I learned of her death. Mary called to tell me. I offered to send her the calendar. But was called away from the phone, but she said she’d call back to give me her address. She hasn’t done so, and I can only guess at why, though it’s not too hard to imagine. Still, I would like her to have it, for when she’s ready. If anyone is close enough to Mary and might know when the time would be right, please contact me.

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