They said to send over a suit and shoes to dress Andrew for the final time. We pulled them out and laid them on his bed and just looked at it. He had a brand new suit we just bought, only a few months old. We looked at the suit a good long time. That was not Andrew, that was not the person we raised for twenty-one years. That is not what he was comfortable in. We decided there would be no suit.
Hockey was what Andrew loved. It did not define him, but it was his passion. He felt free when he had his jersey on and played on the cold ice. He had no worries, no fears, and felt so great to be part of a team. So why would we put him in a suit? Nicole came upstairs with Andrew’s Mariners jersey, number 17, and that was it. He would wear his hockey jersey one last time, forever. He would be more comfortable and free in that than anything else.
And shoes? Andrew rarely wore shoes. He hated them. So why put them on him now. He and Wally would spend days without shoes, probably the whole summer if we let him. They went to get pizza one day and they were told that they needed shoes, but since they did not have them the owner of the shop gave them four small pizza boxes to tape to their feet so they would not be barefoot. And they had their pizza and were happy. Unfortunately no one took a picture of that – I would have loved to see that. So how could we put him in shoes now, or even socks.
So Andrew is dressed in his Mariners jersey and a pair of Khaki pants. No suit, no shoes. That is the way he would like to be.
Andrew also wore a ring. He wore it like a wedding band on his right ring finger. As far as Andrew and Jovi were concerned, they were, for lack of a better word, married. They were deeply and passionately in love. They lived together for a long time, sharing a small single bed. They had a child together, they ate most of their meals together, and bought each other these cute little token gifts. They were so much in love. The ring came home to us in a small bag along with Andrew’s other belongings. How could we leave it in the bag, or in the house? How could we not put it back on his finger for him to wear forever, as I am sure his love for Jovi, and their child, will last for eternity.
We also needed a talis for him to wear. The plan was for me to be buried in my Bar Mitzvah talis, and Andrew to keep his. My father’s talis from Israel, which is the one I wear to temple since my father passed, would stay in the family and be passed down. But that has changed now. I wanted to keep my son’s talis. I did not want to part with it. I want someone else to wear it one day. I did not want it gone for good. So Andrew now wears the talis I was Bar Mitzvahed in. And his talis sits in the draw in my bedroom, still in the talis bag that he designed and I made, and will one day be given to someone to wear at their bar mitvah.
But what else? What else is there we could do?
This past spring I bought a small Corgi replica car of Andrew’s car – a Mazda RX8, black all around. I purchased it so that he could take it back to school and look at it once in a while. My wish was that he would look at it and remember the feeling of freedom, the sense of pride, the feeling of the wind in his air when he drove the car. I wanted him to remember this and maybe it would take a little stress out of his day and bring him some pleasure and relaxation to remember this feeling. He was so happy to have that little toy model, even here in NY. he left it on his night table and was so happy when he looked at it. So that little toy, that little black model, that brought relaxing memories and brought the memory of peaceful driving was there resting next to him forever.
And there was one more thing. Andrew’s beloved Daisy.
Daisy was with us for almost fourteen years. She traveled with us, loved us, and we loved her back. Each and every morning when he was home, Andrew would lay down and hug Daisy and kiss her and talk to her. It was their special time every day. The same was true when he came home from college – he had to spend time with her right away, hugging her, laughing with her, and she would lick his face until he could not take it any longer. Daisy passed away, very quietly and peacefully, a few months before Andrew left us. We had her body cremated and the ashes put in a beautiful flower tin. Over the summer we talked about what to do with her ashes. Should we sprinkle them in the lake that she loved to swim in so much? Should we release them into the air from the car that she loved to drive in? We spent weeks over the summer, but we never settled on what to do with her.
A day or so after Andrew passed i was in my office and i saw the tin can with what remained of our beloved Daisy. How could I leave her on the shelf in my office, alone. How could I let my Andrew be alone forever. So the last thing I did was to place the Daisy in Andrew’s arms. They would be together forever. Daisy would be right there with Andrew forever. Along side him when they entered their eternal peace. I am sure they are together today, and will be forever, bringing a smile to Andrew’s face, and a wag to Daisy’s tail.
There we stood, looking at our son for the very last time. We would never see his beautiful, smiling face again. This was it. But in that moment when we looked at him, he was in peace. There was no stress or anxiety in his face. There was nothing hurting him or bothering him, there was no pain. And we said that to each other. We found some peace in that, Andrew was at peace.
There he was in his Mariners jersey, with Daisy in his arms, his car neatly parked next to him, wearing the ring that tied him to the woman and child he loved so much, wearing my Bar Mitzah tallis – and he was in peace.
Then I had to do the hardest thing I will ever have to do. We motioned for the director to close his eternal resting place. And I watched as I gazed upon my son’s beautiful face for the last time. We never turned away, we just backed up and sat there in the first row as people came to greet us and pay their respects. And we were numb.