I really cannot call them fading memories – they are more like fading memorabilia.
There are so many things around our house and around my office that remind me of Andrew; things that I see, things that I touch, things that I can hold every day. Very specific things like his skateboards, his trophies, his paintball gear, even his body wash. These are not really memories, but seeing them and smelling them elicits very fond and endearing memories of my beloved Andrew. But as time goes on, we are giving some of them away, donating them, using some of them, while making quilts with still other items. Little by little they are disappearing from our lives.
Let me explain a little.
There is a colleague of Dorothy’s that was talking to her about her teenage son getting into paintball. They would have to rent not so great gear every time they would go to the paintball fields. Also, without his own gear, he could not play in their backyard or in the nearby woods. Andrew has quite a collection of paintball equipment – a few markers/guns, canisters, gloves, etc, all of it just sitting in his room, collecting dust, getting older by the day. More importantly it is not being used for what it is meant to be used for – having fun! I am sure he would not want his stuff just sitting there. So last year Dorothy and I put together a bunch of Andrew’s paintball equipment and gave it to this boy. He was so happy. He uses it all the time, has a great fun with it, and they are so grateful for it. And I am sure Andrew is smiling down knowing that someone is having such fun with what he used to love to do.
The same is true for his beloved long board. I saw a Facebook post a while ago about a boy going off to college who was looking for a used board to learn with and to get around campus on. I don’t think it was a financial thing, they were just seeing if someone had a used one sitting around. That night I contacted the mother and we talked a little and that weekend they came over and picked up Andrew’s long board. It was a custom built board that Andrew purchased on-line at Sector 7 and had built to his specs – special wheels, special bearings; all the stuff that personalized it for my son. But it has been hanging on the wall in his room since we lost him. No one was using it, no one was enjoying it, and it was just getting older and dustier. When they came to pick it up, the boy was so thrilled to have the board. He reminded me so much of Andrew and the way Andrew was so happy when he got the board. And once again, I am sure Andrew is smiling down on him, watching him fly on the board the way Andrew did, enjoying the long board the way it was meant to be enjoyed.
Then there is the shampoo. Many of you know I have a slight OCD issue. On one of our many trips to Vail for skiing, I sort of accumulated some number of small shampoo bottles from the hotel. Well, enough that I have been using those little bottles for two years now. Unfortunately I am running out of them, and it pains me to say I am about to start my very last bottle of Vail Mountain Lodge Shampoo. Every day when I shower. I reach for that little bottle, and it instantly brings back the fond memories of our family skiing in Vail. Of the closeness we experienced and the fun we had when we went skiing there. No matter how rushed or tired I am, every time I see that bottle I think of Andrew flying freely through the snow; no pain, no worries in the world – it was the happiest smile he could ever have when he talked about his skiing. I look at the bottles and I smile. It is a piece of him, a piece of his history, that I am about to run out of. I think I have to finish that very last bottle – I don’t want to just leave it there. I have to finish it; it is part of my healing process for a wound that will never ever heal.
There are other things as well. Last year we decided to move the stair climber from downstairs into Andrew’s bedroom – but had to remove his desk to make the room. I gave that desk, the one he never used for homework, just to store his stuff on, to our landscaper of twenty years. He said his grandson, also named Andrew, could use a new desk, rather than to do his homework on their crowded kitchen table. Guillermo was so happy for his grandson to have a new desk, and it made Dorothy and me happy knowing it would be put to good use. Later that year we gave Guillermo two of Andrew’s suits that where just hanging there in the closet. He said every time his grandson wears the suits, he says a prayer for my Andrew. Knowing that the suits are being used, especially to wear to church and to special occasions, makes us proud that we found a good use for them, and gave them to someone who means so much to us as a family. I remember Guillermo crying with us and holding us so close at Andrew’s funeral.
Little by little – that is the process. Eventually I will find a place to donate Andrew’s trophies too. There are so many worthwhile charities that cannot afford to purchase new ones that would love to re-purpose Andrews for their events. And to know that some child will smile and be as happy to get that trophy as Andrew did when he got it brings a tear to my eye. Why just leave them there to get old and dusty when they can bring joy and happiness to another hockey player somewhere who deserves a shiny new trophy.
There are so many other things, but where do we draw the line? Andrew has about 250 Beanie Baby bears. My client made the plastic “beans” in them and sent us a dozen or two at a time and Andrew seemed to have collected all the bears. They are all sitting up on his window valence just staring at an empty room now. Wouldn’t they be happier being loved and played with by a child in the hospital, or opened up by an underprivileged boy or girl around the holidays? That would bring joy to everyone knowing that they are bringing joy and happiness back into someone’s life.
This is my way of healing; my way of spreading the joy that my son had in life with others. It is not for everyone, i understand that. Some grieving parents hold on to everything, and I can appreciate that. It is hard to give away what we have left of our children. This is something that Dorothy, Nicole and I talk about once in a while. Some of Andrew’s things that are so precious to us that we will keep them forever – his ice skates, his team jackets, his gauge earrings and his necklace that I wear. But we also get great relief and happiness in spreading his valued possessions out to others who will appreciate and find joy in them. They will never know Andrew, they don’t really know where their gifts came from, or how meaningful that they are to us, but that is not important. What is important is that they are happy with Andrew’s toys and that Andrew is looking over each and every one of them and smiling.