I talk a lot about my feelings, about our loss, about what people say – and don’t say – or how they say it. I talk about what is in my head at any given time, but try to make my posts relevant and interesting, not just to those of us who are suffering, but to those whose friends are in situations where what I am writing hopefully helps.
I am off that track today. I fell I need to talk about Andrew. To tell people who did not know him that well, or at all, about him.
Andrew was always around. But he was also that person who was quiet, in the background, never wanting the spotlight. He was always invited out with his friends and teammates, and he went out with them often, but did so while staying almost anonymous in a big group. He was also a funny kid, as anyone who knows him will attest to. He would be quiet in a crowd, then all of a sudden blurt out some funny comment and break everyone up, whether in a locker room or at a party. We heard some of the comments he made in his varsity hockey locker room, all told by teammates with a smile on their face. He did not look for attention, and was very happy just being there, just being part of a group, part of the crowd, part of a team.
He was pretty popular, and everyone knew and loved him. For his memorial hockey game last December we had an amazing turnout, and we all laughed and cried. People told us stories about Andrew, from school times to hockey to going out at night. It was truly a night to remember for Dorothy, Nicole and I. Thank you to those who participated. Hopefully this year’s game will grow some, and we will keep this one-game-a-year alive for Andrew.
He never wanted to have birthday parties, or even a graduation party, but he was always invited and was always going to someone else’s party. He never wanted to be the center of attention, but whomever he was talking to – he made them feel like they were the most important person on the earth at that moment. He never interrupted you, and gave you his undivided attention, and you felt and knew that. We have heard that so many times.
Andrew was close with a lot of his friends. After he was gone many of his friends told us that they would talk to him for hours, just the two of them. They would tell Andrew so much more than they told others, the words therapist and shrink came up many times when others talked about him. He would sit and listen to them and they felt comfort in talking to him. He was such a compassionate, caring and gentle person that no one ever felt threatened by him or by telling him their deepest secrets, their fears, or what was on their mind. And he would listen and nod his head and make eye contact. And then when they were done, Andrew would respond with some pearl of wisdom that made them feel better. I never heard any of these conversations, he never talked to me about this part of his life, but I heard about it from at least a dozen of his friends afterward. They all had tears in their eyes when they told me about these conversations, and said that they learned so much by having Andrew just listen to them.
Andrew wanted to be a therapist, a healer, a confidante. Even before he graduated college, or learned his calling, he was doing this, he was helping others. Very rarely does someone find their calling in life so early, Andrew did. He knew he could heal people not just by talking to them, but by making them laugh. Even as a little boy, he would make funny faces for the camera, or do funny things to make others laugh – he loved to make others laugh.
One thing that Andrew did was to collect tickets. He liked to look at them and remember the places he had been, the games he had been to, the concerts he laughed at, the mountains he ski’ed. He had collected hundreds of tickets from Ranger games, Mets and Yankee games. He saw Meatloaf, The Who (two times), Dane Cook, and Berlin in concert (sitting atop the right sides stage speakers, he couldn’t hear for a few days after that). He had tickets from the Circle Line, Westminster Dog Show Exhibitor, along with NBA Championship games, World Series tickets, and backstage passes. He kept them all in a small wooden box in his room next to his bed.
Several years ago I had heart stent surgery and was unable to do anything for a few weeks. I had an idea that took the better part of that time. I had a board cut five feet tall by two and a half feet wide. I hijacked his ticket box, went downstairs and meticulously sorted the tickets on the floor. Some were sets of two, others were three, and some were fours. I then applied them to the board. No real order, no real pattern, just his memories all laid out on twelve-plus square feet. After I was done, I called him downstairs one evening to show him what I had made for my son. He was amazed, overwhelmed, and truly appreciative for this gift. We had it framed and it has been in his room ever since.
Those who have been to our home have seen the board, he shows it to everyone and hangs in his room. It is his memories of his life. It is now our memories of our son. We remember the games now, we remember the concerts we took him to, we remember riding the circle line as a family. It is still Andrew’s ticket board, but it is now our memories. I often go into his room just to look at it. The box is still there and has so much more in it, maybe one day I will make another board.
We gave Andrew to the world, and we hope the world is a better place for the time he spent here. We hope that those he met, those he befriended are better people for the time they spent with our son.