In a way, I am relieved for him. He fought so incredibly hard for so incredibly long… He was gashed opened and sawed apart and bloodied to a pulp on more than one occasion (quite literally).
Yet, he continued to get back up, freshly stitched, with arms swinging…. and laughing!
All too often, he would receive bad new (the worst prognosis) and answer it with courage… He repeatedly beat back THE BEAST and refused to let it score that final goal. Because of his unrelenting stamina, I certainly thought cancer would be the one ultimately waving the white flag of surrender.
In the end though, the enemy claimed the heart of one more mighty warrior.
Everyone loved Andrew. He was funny, generous, smart, beautiful and LARGER THAN LIFE! If you knew him for just one instant, you would wish to be his best friend and closest confidant. Often, in an instant, you could be just that. Andrew opened his heart to everyone.
Beyond his enormous personality, intense wit and true friendship, he stood for so much more. To me, he was hope… Walking, talking hope.
He stood for the persistent will to live. He proved that the human spirit had boundless strength. He was a flower blooming in the desert: life could persevere even in lousy terrain! He showed me what I desperately wanted to witness: the only ingredient that modern medicine is missing to cure cancer is sheer determination.
I needed to see Andrew’s triumphs because they represented victories for my son’s own war. Brooks and Andrew had completely different types of cancer but I still drew parallels between their fights. Every time someone said “You can’t,” but Andrew did it anyway, I saw optimism for Brooks’ future. Every extra lap that Andrew swam added promise that Brooks could grow up to do the same. The fierce stamina that Andrew maintained was unbelievable and it gave me a reprieve from my mind’s worst nightmare: that cancer would win.
Attending his memorial this past weekend, I realized that he was this figure for more than just our family. Andrew had that effect to almost all within his breath’s distance. Especially, to anyone with whom he shared the common cancer thread, he was a beacon of hope. He emboldened the troupes and reinforced their spirits. He was a shining example of light persisting in the darkest of situations.
Now that he has gone, his life having been snuffed out, what happens to hope? Does is evaporate with his flesh? Does it rise to heaven with his spirit? Do we question that it ever existed?
No, all the battles fought were not in vain. The hope he created is still living and breathing. It will stay in my heart to provide flames for inspiration. I will hold tight to it as Brooks continues through the duration of his treatment. Watching Andrew’s fight taught me above all that odds are meant to be defied.
I will tell Max and Brooks stories about Andrew when they are old enough to appreciate their own struggles. His legacy will extend as an example of how to bring laughter and bravery to fearful situations. When I lack courage of my own, I will channel Andrew’s spirit and face my difficulties.
I take great solace knowing that we have another angel watching over us who will have all the latest gossip in heaven available when we arrive.
When someone I know dies, close or otherwise, I always consider my own life. The question I ask myself, “How am I honoring this life that I have been given?” With Andrew’s death, I again make this consideration. “What am I doing to bring beauty to the world?”
Today I can answer with the following:
- Staying sober
- Raising two beautiful boys
- Writing down some adventures along the way.
And, of course, celebrating and praising God as I go…
How about you?
*Photo Credits via Andrew’s Facebook page: Georgette Young and Rachael Stein