Thursday, April 11, 2013

Andrew's 35th

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Andrew's 30th Birthday

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One of my favorite pictures of my siblings and I: Dec 2005 on the Oregon Coast

Andrew would have turned 35 today.  To say that I miss him and wish he were still here is an understatement.  I miss him and think about him daily, but on this day, his birthday, the longing and wishing for him is so much more painful.  It is another reminder that he is truly gone, and this idea, that he will never come back again, is a suffocating thought to live with.  It is not fair that he is gone and that someone so full of life had to be taken at such an early age. I long for the days when we used to chat and text well into the night.  Nobody has ever been able to make me laugh like him.  He brought so much sunshine to my life and I will always be thankful for this.  Happy birthday Andrew.

Here are a few grief articles that I've enjoyed lately.  Ashley sent me this article and I read this one on a blog.  It is long, but very well written and there were several points in the story that brought me back to our days in the hospital with Andrew.  

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The End of the Year

As this year draws to a close I am deeply reflective.  This year has been one of the hardest years of my life!  Each day and each month of this year brought a "first" without Andrew.  It wasn't until November 27, the day after his 1 year anniversary of dying, that I knew what it felt like to live that day without Andrew.  After 11/26, the tension and pressure eased ever so slightly.  The year has been full - we bought a new house, Tyler traveled nearly every month for work, Sonja turned 2, Riley turned 5 and started 3 day/week preschool and I sunk deeper and deeper into sadness and grief, only to finally seek counsel and start to process through the demons and grief this summer.  I am ready for this year to draw to a close.  I see the light and hope that awaits in 2013.  I look forward to keep pressing on and keep finding joy and peace in my everyday life.

Just this morning I read this on a blog I follow - these people live in Seattle and he used to be my youngest sisters youth pastor at UPC until he lost his son several years back.  I wanted to share what she wrote because it hit really close to home.   "People want to know that we are better now than we were then – that we are happy and living again. On one hand the answer is yes. Four years later, pain is not the primary focus of our days. Not because it isn’t there – it’s just quieter. Instead of feeling like we are experiencing cardiac arrest, it feels more as if our bones ache. We have become better at managing it; we are more used to its ways. But it is always just under the surface."

I relate to this so much - the feeling that people expect you to be over it, even after one year.  Everybody so deeply wants you to be happy and ok.  But the truth is, it will always be there, lingering right under your skin.  Of course, as time moves on, it will not be so present and will not suffocate and overwhelm as it did this year.  But how can we ever be the same again?  We lost a family member, someone we grew up with and loved and shared so many sacred things with.  It will be a lifelong journey to discover the new me, the me that lives without Andrew and the me that lives daily with the grief of losing him.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Anniversary #1

I posted this on my brother's blog tonight...I am exhausted, so am going to copy and paste it here.  

Yesterday we remembered Andrew on the 1 year anniversary of his death.  We took his favorite cookies to the nurses to thank them for their care, we gathered at his grave and laid down flowers and spoke heartfelt words about how much we love and miss him.  We toasted Andrew over lunch as a family and then opened our home to family and a few friends so we could be together, share and laugh.  We watched the slideshow from his memorial service and we were again reminded of Andrew's incredible smile, his many accomplishments and mostly his warm and loving persona.  He had many friends and many whom loved him.  He inspired people to be their best.  He did all this in just 33 years of life.  We were honored to call him brother, son and friend.  We miss him in a deep and painful way.  I'm not quite sure that feeling will ever go away.  As my mom said yesterday at his grave, it might not get easier or better, it will just be different and we will learn to live with our grief.  Of course we will all carry on and keep living life, but we are learning to make room for that pit in our stomach and that aching hole in our heart.

We miss you Andrew.  I kept imagining how happy you would have been to be with us yesterday - smiling, laughing, talking and telling jokes. Those were your favorite moments in life.  I ache for all those times, the simple moments when we were just doing life together.  Thank you for being the coolest person I know.

Monday, November 26, 2012

His last day alive

Saturday November 26, 2011

My kids woke up really early this morning and since Tyler had been on Daddy duty all week, I decided to let him sleep in.  Since we were staying at my Mom's house and were sharing that space with my sisters I knew I had to get the kids out of the house.  I loaded them in the car and took them to Target to wander the aisles and do some retail therapy.  I ended up buying some new shoes, a scarf and a big cozy sweater.  Little did I know I would be wearing that sweater that evening, Andrew's last night on Earth.  We eventually made our way back home and spent the rest of the morning at home, rather than the hospital.  Kari had made plans with me a few days before to drive down from Bellingham to watch our kids for the day.  We gave Sonja an early nap and in the afternoon we loaded our kids in the car with Kyle & Kari and Tyler and I headed up to the hospital.  Tyler had not spent much time at the hospital that week, so when we walked in the room and Andrew saw Tyler, Andrew completely lit up and had a huge smile on his face.  Andrew always considered Tyler to be a real brother.  They had a special friendship and Andrew loved him like family.  We spent a few sacred hours together with Andrew - just our crew.  My mom, Ashley, Tyler and my sisters.  We all looked around at each other and the room was quiet and peaceful and we told Andrew that we were all here.   We surrounded his bed and talked and took turns holding his hands.  By this time Andrew was really out of it and would come and go.  He was mumbling a lot but would have several moments of complete clarity.  As we sat there, he rattled off his life story - he talked about basketball plays, about customers from the bank, his favorite foods, nursery rhymes...his subconscious was taking over and his brain was recapping his life.  It was absolutely fascinating, sometimes odd but mostly just sacred and beautiful.  He kept asking us the time and then would point towards the ceiling and tell us there were only a few more hours left.  It was scary, not knowing when it would happen or how.  Every minute and hour was precious.

At some point around 7pm the Youngs brought the kids to the outside of the hospital and I nursed Sonja and Tyler took them home for bed.  Around 9pm the nurse told us that she didn't expect Andrew to make it through the night.  A few phone calls were made to those of Andrew's friends who needed to be there.  At this point Andrew's pain was horrifying.  We were trying to help and everyone was teary and didn't know what to do.  Finally the nurse told us it was time - time to push more pain meds and get an oxygen mask on him.  It was the only thing left to do.  The pain meds settled him down and when the mask was finally put on him his breathing slowed way down.  We stood in a circle around his bed, holding him and each other.  We literally stood there and watched him breathe.  His eyes were closed and his breathing slowed and slowed and slowed and finally, his last breath.  We all watched it happen.  We looked at the clock.  It was 10:11pm.  We called the nurse and she confirmed, yes, he was gone.  All of us crumbled and hugged and wailed and stood and looked at his empty body.  At some point my sisters and I walked out of the room and collapsed in front of his room, sitting on the hospital floor in the hall.  We sat and leaned into each other and cried.  This was how it was going to be from now on - just us 4 girls.  The sweater I was wearing was like a blanket wrapped around me, offering me comfort as I comforted my sisters.  My baby sisters were heart broken and I could do nothing about it.  A horrible feeling for a mother hen like myself.  Every time I wear this sweater I am wrapped in love and remember this beautiful, peaceful, love drenched night, the night that Andrew died.

There was a lot of going in and out of the room and a lot of details to take care of.  We were very compelled to leave though.  Andrew wasn't there anymore and we had to get out.  I walked over to his body and kissed his already cold face.  My last time to look at his body.  As I've described before, the second that Andrew died his soul left his body and joined God in heaven.  It was almost like you could see it go.  And to look at his body was creepy - it was an empty shell.  Thankfully several of Andrew's friends were willing to sit with his body until they zipped him up and took him away to the morgue.  He was never left by himself.

We walked out of that room and down the elevator and into Tyler's truck that was waiting for us.  Carrie had come over to sit while the kids slept so Tyler could come pick up Sarah and I.  We drove away from that hospital and walked into my Mom's house and it was such a blur.  I was physically ill.  My body was shaking and the feeling of having to vomit wouldn't leave.  My Mom and sisters and a few other friends eventually poured into the house and we sat in her living room and cried and recounted what we had just experienced.  Nobody wanted to go to bed.  Nobody wanted Andrew's last day alive to be over.  Nobody wanted it to be real.  At some point in the wee hours of the morning I fell asleep.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Friday November 25, 2011

Andrew really started to decline today.  He spent most of the day sleeping and would occasionally awaken to say hi to whomever was in the room.  His room had a constant stream of people coming and going.  People coming to say their last goodbyes.  It was hard to accept the fact that he spent more time asleep than awake.  We knew the end was near.  It was also hard to have so many people around.  People were very respectful, but each of us wished that we could have individual time with Andrew, or at least as a family.  I was never able to spend the night like my mom and sisters did.  I was still nursing Sonja so wasn't able to be away from her for long stretches of time.  Again, the guilt lay heavy on my heart.  Always wishing I could do more or be more.

Thursday November 24, 2011


Thanksgiving Day.  Our last Thanksgiving as a family.  Our last holiday together as a family.  Andrew's good, and long time friend, Siobhan and her husband bought us a Whole Foods Thanksgiving dinner.  They brought a table, tablecloth, all the food and lots of beverages.  They came in the late afternoon and set up our meal for us in Andrew's room.  My whole family was there - my Mom, Dad, sisters, Tyler, kids and Grandpa.  We were all dressed up and everyone was in a cheery and festive mood.  We were full of smiles and jokes for Andrew.  I made sure to take a picture of every person with Andrew.  I also made sure to have our friend Daniel take a picture of our family.  This picture is above.  I'm so glad I did this.  Ashley had to work this day but she was able to join us that night after she got off.  We were all so happy she was there. I captured a few pictures of them embracing and holding hands.  It was beautiful.

It is hard to describe - but there was a very peaceful and joyful spirit in the room.  It hung over us and was thick with love and gratitude.  I could literally feel it and was moved by its presence.  I knew this time was special and it's one of those times in life where you are fully and wholly present.  My mind and heart were nowhere else except for that room and that night.  At one point during the evening I looked over at Andrew and he was peacefully looking around the room at all of us. He was taking it all in and I'd like to believe that he felt a calm and quiet come over his heart, knowing he was dying with a family full of love for him.  He was not alone and he was loved more deeply and wholly than he could have ever asked or wanted.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Wednesday November 23, 2011

The only thing I remember about this day is my drive home from the hospital. I had spent most of the day at the hospital and I was driving home late at night. I was all alone, the music was on and all of a sudden it hit me. I finally came to the realization that Andrew would never walk out of that hospital again. He would never drive a car again and never listen to music again. I rolled down the window and felt the wind on my face. I felt so alive. I felt so wonderfully alive but so deeply heartbroken by the fact that Andrew was dying in his hospital bed. It was devastating and I cried all the way home.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Tuesday November 22, 2011

More of the same today- back and forth. Spending as much time as I could with Andrew and always surrounded by friends and family. It was trying to switch between mom mode and sister/adult mode. The guilt hung heavy and pressed down hard. I wasn't really there for my kids and I wasn't really there for Andrew. I felt like I wanted to do more for both parties, but always felt like a failure. But there was no other option than to keep showing up and putting one foot in front of the other. There was no normal and every day and moment looked different. I knew we would survive and I knew my kids would be okay. But hospital living is not for the faint of heart. The parking, the elevators, the doctors and nurses, the machines and meds, the hospital lunchroom- it is a battlefield that nobody is comfortable with or enjoys.

Monday November 21, 2011

I don't remember much of this day other than I did lots of shuffling around- I was always going between dealing with my kids and spending time at the hospital. Wonderful friends like Kristen, Claire and Carrie all helped to care for my children so I could spend time with Andrew. Tyler would bring Sonja to the hospital so I could nurse her and we were in a constant state of passing kids back and forth. Andrew was moved from the ICU to 12 East on this day. The nurses were so good to us and gave us a double room. Not only is our immediate family so big but there are so many people that love Andrew. People were always coming and going- stopping by to say hi and spend time with Andrew. They would bring us food and make sure we had what we needed.