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.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sunday November 20, 2011

When morning finally came on Sunday we awoke to nurses telling us to come see...Andrew was awake, sitting up and looking fairly like himself.  The doctors had pumped him full of drugs the night before and all the fluids and meds had given him a big boost.  He was chatting with the nurses and was reading his blog on on his iPad.  He told us that he didn't know what was going on so he decided to read his blog to find out what happened to him - he said it was like reading a newspaper.  He was joking and in good spirits.  In the blog post I had written about him the night before, I had described his state as "critical" and he asked me why I said that.  My heart broke - he either had no idea that he was dying or he just had so much hope he wouldn't believe it.  But I had to joyfully tell him that it wasn't a big deal and that we were just really worried about him last night because he wasn't feeling well.  I saw in his eyes that he knew I wasn't telling the truth.  He had a sort of scared look, but didn't want to come to terms with it.  Andrew's social worker and chaplin, with whom he was very close to, both advised us that Andrew needed to die with hope in his heart, so it was not up to us to give him the hard facts.  It was what he wanted and we complied.  We were, however, joyful that he had made such a turnaround.  We really feel like Andrew gave us this last week to be with him all together.

It ended up being a really peaceful and meaningful day.  Andrew decided he needed a haircut so we called his barber in to cut his hair.  He needed the dignity to feel like himself.  His barber friend even agreed to allow Andrew to pay for his haircut.  I think it again helped him feel normal and that maybe everything would be ok.  Andrew's closest friends gathered for Sunday football and Aunt Ingrid and others came and showered us with sandwiches and food.  It was a fun and festive time for Andrew - to get to watch football with his buddies.  I spent most of the day between his room and our private family room.  The day was a gift - Andrew was talking, watching football and surrounded by those who loved him.

Monday, November 19, 2012


I'm going to take some time this week to walk through this time last year - when Andrew was admitted to the ICU and died 8 days later.  This is a true account of what happened, no exaggerations or dramatic statements. Not exactly a perfect holiday cheer blog post -but this is my real life.

Friday November 18, 2011

It had been about a week since I'd seen Andrew, I had spent some time with him in Fort Langely, BC where he was receiving treatment.  I was having a normal-ish day and needed to grab a baby shower gift for a friend's shower the next day.  I had both kids and was standing in the middle of Along Comes A Baby when my phone rang.  It was Ashley calling and I knew right away it wasn't good.  My heart fluttered and for a split second I thought that if I didn't pick up then it wouldn't be true.  I answered and Ashley told me that, sure enough, Andrew's condition had drastically changed and that she needed either Tyler or myself to come right away and help her.  Within a few minutes I was on the phone with Tyler and within an hour he had left his office, grabbed his passport and was in Fort Langley.  Tyler and Ashley carried Andrew out of the house, down the stairs and into her car.  She drove him to Swedish in Seattle and he was soon admitted to the ICU.  I spent the afternoon and evening at home, trying to stay calm and on the phone with family for hours.  I spent my Friday night making "the phone call" to Rachel.  Those are never fun.  I told her to please sit down and then went on to tell her Andrew was in the hospital and all the details that came.  Those are moments you swear you've seen on TV or in a movie but then all of a sudden you are thinking to yourself, this is really happening right now!  Very surreal.

Saturday November 19, 2011

We woke up Saturday morning pretending it was going to be a normal day.  I'm not really sure what we did that morning but we had lunch, put Sonja down for her nap and I was getting ready to attend my friend's baby shower.  I literally opened my front door, took one step outside and my phone rang.  Again, heart flutter, hesitation, thinking...I'm just going to not answer and go to this baby shower BECAUSE I JUST WANT EVERYTHING TO BE NORMAL. But alas, I answered within a few seconds and my mother was on the other line, crying, telling me the doctor told her that Andrew is quickly dying.  I walked back inside, told my mom we'd be there soon and hung up the phone.  I stood in the kitchen and let my head fall into the cupboard as I began to wail.  Tyler was by my side and within one hour we had packed, woken Sonja from her nap and were in the car driving to Seattle.  Tyler drove, the kids were stunned and confused in the backseat and I sat in the front with two phones - on the phone with family on one and looking up flights on the other.  Nobody wanted to tell Sarah what was going on, as she was in the middle of finishing her fall quarter finals of freshmen year.  I knew in my heart that she needed to know and be home, so I again had to make "the phone call" and had to carefully explain to my baby sister that she needed to pack her bags, not worry about her finals and please get to the airport because I was buying her a ticket to come home that night.  Texts and phone calls were going out, altering friends and family to what was going on and by the time we got to Seattle my good friend was at my mom's to watch the kids so we could go to the hospital.  Tyler and I made our way up to the hospital and bumped into family, friends, people coming to say their last goodbye.  We all were stunned and couldn't believe that this "was it". Walking down that hall in the ICU and into his room and seeing him hooked up to every machine is again, something you will never forget.  The room was dark and quiet, except for the beeps of the machines.  We spent a few hours there, talking to Andrew, even though he was in and out of it.  At some point I went home, nursed my baby then went back to the hospital.  Rachel and Sarah were picked up from the airport late that night and when they arrived we all let out a huge sigh of relief.  They made it.  In time.  Those moments were sacred. All of us together, as a family.  Close friends came and we all stood around Andrew trying to make sense of it all.  Next door to Andrew's room was a private family room they gave us, so my mom, sisters and I spent the night in the chair, couch and on the floor.  We hardly slept but we couldn't leave.  When I would drift to sleep I would awaken with a fright, wondering, "is he still here?". It was perhaps one of the longer nights of my life.