Monday, June 27, 2016

Confession, Promises, and an Address Change

I'll confess this now, since Andrew's accident I have not been reading my Bible.  But last night my heart was heavy with a true desire to read God's word.  I'm not angry with God that he took Andrew, I'm just sad I cannot hang out with him anymore.  I have not said "Why me?" but I have absolutely said "Why him?".  I am a believer so I am also disappointed in myself for having waited 3 months to return to God's word for comfort.  I now feel like I am supposed to share these scriptures He gave me last night as it will hopefully bring comfort to someone.  I think someone else besides me must also need to hear this promise from the Lord.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18  “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.  According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.  Therefore encourage one another with these words.”

I like thinking that Andrew has just fallen asleep in Jesus and knowing that God has promised to bring all the believers together one day, forever.  

And though I am brokenhearted over losing my son, God has never left me.

Psalm 34:18  “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

I read somewhere, maybe another blog, about a man whose wife had died.  I don't remember the exact details but he was either answering a call or a letter and responded that his wife had recently changed her address to Heaven.  What a beautiful thought.  I love that.  So if you are looking for Andrew, he has recently changed his address to Heaven.  I know this because once again, Jesus promised this:

John 14:1-4  “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Andrew - The Dreamer

If you were at the service or have ever looked through my scrapbooks you likely heard or saw my sweet Andrew's note about Hollywood.  I used to always tease Matt and Andrew that one day I would go to Hollywood and be discovered as a great comedienne.  Matt, who is my realist, was always quick to remind me I was not that funny.  Andrew, my dreamer, took it to heart and truly believed one day I would be discovered.  

Andrew was never one for the spotlight or attention.  He was always quietly at work in the background.  Not wanting me to make a big deal he left the note below on my dresser one day when he was about 7 or 8.  This is one of the most precious things he ever gave me and I am so thankful I saved it.

Sweet and now also bittersweet memories of a dear precious soul gone way too soon.

Love you Andrew.  Thank you for believing in me.


Saturday, June 25, 2016

California - Day 3

Friday was our last day and Marganne was finally off work to join us for the day.  We were going to spend the majority of the day touring at Warner Brothers Studio.  This was a really cool tour as one of the Batman movies was just about to be released so there was a lot related to that.  We had a large cart taking us around the lot and our first stop was a museum of sorts for two of the most popular franchises - Batman and Harry Potter.  I took a few photos of each, including Matt, Michael and Marganne with their turn at the sorting hat, but the focus is clearly (or not-so-clearly) off.


We also got to walk onto the set of Two Broke Girls, which was on hiatus and no pictures allowed, as well as see the set of Friends in the archive section.  We got to go to the prop room where we saw the broom used for quidditch, the spacesuit from Contact, and the Oval Office set from West Wing.  It's funny to think of Matt or Michael as President.



Overall it was a wonderful and healing trip.  I hope the signs we saw were from Andrew and it was with his blessing that we got away and tried to begin the healing process of losing him.  That said, I would gladly have never gone to California if it meant I could spend just one more day with Andrew.

Oh yeah, the only thing I hated about California, they have lane splitting laws which allow motorcycles to drive between cars.  I understand the concept from a traffic flow but it doesn't seem safe.

Stupid motorcycles.

California - Day 2

Thursday morning we all slept in and finished off the huge omelets from the day before.  Today's plan was all about Hollywood.  Once again we knew Andrew was with us because we weren't in the car long when Natalia noticed a worker's truck beside us in traffic had the name "Andrew" written on driver's side door.  Within minutes of seeing that we passed Carson Street and once again Matt got to say, "Hey Buddy!"

We had lunch that day at place called Sonoma Wine Garden and it was amazing!  I learned that day and night how much Michael enjoys trying various different drinks.  On our way back to the car, Natalia and I spotted a random guy dressed as a statue and he was kind enough to let us get our picture with him.

On our way to the Walk of Fame and the Hollywood sign, we stopped off at Rodeo Drive.  Now, I didn't really expect I could afford anything, but I wanted to say I had at least been there and walked into a store.  Michael found us a parking space and paid the meter - likely the only thing we could afford on this street.  It was just as I had expected - high end stores all around, elaborately decorated, and fancy cars all over the road.  I'm told in most of these stores you have to have an appointment and be buzzed in, but Michael Kors had their door wide open - which felt like an invitation to me, so I went in.  I was expecting to have a Pretty Woman moment where they looked at me suspiciously and asked me to leave as they wouldn't have anything in there for me, but they greeted me with a nice smile and warm hello.  Immediately to my left was the most gorgeous purse I had ever seen.  It was black and white with the new leather smell, two different sized straps, and a roomy inside.  As I looked inside and saw the price, $1060, I knew this was not the store for me, so I quickly exited.  Natalia and I decided to cross the street and hit the Coach store, while Michael and Matt went to another store.  I didn't see any purses or wallets catching my eye, but this Coach store also had shoes!  I was immediately drawn to some black sneakers with white soles.  Natalia liked them too but they didn't have her size in that color, but did have them in all white.  So we each got a pair, mine black, hers white, and then she also found some other black shoes with lace up ankles.  After the sticker shock of the Michael Kors purse I was pleasantly surprised to find the shoes were only $160 at Coach.  That's about 3 times more than I have ever spent on shoes for myself, but I was convinced I needed them so I could say I had been shopping (and made a purchase) on Rodeo Drive.


From there we headed to the Walk of Fame.  We wanted to snap a picture of Alex Trebek's star for my dad, a huge fan of Jeopardy!  While looking for his I also spotted Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett - two legendary ladies of comedy I absolutely adore.


As we were walking back to the car, Matt spotted a model wearing a mankini, so naturally we had to capture the moment...

From the Walk of Fame we were able to drive down a street and get a great view of the Hollywood sign.  I wasn't interested in hiking to actually be on the sign, I just, once again, wanted to be able to say I was there and had seen it.


We met up with Marganne again for dinner, she had to work all week, poor thing.  We went to a family style Italian Place and again the food was delicious.  Matt and Michael went out to a bar that night with some of Michael's friends.  It was late when they returned home (courtesy of Uber) but Michael was hungry and convinced Matt they needed to make a Del Taco run for some chicken tacos.  They arrived just before closing but managed to get a dozen chicken tacos to cure the late night hunger craving.

That night the sky was clear except for the multitude of stars shining down on us.  Matt made a comment wondering which constellations were which and I remembered I had an app on my phone (SkyView) that when you hold it to the sky it will tell you what you are looking at.  So I got my phone, stepped on the balcony, opened the app and pointed it to the sky.  Immediately I knew Andrew was with us as it showed me his zodiac sign, Leo.  "Hey Buddy!"

California - Day 1

The day after the service was tough.  There was nothing else I could do for Andrew.  Sara and Carey went back to work, Michael needed to get back home to California, Chris and Harry were headed for Mancation, while Matt, Natalia, and I remained lost.  Michael and his amazing girlfriend, Marganne, offered up their home for the three of us to get away.  After my mom died, Matt, Andrew and I went to Tampa for a week to get away.  It was one of the best times I have ever had with my boys.  We laughed so hard that week, because we could.  No one knew we were grieving and we didn't have to feel guilty when we had fun.  So I thought the chance to get away after losing Andrew would be good for us.  We couldn't get on the same flight as Michael that night, but we did manage to book tickets on another flight that would arrive just about the same time as his later flight, but we had a layover in Dallas.  So we decided to go.  None of us (Matt, Natalia, myself) had ever been to Los Angeles, and even though we were only going to go for three days, we felt it was worth it and that Andrew would approve.  It was as if he was traveling with us at times.  When we got to Dallas and the connecting gate, we found it was A22 - yes A for Andrew and 22 - his favorite number.  When Matt saw that he said, "Hey Buddy." I love how he always referred to him as buddy.  By the second leg of the flight we were exhausted.  Good thing we got to sit together, since Natalia needed a place to rest her sleeping head!

When we got to Los Angeles and met up with Michael, we took the shuttle to his car and then he immediately took us to In & Out Burger.  It was delicious, even if it was midnight in LA, which felt like 3 a.m. to us east coasters.  

Wednesday we slept in but I got up in time to snap a picture from Michael's balcony at sunrise.  He actually lives in Redondo Beach and it is just beautiful there.

We went to have breakfast at a pancake house near Michael's apartment.  I ordered a ham and cheese omelet.  It arrived and nearly engulfed the table.  The thing was so big I could barely eat half.  We all had the same problem and we all took home leftovers.  No kidding, I think there were like a dozen eggs in that thing.  I wish I would have gotten a picture, but food doesn't last long with Matt, Michael and me.

From there Michael took us to the Pacific Ocean.  Now keep in mind it is March and it is the Pacific, so it was much too cold to go swimming, well for me anyways, plus it was really windy.  However, the view was absolutely incredible.

The day of the service, Monday, the 28th, was Marganne's birthday, which Michael missed of course because he was in Georgia.  So we had to make up for it.  We went shopping and found her a wonderful laptop bag, a wallet, a dress (all Michael Kors), and then I told him we needed to get a cake as well, my treat.  So we went to a wonderful bakery and got her a delicious cake. I also got 4 red velvet mini cupcakes (Andrew's favorite) as Michael wanted to take use to a place called Nelson's for cocktails.  The place overlooks the ocean and is really spectacular.    We enjoyed cocktails and toasted Andrew with the cupcakes then headed back to meet Marganne for dinner.



Knowing Matt and Natalia love sushi, I asked Michael to take us where they could have great California sushi.  I don't remember the name of the place, but I do remember that Michael ordered a lot of sushi and it was gone quickly, so he asked the waitress to bring another round of the same thing.  It really was delicious and on the way home, I got a great sunset picture!

Friday, June 24, 2016

After the Service

When the service for Andrew was over, we invited everyone back to the house for food.  I'm not sure if it is southern thing or not, but I'm grateful for the amount of food that was provided to us in those days following the accident.  I had no desire to cook or worry with it, and many people stepped in to make sure I didn't have to worry about it.  From friends, who are also coworkers, to the baseball team and neighbors, we had plenty to eat.  That night, the IT department from the hospital (coordinated by Cindy and Gary Finck) arranged for Moe's to cater.  Andrew loved Moe's but had not been eating it very often lately because of his diet, so he would have loved to have been there for that.  We enjoyed eating and sharing more stories and memories of Andrew.

It was also the first time all of my brothers and sisters were together in the same place since my step-mother passed away in 2000.  So we definitely had to capture it with pictures.  Although it was a very sad occasion, I was so grateful to have these people surrounding me.  There is no doubt in my mind that my family is my rock.  I had no idea how much I needed them then and I am not sure I can ever properly thank them for all they did.  I truly didn't have to worry about anything.  Each one of my siblings handled everything for me and made things effortless for me.  They anticipated my needs, without me having to verbalize them, and just jumped in and took care of everything.  They cried with me, laughed with me, and mostly encouraged me when I needed to hear that Andrew was loved and that his life mattered.

And my sweet Matt.  He was so worried about me I'm not sure he got to grieve his brother.  He is amazing in his own right and I don't want to ever forget to acknowledge what a great brother he is. He is the oldest so he got to set the example for Andrew.  He made mistakes, so Andrew knew what not to do, but he also showed Andrew how to be respectful to his mother, how to negotiate a later curfew or get presents before Christmas Day, and how to play video games over the internet.  It was fun watching them turn from mortal enemies to friends as they grew up.  The saddest part now is knowing Andrew will not be there as Best Man whenever Matt gets married.  Here is one of my favorites showing how much Matt loved his little buddy and then when we were together following Andrew's high school graduation.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Service

Well, it's been just over 12 weeks since Andrew's crash.  Just 89 days.  In those 89 days I've had a lot of time to remember, reflect, and reminisce. I still haven't reasoned it all out in my heart or my head, but I will trust God has a plan.  I can say I am not crying every day now.  I can talk about Andrew without tearing up every time.  I can smile when I remember so I know I am healing.  As I have learned in counseling, time will make it easiER but it will never be easy.

That said, I think I can finally talk about the service we had for Andrew.  It was Monday, March 28th and it was a beautiful day.  It was the kind of day where Andrew would have loved riding his bike.  It was clear and sunny with just the slightest breeze blowing.  Andrew worked in the emergency room at Gwinnett Medical Center and his shift was Monday - Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.  So the folks who knew him best also worked that shift.  For that reason I planned his service for 4:00 p.m. so those who wanted could come without having to take time off.  Selfishly, as a mother, I wondered if there would be any flowers or people who would come.  I knew family and our closest friends would be there, but I also wanted people who knew and loved Andrew (even the ones I didn't know) to come.  I wanted to know he mattered to people beyond the ones I knew.  Immediate family gathered in the room where we had visitation while our pastor, Allen Taylor, prayed for us.  Then began that dreadful walk into the chapel for the service.  It's the walk no mother should ever have to take.  My legs felt like jello, my stomach in knots, and my heart truly and completely broken.  Matt was my rock and as we entered the chapel I realized there were more people than there were pews.  Andrew had a standing room only crowd!  I was completely overwhelmed and humbled.  I remember whispering to Matthew several times that I didn't think I could do this.  We sat down and my sister's fiance, Robert Palmour, played and sang the Steven Curtis Chapman song, With Hope. The lyrics are powerful and completely perfect for how I was feeling.  Here is the first verse and chorus:

This is not at all

How we thought it was supposed to be
We had so many plans for you
We had so many dreams
And now you've gone away
And left us with the memories of your smile
And nothing we can say and nothing we can do
Can take away the pain, the pain of losing you
But we can cry with hope
We can say goodbye with hope
'Cause we know our goodbye
Is not the end, oh no
And we can grieve with hope
'Cause we believe with hope
There's a place where we'll see you face, again.

Then Allen opened us with a prayer and introduced me.  Matt was going to speak after me and I asked him to escort me up there as I was unsure if my legs were going to support me.  I really didn't think I could make it through without blubbering uncontrollably, so I needed him with me.

I thanked everyone for coming and reminded them that anyone who had ever been to a bible study with me already knew my spiritual gift was sarcasm and that was what I would use to get through this.  Then I asked for those who had honored Andrew by wearing shorts to please stand.  You see, Andrew didn't just like wearing shorts, he truly believed they were the only acceptable apparel when not working.  He wore them everyday to school, even when there was snow on the ground.  Many people stood.  I then asked for those who were truly honoring him by going commando to remain standing.  Only a few remained standing - with much laughter from those who had come to the service.

I then began my true rambling, going on and on about Andrew, telling story after story.  I could have talked for hours, and at times it felt like I had.  I wanted people to know he was smart, fiercely competitive, and deeply loved.  If they didn't know him personally, I wanted them to leave wishing they had known him.  

Matt also told stories of Andrew and shared memories of them growing up - always competing - but also growing closer as they got older.  It truly warms a mother's heart when she sees her children loving each other.  Having never lost a sibling (praise the Lord) I struggle with helping Matt cope with losing Andrew.  I think Matt worries about me while I worry about him.  I pray daily for his healing.

Then my brother Chris spoke.  Andrew was often compared to Chris in both looks and smarts.  Andrew idolized Chris and really respected him.  Chris shared his deep guilt over giving Andrew access to the money that bought the (stupid) motorcycle.  But I want Chris to be free of any guilt.  The truth is Andrew always got what he wanted.  When he decided he wanted a motorcycle, he would have gotten it no matter what.

Our good friends, Andrew and Ashley Spikes then sang I Can Only Imagine, by Mercy Me.  Another deeply powerful song, with lyrics that are perfect.

I can only imagine what it will be like

When I walk, by your side
I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When you face is before me
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

Surrounded by you glory

What will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus
Or in awe of you be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine
Then Allen spoke.  He talked about baptizing Andrew in the horse trough at church.  He talked about how competitive Andrew was (especially with Matt) and even made a great statement by telling Matt that when he gets to Heaven Andrew will be waiting with a big grin saying, "I beat you here!"  Allen also reminded everyone that God's love, grace, and mercy have no end and He always has a plan.
We closed with Andrew and Ashley singing Amazing Grace and then said goodbye to everyone as they exited.  I was incredibly touched with the number of people who truly cared about Andrew and our family.  We are so blessed.  It's sad a tragedy has to remind us how many people God has placed in our lives, but it is also humbling to know there are no boundaries to what those people will do for you as well.
I am forever grateful to those people who made our tribute to Andrew so memorable.  Thank you all so much for your love, prayers, and thoughtfulness.