Monthly Archives: March 2014

Does she remember?

I look at her in her eyes and ask her if she misses Andrew.
She looks back at me emotionless with her brown eyes.
I ask her is she remembers playing with him every single morning.
I ask her if she remembers all the joy that he brought her and that she brought him.
She stares back at me, maybe tilting her head.
I ask her if she cries over Andrew like I do every single day.
I ask her if she is sad at all for not having Andrew around any more.
She stares back at me and wags her tail.
That is all she knows.

PAG_0175Sometimes I am jealous of Daphne in that respect. She feels no sadness, not remorse, no pain.  Her memory is but a brief time period.   Does she remember the times she ran and played with Andrew out in the snow?  Does she remember swimming with him in the lake, or pulling the paddle boat while we all laughed and cheered her on?  

PG2_3388Does she remember how much he loved her and Daisy. That he cried all night when Daisy passed, just a few brief weeks before Andrew passed.  We were all so devastated. Whenever Andrew called home, he always asked how the dogs were – then he would ask us everything else.  The first thing he did when he got home was to sit and play with them for such a long time – then out with his friends, and they would wait for him by the window at night.  They would often sleep with him that first night, even on the floor, they were so happy their friend had come home. They sat outside his door and waited for his leftovers when he ate dinner at two in the morning.  We would often find plates in the hallway – perfectly clean.


When we traveled, Andrew and Nicole always brought them food from breakfast – way too much, but they loved it and ate every morsel.  From french toast to eggs to crumb cake to donuts – nothing was off limits for their special travel breakfasts.  We never had to ask twice for someone to take them out, both kids where eager to walk them and run with them. Andrew had pictures of them on his desk, and on his phone and on his computer background. They were such a part of his life. I have so many pictures of Andrew and Nicole with the dogs and cats, we can never forget them.  Daisy was also my best friend and companion.

When we did our last family holiday card, the last one when we were a full family, Daisy and Daphne got included, instead of mom and dad, but we were happy – everyone in the picture was so happy.  You can see the love in all of their eyes.


We don’t have Daisy anymore.  As some of you know, she is with Andrew now, buried in his arms, next to his heart.  I am sure they are playing and running and sleeping together where ever they are.  Maybe waiting for Daphne to join them again some day.

But does she know? I don’t think so.  She is blessed with a short memory, she does not cry over him, she does not miss him.  Sometimes she goes into his room and sniffs around, jumps on his bed, smells his clothes, but then wags her tail and carries on.  Life is so simple and happy for her.  Feed her, walk her, play with her, love her – that is all she needs – and that is what the kids gave her – unconditional love.

Sometimes I am jealous of Daphne, she has no sorrow, she has no pain.

But I also feel sorry for her, I sometimes pity her.  She does not remember the love and the compassion and the friendship that Andrew gave her and that she gave him.  She does not have those amazing memories of them playing in the snow or in the lake.  She does not remember my son.  I don’t think I would be able to go on if I did not have so many memories that keep my son alive.

I sit here and cry and look at her – and she just wags her tail and tells me she loves me.



I’ve learned to listen differently

A few weeks ago I was with a colleague, Sara (not her real name) who lost an employee in a car accident. This employee and Sara had grown pretty close over the few years he worked for her, and she was understandably pretty upset when he passed.  We were talking for a few minutes when she said that she knew how I felt losing Andrew, and went on to tell me about the death of her employee, and how it was similar to me losing Andrew.  She told me how he called her mom sometimes because she had taken him in and taught him so much.  I just smiled, wished her a lovely day and left, as my business was done.

I was pretty freakin livid.  I think you can understand why.  She compared her employee of three years, no relationship, not family, nothing, and losing him in a car crash, to the loss of my son, my only son, of twenty one years.  Was she that disingenuous, that much removed, that much of the lack of understanding to make this comparison?  I went across the street to another client, who happens to be a very close friend and told him what had happened.  He was as upset as I was, he stood in the same corner as I in thinking how could she possibly be so removed from reality to make this comparison.  It took a few weeks to get this out of the front of my mind, but I eventually moved on, until I told the story to Rich, a coach who I have been friends and a teammate with for many years.

He heard a different conversation with Sara that I had heard.  And he expressed it to me, he told me what he thought of what she said.  He actually made me think about not what she said, but why she said it.  Not about the content, but the cause.  And it hit me, maybe I was just not listening the right way.

Sara was reaching out to me in any way she can.  She had not experienced the loss of her own child, thankfully.  But she wanted to say something and connect to me in some way, and this was her attempt to do it.  She meant no ill will by it, didn’t mean to hurt me or compare herself to me, and more importantly, didn’t mean to minimize my loss.  It was just a way of her reaching out to me in my grief and connecting to me in some way.

I look at that conversation very differently now.  Although it still hurts when people compare their loss of a cousin, or their parent, or a young friend, to the loss of my son, I now realize that it is done innocently and they are attempting to help me, Thank you.


In the same vein as this, there is also the times I have to hear people say we are strong.  And that we are strong to survive this tragedy.  And the same lesson I have learned above helps us get through that comment.  If you have made that comment to us, please do not be offended, we so much appreciate hearing that, and we really appreciate that you are reaching out to us.

But…we are not that strong.  We cry every day.  We find it hard to eat a meal and enjoy it because we feel guilty.  We don’t ever feel like going out and just want to stay home and be with each other, and Nicole.  Some of our friends are taking us out for lunch or dinner, and that is really good for us and we so much enjoy going out with them.  We get to talk to them about life and have a nice meal with them. Not because we are strong, but because we need to.  Not because we are strong, but because we need to live and talk about Andrew, and remember him with others.  Not because we are strong, but because we have no choice.

We are still here, Nicole is still here, Our mothers and nephews and niece are still here.  We need to work and eat and live some sort of life.  Yes, it probably takes strength to get out of bed every morning, and some days we just can’t.  Some days after work we go to bed after dinner, turn off the phones, shut down e-mail, and leave everyone alone because we just don’t have the strength to do anything or talk to anyone.  But we know there is tomorrow, and we have to get up, go to work, talk to people and, as I hate to say it, be strong.

Are we strong?  Is everyone who has lost a child and is  still functioning, strong?  Or are we just surviving, and the strength that we get from our lost children to continue living our lives make us appear to be strong.

I know I find strength to keep going from Andrew and Nicole and Dorothy.  I know my son wants me to live my life and to enjoy life, and do the things he and I never got to do together, even as he has left me. I know that Nicole brings me strength and love every single day by being there for me, by telling me how much she enjoys life and college, and how much she is looking forward to things in the future.  Events that I want to and need to be here for.  And I find strength from Dorothy seeing how she is handling this day by day, how she still manages to go to work every day and function, and how she still cares for her mom all the time.  I also find strength in writing my journal, that I hope is helping people, not just those of us who have suffered the worst loss imaginable, but those of you who try to relate to us, try to reach out to us and be our friends – hopefully my journal opens your eyes as to what we are going through and how much you are helping us.  That is where my strength comes from.



Andrew playing with Peanut at CU Boulder


He actually let me take these pictures while he was relaxing and chasing Peanut


He found great joy in animals, and loved the unconditional love Peanut provided


Why? Why mine?

Andrew SoccerAndrew was a great kid – really.  He was fun to be around, he smiled all the time, never talked ill about anyone, always saw the positive side of life.  So why did G-d take him from us?  Why did G-d decide not to let our son live out his years on earth with us.  Tyler as well – a great high school student who was taken way too early. And Mark and Kaitlyn,  Jeffrey and Patrick, and so many more.

This is the ultimate question that every parents asks when they lose a child.  Why did G-d choose to take my child and not the next one?  Why did He not let my son live to be a ripe old man, live to let him see his children married, and live to enjoy his grandchildren?  We see bad people, thieves, murderers, ungrateful people, users, wife-beaters, and they live their whole lives out, maybe some of it in jail, but they get the opportunity to live.  They get to be alive for so many years.  Any yet, our children do not. And all we want to know is why.

When they are taken, they leave such a void, they leave such pain and anguish behind.  How can G-d watch the funeral of a child and then take another child.  How can he see the mother of a 21 year old throw herself on her only son’s casket crying, and yet turn a blind eye and take another son from another mother.  How can he watch the baby who lives only seven hours, held by his parents the whole time, read to, talked to, and then take that baby and move on.  How does He do this time after time.

Was it my fault? Was it something I said or did some time that caused this?  Did I upset him, or did I not live a good pious life, was I not enough of a mench, did I not give enough charity? Parents always ask that and dread that it was their fault.

Andrew with SimbaTo those parents who ask that, as well as myself, that is a question we can actually answer. No.  And it took me, as well as many others, a while to come to that conclusion  You are not being punished, you did not cause your child’s death by upsetting the Almighty.  No matter what you said, what you thought, what you did or didn’t do, you didn’t cause it, you had no control over it.  Even if I did something wrong, and G-d decided to punish me – He would have to look around and see the consequences of His action.  If He were punishing a single person, then the collateral damage would not be so wide spread and devastating.  He would have to see bubby and grandma, Andrew’s grandmothers, crying and grieving so hard every single day.  He would have to see the pain that his cousins are in from losing such a happy part of their family.    He would have to see his mother not being able to sleep at night, and crying whenever she thinks of her dear sweet son she held in her arms not so many years ago.  How could G-d punish one person, and cause so much grief to others?  Don’t blame yourself – as we have learned not to blame ourselves.  It is a long hard road to travel to realize that and to understand that, but a road that we all must travel in order to be at peace with the question of Why.

The other answer to this is faith.  I know Andrew is in a different place now. I don’t know where, I don’t know why, I know nothing of it.  But I have faith that he is somewhere.  He is with his loved one’s who passed before him.  He is talking to poppy about the garden. He is talking to Keith about college.  He is talking to my father telling him how his son turned out. I am sure he is arguing with Einstein about something he missed.  But I know in my heart he is somewhere.  I don’t know why I think this, but it is faith.  It brings me peace, it brings us all peace.

Andrew MassIf there was nothing, just a body that died, that my son was buried, and we put up a headstone one day and that is it, then it would hurt so much more.  If he just died and nothing of his essence, nothing of his soul, nothing of his compassion moved on, then I would be devastated.  But I know that is not the case. I know he moved on, he left his body, he left that dark hole in the ground and moved somewhere else.  All that I taught him, all that he knew about helping others and all that was him had to end up somewhere, and he had to take that all with him.  All I have is my faith that that has happened.  As we all have that faith in anyone who has moved on.  They have simply moved to another dimension, another level of consciousness, another place that we can not understand yet.  But they are somewhere, and we can rest easy knowing that.  We can live out the rest of our lives knowing that one day we will be with them again and we will hug them and talk to them again.  One day we might understand more.  And that brings us peace and enables us to let go.  It enables us to talk about them, to relish in the lives they had, and to know we are okay.

You ask – why? I answer because we have the faith to let them go.  We have the faith that they are somewhere and at that they are peace.  That is all I can offer.

You ask – why mine?  I can’t answer that.  But I can tell you it was not your fault.  There was nothing you could do to save them.  There was nothing you did that caused them to pass. And that you have the faith and strength to believe that – truly believe that.

If you agree, if you do have the faith, if you are at peace, please leave a comment and let others know – it truly helps so many.  If you know someone who blames themselves, please pass this on to them in the hopes it will help them.


The Last Words

IMG-20130709-00004This is a little bit different than my normal posts.  It not about Andrew, or our loss of him. It is about the last words, the final words.  The other night at our bereavement group, one of the mothers who lost her boy last year was terribly upset.  She cried and sobbed over the loss of her son openly.  But really what bother her and what gave her grief was the last words they spoke.  He apparently did some physically toiling, sweaty work outside and was going out that night with friends without showering.  She asked him to shower, she implored him to, but all he said was that he did not care and was late for his friends – he twisted his baseball cap around and headed out the door.  As he was running out, she verbally expressed her disappointment with him, quite specifically and with expression, and he was gone.  Not just gone from the house that night, but gone from her life forever – he passed without making it home that night.

And all she could think about, and what she has to live with the rest of her life was that last remark, that last sentence, that last voice of frustration.  And it burns inside of her and is a constant terrible source or pain and anguish.  She could not take the words back, she can not now or ever explain those words.  And she is not alone.

Another family we know had a similar situation.  I do not recall the exact situation, nor the stimulant that caused the friction, nor who said what last, but that there where words said, feelings hurt, and their son left the house, left his home, and they did not talk for weeks afterward – each waiting for the other to break the silence, each waiting for the other to maybe apologize, each waiting for the other to grow up.  But that never happened.  Their son passes as well – the silence never broken, but now the silence is forever.  The frustration over those last words is forever.

We talked about this and two points came up.

One thing you can take from this is that your children are your most precious things in life. How can you fight with them and let it go unresolved.  How can you let them leave the house frustrated, upset, mad?  You never know if the words will be your last.  I have heard many times that one of the secrets to a long lasting happy marriage is that you never go to bed upset or mad at your spouse.  Then how can you possibly let your child, who is so much more fragile and sensitive than your spouse, leave you when they are upset.  How can you let them turn and walk away?  How can’t you call them or text them or reach out to them and offer a settlement, so that you may both go to sleep happy – never knowing if it is the last time they will go to sleep.

Can you live the rest of your life with what you said to them the last time they left your side?

But – we are also parents.  We have to nurture and encourage them. We have to guide them and teach them. We have to set them straight when they drift, we have to discipline them when they break the rules, and we have to treat them like adults when they act like babies. That sometimes includes saying things to them that might hurt, that might offend or bother them, that may include raising our voices to them, it might include walking out of the room and not giving in.  That is all about being a parent and raising good, compassionate, trustworthy, righteous children.  No parent can raise a child without discipline, without being a parent, without ruffling a few feathers now and again.  Without pissing our dearly loved children off once in a while.  And then walking away to let our children think about it, and hopefully coming to the right decision using the tools that we provided them with during their upbringing.

That is the potential quandary that every parent faces.   The two parents I mentioned above know that what they did was right.  They have come to peace with themselves and what happened between them and their sons.  They know that they were being parents – good parents.  They know what they did was right for their child.  They know that their boys are not resentful or upset where they are now.  They know that their boys are at peace with themselves and with their parents.  But it still hurts. It hurts like hell.  Knowing that the last conversation was not one of love and happiness, but one of being a parent.

Every time your child walks away from you, every time he or she leaved the house, every time you say goodbye, every time you hang up that phone, look at them and think about it.  Are you being their friend?  are you being their mother or father? Are you being a disciplinarian? Are they leaving you upset and is their cause for that upset?  Or did you just have a bad day at work and taking it out on them?  And a minute later, maybe an hour, maybe a day, can it be repaired?

Is there an answer?  Absolutely not.  It is good that almost none of you will pre-decease you children.  That people will pass in the correct order.  But as I write this, I come across another thought.  What do you want your children’s last thoughts of their parents to be? What do you want the last conversation that you have with your children to be about? How do you want it to end?  So when you walk away, walk into that bright light, what will they remember?

Gary GrosserPrologue – I know that when I was sixteen my father drove me to school in the dead of winter.  We talked about the lawn and about the garden coming back in spring.  We smiled and laughed.  He pulled up to the school, drove to the last door, i leaned over, kissed him goodbye, and got out of the car.  I was happy, but my father never saw the spring.  But I was happy.  I am at peace.


Is my son at peace – really?

One thing I am having a hard time is the question of is Andrew at peace.

I speak to people all the time about Andrew and generally everyone says Andrew is in a better place.  They say he is in heaven, and that he is at peace.  He is with G-d, he is with my father whom he never met before, and he is with poppy whom he loved and cared for dearly.  He is with all those who passed before him that he never had the chance to meet, as well as those he did know during the short period of time that was his life.  They say that in heaven, you are happy, you are at total peace, everything is peaceful, you have no worries, it is paradise.

People general also say that he is with us, all of us – Dorothy, Nicole, me.  He is with Grandma, Bubby, Greg and Todd, Wally and Matt , Jovi and Jay. He is here, he is watching over us, he is taking care of us.  He gives us signs and protects us, all while being at peace in heaven.

But I have a question.  One that has haunted me for months.  One that i am just stuck on.

Andrew can see the pain and grief that we are all going through.  He can see Dorothy crying herself to sleep, or waking up in the middle of the night crying.  He can see me crying in my office every single day, finding it hard to concentrate and focus.  He can see how we are struggling to make it through day by day without him.  He can feel how his closest friends miss him and pain for him.  He sees Grandma crying for him in church every day.  He sees all of this pain that his passing has caused on this earth.  How can he be happy and at peace with all this pain here on earth, wherever his soul is now.

I know he did not cause his own passing, he took what he was told to take by his doctors. I know it was a medical issue that no one could have foreseen and no one could have prevented. It was not his fault, it was not the doctors fault, it was not anyone’s fault, he just died.  He went to sleep, and very peacefully his life ended.  It just ended.  I don’t blame him for his passing, no one does – I love him too much for that.  No one blames anyone, it just happened.

But how can he really be at peace?  He must be in pain, crying himself, just to see all of us in so much pain. He is such a sensitive being, such a sensitive soul, how can he just not be effected by the pain here on earth and be at peace as everyone says he is.  I love him so much, and I want him to be at peace, I want his time in heaven to be peaceful and I want all those good things I hear about heaven to be so for my son.

How can we do this, how can we make this happen?  I don’t know. Maybe no one knows. You see movies like Ghost, and realize maybe it is letting him go to bring him peace.  I read poems like the one’s below and think about letting go, if I can.  Maybe we have to learn from his passing, maybe we have look at what he had and be thankful.  But what is letting go?  I can’t just let go of my son.  I can’t let go of his hand, I can’t let go of holding onto him in my thoughts.  I will never let him go – but do I need to?  Do I need to figure out how to let him go and start to live my life again?  Would that disrespectful to his memory?  I know he would want me to, he would want me to go on and live my life and still love and respect his memory.

We will never forget him, we can’t.  We will never stop looking at his pictures or telling stories about him.  His face, his voice, the way he smells after a shower, his love will never ever be forgotten.  Not by just us, but hopefully many will always remember him.  But maybe I can learn to let go of his hand. Maybe I can learn to let go of his collar and let him move to a place he needs to be in to be at peace.   And maybe that will let me move to a place I can be at peace as well.  I just don’t know.

I have to think more, open myself up more, and eventually write more about this when I figure it out.  This is just the beginning.

These are all poems/images from facebook that I have read and make me think.