Monthly Archives: July 2014

The Last Decisions

They said to send over a suit and shoes to dress Andrew for the final time. We pulled them out and laid them on his bed and just looked at it. He had a brand new suit we just bought, only a few months old. We looked at the suit a good long time. That was not Andrew, that was not the person we raised for twenty-one years. That is not what he was comfortable in. We decided there would be no suit.

IFHockey was what Andrew loved. It did not define him, but it was his passion. He felt free when he had his jersey on and played on the cold ice. He had no worries, no fears, and felt so great to be part of a team. So why would we put him in a suit? Nicole came upstairs with Andrew’s Mariners jersey, number 17, and that was it. He would wear his hockey jersey one last time, forever. He would be more comfortable and free in that than anything else.

And shoes? Andrew rarely wore shoes. He hated them. So why put them on him now. He and Wally would spend days without shoes, probably the whole summer if we let him. They went to get pizza one day and they were told that they needed shoes, but since they did not have them the owner of the shop gave them four small pizza boxes to tape to their feet so they would not be barefoot. And they had their pizza and were happy. Unfortunately no one took a picture of that – I would have loved to see that. So how could we put him in shoes now, or even socks.

So Andrew is dressed in his Mariners jersey and a pair of Khaki pants. No suit, no shoes. That is the way he would like to be.

Andrew also wore a ring. He wore it like a wedding band on his right ring finger. As far as Andrew and Jovi were concerned, they were, for lack of a better word, married. They were deeply and passionately in love. They lived together for a long time, sharing a small single bed. They had a child together, they ate most of their meals together, and bought each other these cute little token gifts. They were so much in love. The ring came home to us in a small bag along with Andrew’s other belongings. How could we leave it in the bag, or in the house? How could we not put it back on his finger for him to wear forever, as I am sure his love for Jovi, and their child, will last for eternity.

We also needed a talis for him to wear. The plan was for me to be buried in my Bar Mitzvah talis, and Andrew to keep his. My father’s talis from Israel, which is the one I wear to temple since my father passed, would stay in the family and be passed down. But that has changed now. I wanted to keep my son’s talis. I did not want to part with it. I want someone else to wear it one day. I did not want it gone for good. So Andrew now wears the talis I was Bar Mitzvahed in.  And his talis sits in the draw in my bedroom, still in the talis bag that he designed and I made, and will one day be given to someone to wear at their bar mitvah.

But what else? What else is there we could do?

PG3_2063This past spring I bought a small Corgi replica car of Andrew’s car – a Mazda RX8, black all around. I purchased it so that he could take it back to school and look at it once in a while. My wish was that he would look at it and remember the feeling of freedom, the sense of pride, the feeling of the wind in his air when he drove the car. I wanted him to remember this and maybe it would take a little stress out of his day and bring him some pleasure and relaxation to remember this feeling. He was so happy to have that little toy model, even here in NY. he left it on his night table and was so happy when he looked at it. So that little toy, that little black model, that brought relaxing memories and brought the memory of peaceful driving was there resting next to him forever.

And there was one more thing. Andrew’s beloved Daisy.

PAG_0175Daisy was with us for almost fourteen years. She traveled with us, loved us, and we loved her back. Each and every morning when he was home, Andrew would lay down and hug Daisy and kiss her and talk to her. It was their special time every day. The same was true when he came home from college – he had to spend time with her right away, hugging her, laughing with her, and she would lick his face until he could not take it any longer. Daisy passed away, very quietly and peacefully, a few months before Andrew left us. We had her body cremated and the ashes put in a beautiful flower tin. Over the summer we talked about what to do with her ashes. Should we sprinkle them in the lake that she loved to swim in so much? Should we release them into the air from the car that she loved to drive in? We spent weeks over the summer, but we never settled on what to do with her.

A day or so after Andrew passed i was in my office and i saw the tin can with what remained of our beloved Daisy. How could I leave her on the shelf in my office, alone. How could I let my Andrew be alone forever. So the last thing I did was to place the Daisy in Andrew’s arms. They would be together forever. Daisy would be right there with Andrew forever. Along side him when they entered their eternal peace. I am sure they are together today, and will be forever, bringing a smile to Andrew’s face, and a wag to Daisy’s tail.

There we stood, looking at our son for the very last time. We would never see his beautiful, smiling face again. This was it. But in that moment when we looked at him, he was in peace. There was no stress or anxiety in his face. There was nothing hurting him or bothering him, there was no pain. And we said that to each other. We found some peace in that, Andrew was at peace.

There he was in his Mariners jersey, with Daisy in his arms, his car neatly parked next to him, wearing the ring that tied him to the woman and child he loved so much, wearing my Bar Mitzah tallis – and he was in peace.

Then I had to do the hardest thing I will ever have to do. We motioned for the director to close his eternal resting place. And I watched as I gazed upon my son’s beautiful face for the last time. We never turned away, we just backed up and sat there in the first row as people came to greet us and pay their respects. And we were numb.



A little bit about Andrew

I talk a lot about my feelings, about our loss, about what people say – and don’t say – or how they say it.  I talk about what is in my head at any given time, but try to make my posts relevant and interesting, not just to those of us who are suffering, but to those whose friends are in situations where what I am writing hopefully helps.

I am off that track today. I fell I need to talk about Andrew.  To tell people who did not know him that well, or at all, about him.

Andrew - Happy

Andrew loved to make people smile and laugh

Andrew was always around.  But he was also that person who was quiet, in the background, never wanting the spotlight.  He was always invited out with his friends and teammates, and he went out with them often, but did so while staying almost anonymous in a big group.  He was also a funny kid, as anyone who knows him will attest to.  He would be quiet in a crowd, then all of a sudden blurt out some funny comment and break everyone up, whether in a locker room or at a party.  We heard some of the comments he made in his varsity hockey locker room, all told by teammates with a smile on their face.  He did not look for attention, and was very happy just being there, just being part of a group, part of the crowd, part of a team.

He was pretty popular, and everyone knew and loved him.  For his memorial hockey game last December we had an amazing turnout, and we all laughed and cried.  People told us stories about Andrew, from school times to hockey to going out at night. It was truly a night to remember for Dorothy, Nicole and I. Thank you to those who participated. Hopefully this year’s game will grow some, and we will keep this one-game-a-year alive for Andrew.

He never wanted to have birthday parties, or even a graduation party, but he was always invited and was always going to someone else’s party.  He never wanted to be the center of attention, but whomever he was talking to – he made them feel like they were the most important person on the earth at that moment.  He never interrupted you, and gave you his undivided attention, and you felt and knew that. We have heard that so many times.

Andrew - dress 2

Nicole in Nicole’s dress, and later that day Andrew in Nicole’s dress, just so people could smile.

Andrew was close with a lot of his friends.  After he was gone many of his friends told us that they would talk to him for hours, just the two of them.  They would tell Andrew so much more than they told others, the words therapist and shrink came up many times when others talked about him.  He would sit and listen to them and they felt comfort in talking to him. He was such a compassionate, caring and gentle person that no one ever felt threatened by him or by telling him their deepest secrets, their fears, or what was on their mind. And he would listen and nod his head and make eye contact. And then when they were done, Andrew would respond with some pearl of wisdom that made them feel better.  I never heard any of these conversations, he never talked to me about this part of his life, but I heard about it from at least a dozen of his friends afterward.  They all had tears in their eyes when they told me about these conversations, and said that they learned so much by having Andrew just listen to them.

Andrew wanted to be a therapist, a healer, a confidante.  Even before he graduated college, or learned his calling, he was doing this, he was helping others. Very rarely does someone find their calling in life so early, Andrew did. He knew he could heal people not just by talking to them, but by making them laugh. Even as a little boy, he would make funny faces for the camera, or do funny things to make others laugh – he loved to make others laugh.

One thing that Andrew did was to collect tickets. He liked to look at them and remember the places he had been, the games he had been to, the concerts he laughed at, the mountains he ski’ed. He had collected hundreds of tickets from Ranger games, Mets and Yankee games. He saw Meatloaf, The Who (two times), Dane Cook, and Berlin in concert (sitting atop the right sides stage speakers, he couldn’t hear for a few days after that). He had tickets from the Circle Line, Westminster Dog Show Exhibitor, along with NBA Championship games, World Series tickets, and backstage passes.  He kept them all in a small wooden box in his room next to his bed.

ticketsSeveral years ago I had heart stent surgery and was unable to do anything for a few weeks. I had an idea that took the better part of that time. I had a board cut five feet tall by two and a half feet wide. I hijacked his ticket box, went downstairs and  meticulously sorted the tickets on the floor. Some were sets of two, others were three, and some were fours. I then applied them to the board. No real order, no real pattern, just his memories all laid out on  twelve-plus square feet. After I was done, I called him downstairs one evening to show him what I had made for my son. He was amazed, overwhelmed, and truly appreciative for this gift. We had it framed and it has been in his room ever since.

Those who have been to our home have seen the board, he shows it to everyone and hangs in his room. It is his memories of his life. It is now our memories of our son. We remember the games now, we remember the concerts we took him to, we remember riding the circle line as a family. It is still Andrew’s ticket board, but it is now our memories. I often go into his room just to look at it. The box is still there and has so much more in it, maybe one day I will make another board.

We gave Andrew to the world, and we hope the world is a better place for the time he spent here. We hope that those he met, those he befriended are better people for the time they spent with our son.


Three Tickets

It was hard to say three. The cashier asked us how many tickets do we need, and we choked on the word three. Not because we had never asked for three tickets before, but this was different. This was permanent, this was for the rest of our lives. Our family is now three people, not four.

We finally got the words out, purchased the tickets, and Dorothy, Nicole and I went into the Atlanta Zoo and had a very nice day. We walked all around and stayed close, the three of us.  We gazed at the animals, pet them in the petting zoo, watched the birds and the gorillas and the lions. We talked about the bears, and the three of us watched the pandas eat bamboo, we were all freaked out by the snakes and the lizards, and we stared at the gorillas that stared back at us.  It was so nice just to be there. Dorothy and I were happy that Nicole was enjoying the zoo, as she always has. But it was also so hard for us. Andrew always loved the animals and loved the zoo, he should have been there with us. He probably would have been the first to want to leave, his patience doesn’t last all day, but he should have at least had the opportunity to ask us when are we leaving. But, we did had a very fun day with Nicole.  We needed the few hours to just let go and be happy.

Later that day we went to the the Coke Experience. Again, three tickets. And the next day was breakfast for three, and three tickets to the Atlanta Braves game. Just saying three makes me sad. That is our new reality. We are no longer four, we are three. There is the same amount of love between us, just shared three ways now, not four, anymore.

I have to look back. I have to look back and smile. We were four. We had so many experiences and memories as four. We did so much, experienced so much, traveled so much – as four. I have to be so grateful that we were able to do all that with Andrew. I have to be thankful that we were four for so long, or just a short twenty one years. But it was a wonderful time, twenty one years that I will never forget. Twenty one years of great memories. I just hope that I can remember those twenty one years for the rest of my life, and that Nicole will remember her years with Andrew for the rest of her life.

Perry 10012I have to look at the pictures of the four of us and remember how wonderful life was. I know that the four of us were so close. Each of us having a different relationship with the others. My relationship with Andrew was far different than was Dorothy’s. Her love for Andrew was a pure mother’s love, he could do no wrong, they never argued, he never fought with his mom. When he was frustrated or upset, he loved his mom too much to argue or fight with her, and he would just walk away and say nothing was wrong. We talk about it, and we really can not remember a time he talked back to her, fought with her, or hurt her feelings. He was a wonderful son to her.

IFWhen he wanted to go somewhere and needed company, or wanted to take a ride, there was always Nicole. They went out to dinner together, or even lunch when they were both home. And anytime there was something missing or short in the fridge, they would both eagerly go shopping for one or two items, and return home with three or four bags of stuff we absolutely needed.  Stuff like Oreo cookies, Miso soup mix, along with plenty of fruit and vegetables.  They would even call grandma and ask her if she needed anything from the store. And of course they would deliver it to her, usually just in time for lunch or dinner – they planned that rather well usually. Although they lived apart much of the year, they were so close emotionally to each other.

IFThen there was our relationship. It was probably more complex than others. The frustration and anxiety he did not let his mom feel or hear, he let me have. We very rarely argued much, or fought, but he knew that I could take more than mom, so he did let it out on me more than anyone else. But it didn’t bother me, because I knew where it came from and  knew it might have been something someone else caused, but he knew I could take the hit. We were also closer than the rest. We spent more time together, we traveled more together, and we talked so much during the time Jovi was pregnant and I learned so much about his thoughts and feelings, it really changed our relationship for the better. We also spent hours out in the backyard his last summer talking over the new fire pit. I learned so much about my son in the past few years. He had grown up so much being away at college, I looked forward to watching him become a man, to watching him grow into the person he was becoming. To watch him become a husband and a father, and see if what I taught him really sunk in. To see if my values and morals, at least the good ones, would be passed on to him. I will think about that, and what might have been, for the rest of my life. A relationship between a father and son is like no other.

But now we are three, and I long to see how Nicole will turn out. How will she find happiness in life. I know that she is a strong person, she is strong willed, and goes after what she wants. She does not sit back and wait for anything. She is much more independent than Andrew was, she asks for help much less and is determined to do it right – no matter what it is.

Yes, we are three now, but we will always really be four.

four of us


It Must Hurt

DSC_0583A client was over a few days ago and we were talking about Andrew and hockey and such. He asked some other questions about Andrew, so I showed him Andrew’s trophies in his bedroom, amongst all of his other treasured belongings. Afterwards, client said “it must hurt” to go into his room.  It made me think.

DSC_0638Yes, it does hurt to go into his bedroom, to see all of his precious belongings – to see his childhood toys, his guitar that he learned to play on collecting dust, his skateboard that does not bring anyone anywhere anymore.  It hurts to see the paintball gun that he loved to use just sitting there, to see his rubiks cubes, some solved, others that will never be solved because he is not here anymore. His New York Rangers sticker peeling off the window because no one is there to fix it, right next to his Harrison Huskies sticker and his Rye Mariners sticker – all parts of his life.

To see the things I gave him that I knew he would like to play with or just to have, like his collection of foreign coins he’d been since he was five. There is also the light cube that one of my dearest clients gave me because he knew Andrew would appreciate it (see it here).  Andrew never got to see it because it arrived the day before we lost him – that really hurts because I know he would have stared at it for hours in amazement.

But I also find comfort in his room.

I look at his paintball gun and recall all the good times he had with it. I used to watch him take it apart and meticulously clean it.  He used to exchange parts with his friends and use different triggers, and different tanks – he loved to just experiment and try different combinations.  I look at the rubiks cubes and recall a story Todd tells. – Todd handed Andrew the cube in front of some of his friends, and in the time it took for Todd asked his friends how long do they think it would take Andrew to solve it, and their answers that he would not be able to – Andrew handed the solved cube back to Todd.  Everyone was amazed.

DSC_0637I look at his top shelf full of trophies. Not just hockey, but chess trophies and soccer trophies as well.  Lasting reminders of the triumphs Andrew and his teams earned over the years. I remember each and every one of them. I remember the games, I remember the teams, I remember the embraces afterward. I was fortunate enough to have coached Andrew’s teams for nine years, as well as spring leagues and tournament teams. It brings joy to my heart when I think how proud he was to be part of each and every team he was on. He was never the star of the team, but he loved being part of it. We have received so many messages from his teammates telling us how Andrew was such an integral part of their teams, and they usually mention how he made them all smile and laugh – no matter what. Looking at his wall of pucks that he collected over the years. There are so many that we never got to put up.

DSC_0635His electric guitar is also still in his room. I look at it and wonder how it sounded when he played it. He used to not want to bother us so he plugged it into his amp and used his headphones, so we never really heard him play. But his friends said that he played for them, and we hear he was pretty good. He also had an acoustic guitar from Uncle Joe, that his cousin has now.  He is learning to play as well in Andrew’s honor – that makes me happy.

DSC_0590I also see Andrew’s black and white flannel shirts hanging up, and I hang them on his door knob so I see them every day when I walk down the hall. I see his t-shirts and his team jackets. Although he outgrew many of the clothes he had, he kept them as a reminder to himself of the good times he had when he wore them. There are shirts from the farm, from old hockey teams, from school – all too small for him, but memories attached to them. Some of those memories still live on with me, but some of them only known to him and  passed along with him. Some of the shirts we will keep forever, but others will be made into memory quilts for those who knew and loved Andrew.

What else is there? He has the license plates from his cars – he loved loved loved to drive and I love the fact that I can see his license plates and remember the smile that he had whenever he drove his Jetta or his RX8. There is an armrest that he took from his high school auditorium.  I asked him about that and he said he just thought it was cool to have. He also had some keys to the school, along with a pad of library passes and a pad of late passes – I don’t know where he got them or what they were for, but he thought is was too cool to pass them up. That was my son.

So does going into Andrew’s room hurt? Of course it does, it hurts like hell and brings tears to my face every time.  But his room is full of who Andrew was, what he was, what he loved, what he wanted to be.

It is full of his happy memories, as well as my happy memories of him, full of my joyous times with him and our entire family.

I would not give up my daily visits to my son’s room for anything.