Monthly Archives: December 2015

A Special Bar Mitzvah

Today is an interesting day. It started off by attending the Bar Mitzvah of a special child, and will end with Christmas dinner with the family.
mia1This morning I was privileged to escort a friend’s daughter to the Bar Mitzvah  of a schoolmate of hers. My friend had to work today so she asked me, as her closest Jewish friend, to take her daughter to the occasion, and maybe help her understand what was going on in temple. I was glad to help her out – as she has helped me over the years. It was the first Bar Mitzvah I have attended since losing Andrew, so I was not sure how I was going to react – especially considering that this one was for a special child – Zak.

To clear things up, and to cover my ass somewhat, I am not sure what this young man has, or what has made him special, or if that is even the correct politically acceptable term this month. But after meeting him and attending the affair, and observing him, it is obvious that he is a “special” child – not in any way derogatory or judgmental, just setting the stage for the story. And if I offend anyone by using this term, especially his parents, or anyone else, I apologize in advance. It’s not the first time I have inadvertently, unintentionally offended someone; and let’s face it, it won’t be the last.

Back to the story.
Andrew BMBeing Proud. I proudly recalled, while I sat there at the beginning of the service, Andrew’s Bar Mitzvah. How proud I was that my son reached this glorious date in his life. How he worked hard to learn the prayers, to learn the haftorah, and to write the obligatory speech thanking everyone. We pushed him to study and learn over those preparatory months, but he worked very hard on his own. He was on the ice four or five times a week, went to Hebrew school two or three times a week, went to regular school every day, and still managed to learn his Bar Mitzvah obligations. It made us both proud that he accomplished all this.

mia2And then I looked up at the bimah this morning. This young man had not prepared much, it was beyond what he could handle. He did not write a thank you speech or read from the Torah. But as I sat there, and he ascended to the bimah for the first time in his life with that gorgeous innocent smile upon his face, I was just as proud of him as I was of my son.  I looked over at Zak’s father, who was sitting next to his father, and the two generations were as proud as any parent I had ever seen at a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. For them, this was the Bar Mitzvah of a lifetime. Zak stood up there smiling and holding his mother’s hand as the cantor and rabbi read from the Torah, as his mother said the prayers, and as his older brother stood next to him. That little bit made them just as proud of their son as I was on the day I got to stand next to Andrew when he was called to the Torah for his Bar Mitzvah; so different, and yet the same proud feelings.

Later that morning I was thinking of the proud moments that I had with Andrew in his short life, as well as so many of the proud moments that I will never get to experience with him. I both smiled and cried on the way home.

I was also thinking of Zak. Chances are his moments will be different from Andrews, or from many of the children whose parents read my journals. Many of my friends and colleagues were proud parents when their kids got their first job at an investment bank, or got into medical school, or joined their first start-up. The posted it on Facebook, called the family, and mentioned it when I was with them.

I don’t think that Zak’s parents will have these same moments as we have had. But, in their way, they will be just as proud, if not more proud, of special mile markers in his life. For Zak has to work harder, and be more focused, than our kids did to pass a test, or to graduate from school, or even to make friends. His parents get to share his joy and his innocent love just as we do, and they get to be just as proud of his accomplishments and his mile markers as we do of our children’s.

andrew senior gameMany of our children are near one end of the perceived spectrum – getting that job at an investment bank at 23, buying their new Audi at 24, and taking their parents out to Peter Lugers – just because they can afford it now. Many special children are at the other end of the spectrum, where their mile markers don’t include big financial accomplishments, but emotional accomplishments, physical accomplishments – moving out on their own one day, or getting a job at Target or Walmart where they fit in and love greeting people as they enter the store. For some, that greeter job is the chance of a lifetime that they can smile and welcome strangers, for hours at end, just saying hello and making people happy as they enter the store. It brings them great joy and happiness to have that job – probably more than the investment  banker or the lawyer. And for their parents – they are just as proud of their son’s accomplishment of being a greeter as any parents I know whose child works elsewhere. For Zak, I only met him for a brief couple of hours, so I have no way to knowing what the future holds for him. But on the proud parent’s spectrum, I think his parents have surpassed most of us with what their son has accomplished so far in his thirteen years.

The point? What’s the point of this journal? I am not sure exactly. Does there have to be a point or a lesson as there usually is? Maybe this is just an observation. Or maybe it is something that we can all reflect upon. I know I am proud of what Andrew did accomplish in his 21 years – and I know I told him that very often. I am also very proud, and continue to be so proud of what Nicole has accomplished, and what she continues to accomplish in her life – and I tell her this as well.

Maybe that is the point. Share your proudness (if that’s a word) not just with your friends, and not just with your family, but also with your children. That is what is important. Make sure they know how proud you are of them – every single day. Not just of the big events, but that you are proud of them in everything they do. This goes for not just our young children, but even if your “child” is 30 or 40 or 50.

I can sleep at night knowing that my son knew, up to his last night, that his mother and I were very proud of him – because someone once told me what I am saying here now.


The Book of Andrew- Is the story over?



Dorothy & I have a three ring binder that we keep in the living room entitled “User Manual – Andrew.”  This was actually the manual binder for a software program that a client used several years ago, and when he retired the program, I acquired the binder.

Why don’t all kids come with a personalized user manual?


DSC_3429The book is filled with momentos from Andrew’s life. Over the years we have collected school portraits, hockey team pictures, awards, diplomas, some school test results, 8×10’s you get from vacations, and so forth and placed them in this one book. We kept it chronological, in nice clear page inserts. It is the story of Andrew. It is the story of Andrew’s life. We have had it since he was three or four and have kept it up to date, all the way through to his acceptance to CU Boulder. It has been a source of happiness and pride for us over the years. When he was away at college we often looked through the binder and smiled. It was nice to look at the pictures from grade school, or his perfect attendance award, and recall how simple life used to be.

When Andrew passed, the book was over. I thought that was the end of the proud moments and the stories of my son that we could add to the book – the end of the story. There was nothing more to add. There were no more pictures; there would not be a college diploma, no nothing. I even thought it would be a healing gesture for me to place on the very last page, Andrew’s death certificate – closing out the book, ending the story. Making the book complete from when he was born, through the end of his life seemed appropriate.

But I never did put it in; I just left it in my drawer.

But as time goes on, I see that the Book of Andrew, the story of his life, didn’t really end with his death. His physical existence here is over. His presence, his voice, his gorgeous smile are all gone. But the story of Andrew is not done. The final chapters are not yet completed. There is still so much more.

DSC_3427Andrew touched so many people during his lifetime, emotionally and spiritually, that his presence and effect on so many still carry on. I still speak to his close friends who think about him often. A couple of his closest friends changed their college majors two years ago to Psychology – they want to work in this messed up world as therapists. Andrew helped them by spending hours listening to them. They talked about their life, their parents, their problems, and he just took it all in. Then at some point he would respond with just a few pearls of wisdom, and their problems wouldn’t seem so insurmountable. He would give them these moments of peace and solutions that they could not find within themselves, but to Andrew they seemed obvious, simple, and easy. These friends told us that whatever they were going to do with their lives was not going to be as rewarding and satisfying as being able to help others the way that Andrew has helped them. We heard from so many people that Andrew would have made a great therapist. He would listen to his friends for hours, and just being there for them was helpful. I agree. I think he would have made a great therapist and his desire to help others was so great.

DSC_3432His life also exists and continues on through my writing. I am told how my personal journey of pain and healing, my continued writing, my journal, has helped so many people deal with their own grief. I see how it is shared when I post it, how many people read it and are affected by my writing about my son. I get e-mails every day from people I have never met but who are touched by my on-going relationship with Andrew, and who are moved by what I write. Some people say that the reading is therapy for them. That they have experienced the same situations, the same emotions, the same people, but have no outlet to tell their story. They think that they are alone with their feelings of remorse, their feelings of regret, but after reading my journals they realize they are not alone. That makes me happy that I am helping others along their own journeys – the way Andrew would have helped his patients one day.

Andrew will also live on in the foundation we are setting up – Andrew’s Equipment Closet. He was a very compassionate person who cared about and wanted to help others. The foundation will help those less fortunate participate in sports programs and activities. We will supply boys and girls with sports equipment when they cannot afford it. A child should not be unable to play a sport just because they can’t afford to buy a pair of sneakers, or a stick or a helmet. In Andrew’s name, and in his memory, we are going to raise money to make these purchases, we are going to take kids shopping for what they need, and then we are going to watch them be happy playing alongside their friends. It is our hope to raise enough money for the foundation that it can really make a difference in many kids’ lives, and be a perpetual source of hope and charity for these underprivileged children.  Maybe one day we will tell the kids who receive these gifts about Andrew, and they will remember him as we all do.

DSC_3433There is also the Annual Never Forget Andrew Hockey Experience Weekend that started this year – many of you have read about this on Facebook. A dear friend of ours took 11 very deserving people to a hockey game. They were treated with the works, including meeting the players, upgraded hotel rooms, etc. – all in Andrew’s honor and memory. They were told about Andrew, who he was and how he was affected by a small unexpected gift. They were all very affected in a positive way. We were told that after the event, word spread and more people wanted to get involved and help out financially in the upcoming years. She is looking to double the number of participants next year – and keep this tradition going far into the future.

We also have Andrew’s memorial hockey game this weekend. His teammates get together every year around his birthday and play a friendly game of hockey, and they smile the entire game. They are not smiling because they love the sport, or because they are happy, but because Andrew was always smiling whenever he played and he made others smile along with him – and they know he is smiling over them playing in his memory.

DSC_3431So, as you can see, Andrew is still a large part of our lives. His story is still continuing, his love and empathy are still affecting so many people. His soft spoken words and his cheerful smile are still seen by so many. When it comes time for me to leave this world one day, I will know that my son’s name and his legacy will still be here long after I am gone. That is what any father wants for his son. Andrew’s user manual remains a work in progress.





I Really Didn’t Expect that

I was driving home this evening after dropping the dogs off at the sitter, it’s about an hour ride. I usually listen to talk radio, the news, politics, something that is pretty generic when I am in the car alone. Today I was listening for a while, but with the crap that is on the radio these days, I just could not listen to it anymore so I turned it off. The radio crap was getting into my mind and bothering me for a change.

I really wasn’t expecting that.

I have enjoyed the silence that being in the car alone has brought me for the past couple of years. It gives me time to be alone with my thoughts. The silence and the alone time has helped me deal with the loss and the pain. The silence gives me time to be alone with my grief. Time that I can cry, talk to Andrew, talk to myself – even talk to my invisible friends. I usually like my time alone. But today, I just could not take it.

I really wasn’t expecting that.

After a while I turned the radio on again, tuned to FM and scanned for a country music station. I figured that would not hurt me. For years now Nicole has enjoyed listening to country music. That’s all she has playing in her truck, yes – her truck, not car. She also tunes the radio to country music when we are in Dorothy’s car together. We all sit and listen and enjoy it together. We actually are getting to enjoy her selections of music.

I really wasn’t expecting that.

Back to today. I was listening to the country music station for a while. I have listened to country music once in a while for the past year or so with some interest and enjoyment. When I do, I think of Nicole and how she enjoys the music and especially enjoys her life, which makes me very happy. She used to listen to alternative rock with Dorothy, or the Beatles with Andrew. But now she has turned into a diehard country music fan.

I really wasn’t expecting that.

When I do, on occasion, listen to other music stations, I feel okay for a short period of time. I might even sing along for a few songs and enjoy it. But then a Beatles song comes on, or Eminem, or some other song that I know Andrew would have liked – and I emotionally lose it. I listen to the words and my mind drifts to my beloved son, and I just can’t listen to the music anymore – it hurts me down to the soul.

I really wasn’t expecting that.

Today was different though. I had on that country music station, and after several songs I realized it was more of a soft rock station. As they went from the country songs that I don’t know very well to some soft rock songs that I do know -I quietly mouthed the words and eventually sang along softly with the songs I knew. And I didn’t cry, I didn’t feel sad, I just quietly sang along.

I really wasn’t expecting that.

It lasted for a while and I was happy. I almost smiled a little when I softly sang the words that I used to sing out loud not too long ago. I listened to a few songs and thought of Andrew, and some songs reminded me of Nicole. I looked forward to the next song, and I was getting lost in my soft singing, for the first time in a very long time.

I really wasn’t expecting that.

Then I got home and turned off the truck- and the music went dead. I sat there alone in the darkness, again in my comfortable silence. And I thought to myself, Andrew would be happy. He used to listen to me when I sang, and maybe, hopefully, he was there today, seeing me, listening to me and seeing that I am not so sad today, maybe even a little happy for a very short while. And I cried, all alone.

I really wasn’t expecting that.

And a little voice came into my head. “Hey, you were happy there for a while. You didn’t feel as sad and lost as you have for so long.” That voice was right. Maybe I have cracked the shell. Maybe I can see something down the path. Maybe, just maybe my life might be turning a corner, an ever so gentle corner; maybe I can start to think about living again, maybe I can start to control the path for a change.

I don’t know what to expect next…

Inspired by the song Wasn’t Expecting That by Jamie Lawson