Many of you don't know who Andy is so I consider it an honor to offer you an introduction...though you will have to understand that my words won't suffice and really will fall short in every way. Andy was my best friend, my buddy, my encouragement and my inspiration for the first 22 years of my life...and in so many ways that continues still. Andy was a cowboy...sure he rode bulls, broncs and roped some steers but what made him a cowboy was his free spirit. Andy did the right things regardless of cost. He was a man of integrity, always giving and serving beyond what others could ever repay. Andy knew God on levels that would make the most spiritual person envious...there just seemed to be a special bond between them. Andy is still so much to me and so much of an influence in my world...he is my big brother.
I miss him terribly and though today stands out more than others because of it being the day he walked the path we will all one day walk toward God, I don't miss him worse today than I did yesterday or than I will tomorrow. Loss is always loss and though time is used by God to redeem, God sometimes chooses not to ever completely heal the wounds left in the wake of loss. Even though my loss is profound I don't cry today for me.
The tears forming pools in my eyelids fall for others. I met my wife after his death so Andy isn't someone she was ever impacted by...personally anyway. My sons would have been Andy's delight. Children always flocked to him and he loved them...I know mine would have been priceless to him. I also know that when Andy took his last breath my children were robbed of his personal influence, of his insight, his unique smirky smile and of his goodness. My sons must wait until they see God to see Andy and for them I grieve intensely.
Of course my mom and dad will never be the same. On this day I remember mom's strength as she trusted God with the son he had entrusted to her just 29 short years before. Despite that strength I realize her eyes glisten and turn red still when she shares the story of her loss to be a blessing to others. On this day I remember how Dad and I were the last two to leave the hospital room and how we held each other, tears flowing freely, after his death...neither of us wanting to leave, but knowing we had no reason to stay. I remember how symbolic it was that I turned off the light in the room because life seemed over in more ways than one...and Dad, rightly so, calmly walked over and turned on a lamp...both of us knew Andy's light would live with us until we too drew our final breath.
Of course, the shadow cast by Andy's death wasn't and isn't too dark for God to see and work. Everything about Andy's life and death was really about God. Andy's final words were scripture...and to this day bring comfort. Countless prayers were lifted up for him and for us. Once Andy died, without prior thought or planning I ripped the Oxygen mask off his face, angry that it had needed to be there and longing to see his face without the earthly shackles once more I broke into to song...a praise of thanksgiving that God had delivered my big brother safely home. By the third or fourth word, as if it were rehearsed my Dad joined in and harmonized beautifully..."My Jesus I love Thee. I know Thou art mine. For Thee all the folly of sin I resign. My gracious Redeemer, my Saviour art Thou. If ever I love Thee, my saviour tis now". And I meant it...still do.
I little over a year ago my wife, boys, mom and I all went to the cemetery where my Brother's body is buried. We had all wandered off to look at other stones of people we knew or were related to when I noticed my oldest son Elijah had stayed behind. Though he never met Andy in this life, he has heard countless stories and feels as though he knows him. Elijah was kneeling at the grave of Andy and seemed to be praying. He had no clue I was behind him to hear his words. He so sweetly and so innocently asked, "Why you had to die so soon". I lost it because my 4 year old son had put into simple words the complex emotions with which I still wrestle. Elijah nor I have yet to receive an adequate answer and perhaps we never will in this life.
But God...aren't those two words powerful? I mean...we were all lost and headed to hell...but God. We would have never known real peace, joy or love...but God. And in the same way I am uplifted today by the same words. My brother is dead and gone forever...but God. But God. But God. God didn't cause my brother to die but God did take him to be forever in a place where sickness never comes and death is simply a thing of the past. God didn't cause our pain and God didn't sentence my sons to a life without an awesome uncle...but God knows my pain and knows that my sons don't have him in their lives. Life is not fair, justice is not always readily available and experiences often hurt...but God is good. I don't know the depth of his goodness but as I drop a proverbial rock off the cliff attempting to gauge the bottom...the very limits of God's goodness...I haven't heard the rock hit bottom yet. Because God is good I can trust him and because I can trust God I can love Him and because I can love Him I know that one day I too will join God...and Andy.
It has been 10 years...and yet...God's words, uttered as Andy's final ones continue to bring hope, comfort and courage...I leave you with them...from I Thess 4:13-18