( Andy is on the right with his best friend from childhood, Ray Braun, overlooking the Pacific Coast in Southern California.)
As I have shared in the past, there have been many grievous losses in my life. Andy, in retrospect, was in my life for a short time, but made a large impact. When my Mom first told me she was going to marry him, I was not really thrilled. We had been hurt and abused by my father and another man. I wasn't up for more of the same. Initially, I tried to push him away. As an adult I can see that I was probably a huge pain in the back side, but hopefully he understood that I was a ten year old whose heart had been squashed and broken into a million pieces. Gradually we began to build a life together and we lived as a "real" family. FAMILY. That's a big word for a lot of people. A strange word for a lot of people. I have clung to this verse, Psalm 68:6a...
Andy was born into a German American family in Richardton, North Dakota. He had a heart condition since childhood but that didn't stop him from running away on a freight train when he was 13. He later joined the CCC and served in the US Navy for WWI at the Pacific and in Korea. Top of his head was clean as a whistle. He said his hair all fell out after a fever in the Pacific, which it might have, however, having known two of his brothers, I find it likely he would have ended up there anyway! LOL
For much of his younger years Andy struggled with alcohol, which separated him from his family and nearly took his life more than once. He participated in AA and by the time we met him, he had been "dry" for many years. Andy often worked as a bartender for his friend's restaurant because he liked to help the guys who struggled. We always had notes he had written on cocktail napkins and coasters around the house. He distinctively printed in all upper case letters, but also had strong, neat handwriting. His main job was as a construction foreman for companies who put in sewer and water lines. He told me that if he could have changed things growing up, he said he would have liked to have become a pediatrician. Children were always attracted to him and his sparkly blue eyes.
It was because of Andy's German heritage that I took German four years in high school and three years in college. Through that experience I met Jutta, my German pen pal who came to visit in 1982, 1997 and 1999 and I visited her in 1984 and 1995. We are due for another visit! :o)
I miss his laugh and how he covered his face with his enormous fingers as he nearly cried, he laughed so hard. I miss his big bear hugs. I miss that he believed in me even when I didn't deserve it and even when no one else really saw who I was. I miss the way he smelled... clean and with aftershave. I miss his sense of adventure and delight - coming home with a stray puppy, once a St. Bernard - getting in the truck and driving, almost not stopping until we got to North Dakota, and traveling to Disneyland even though he was 59 and probably wasn't that interested himself!
Our trip to Disneyland during spring break of 1984, was our last adventure. A few weeks later, we got a call from the hospital about 45 minutes away. They told us not to rush. My heart sank. I knew he was gone. He suffered from a massive heart attack at work. Ironically over the next year my Mom was in a career change class with the guy who had done CPR on him. He had worked hard on him, but the heart attack had been quick and fatal. I will never forget that journey to the hospital, our experiences there or the days following.
Six weeks later I graduated from high school and a couple weeks later, I continued on with my plans to go to Germany to see Jutta. My university plans were cancelled and I stayed home to attend Everett Community College. Mom and I spent a lot of time grieving on Whidbey Island, Deception Pass, Mukilteo and La Push, Washington.
In 1977, I gave my heart to Jesus, but because my family, at that time did not attend church, I had only been reading my Bible on my own and attending youth group when my friend Lynette's family took me. That change that brought me to EvCC also brought me to a new campus ministry and young people who shared the same faith. One of the young guys had lost his father too and it was a comfort to know that I was not the only one going through the feelings I was having. Some of the people from that group are still my friends 24 years later. Actually... one of them married my Mom! LOL
During my grieving, I learned to turn my dependence for security, stability and strength from Andy to God. And because, in Andy, I had an example of how a good person could be an alcoholic, and overcome... I decided to look up my Dad. It was a long process, but my Dad and I were able to build back up a relationship. By the time my Daddy died, we were close. I don't know for sure if Andy knew God, but I believe he did. One of my memories is listening to Billy Graham Crusades. He never moved to turn the channel (no remotes back then!), but listened intently.
Today I miss him. The grief never totally goes away. This man who clothed me, fed me, loved me, nurtured me, sang Kenny Rogers with me in the pick up truck and smiled with a mischievous gleam in his eye... left to soon!
Still, I can see God's hand in our lives, how He made beauty from ashes and took these difficult circumstances and molded character and strength.
Thank you Lord for the blessing of Andy in our lives!