Dear Andrew

Dear Andrew,

I have tried many times to write about you, as your Mom asked us to.  As of today, Wednesday, March 18, it has been 3 months and 2 days you were killed in that car accident.  To say this devastated the family would be a huge understatement.  It is very difficult for me to think about, my less type about, but for today I am going to get it done.

you were the absolute cutest!
you were the absolute cutest!

You were a delightful child.  You brought joy into our lives and I loved you like my own.  You looked like my sister from the moment you were born and that resemblance only grew stronger as you grew.  You were the youngest of Grama and Grampa’s four grandchildren. Michelle had just turned 5 when you were born, Billy was 3 years 7 months, then Uncle Jay’s daughter, Jaime,  was 2 years 10 months old, when you were born.  I remember well the day you were born.  Grama and I had gone to the hospital to see your Mom, and maybe even watch you being born, but they said you wouldn’t be coming until the next morning, so we went home.  Early the following morning, I got the call.  I couldn’t wait to see you!  Your Mom and Dad honored me by asking me to be your Godmother, and needless to say I was thrilled!  My first and only (blood related) nephew!  I was so proud!

Michelle and Grama with you when you were a little teeny baby
Michelle and Grama with you when you were a little teeny baby
Billy wondering how long will it be before you can play
Billy wondering how long will it be before you can play

1995 summer at nanis (1)

The kids were so excited about you – their baby cousin!  Billy couldn’t wait to play with you, I don’t think he understood that you would be a tiny baby, not someone who could be played with right away.  You guys were like the 4 Musketeers, always together at my parents house, my house, your house.

1995 christmastime

1996 christmastime visit NJ (1)

1997 Holidays

Even after we moved to KY, we (my siblings and I) did our best to make sure you kids remained close.  When we went to NJ in the summer and then again at the holidays, we made sure you all spent plenty of time together.   Your Mom and Aunt Cindy, and Quynn would all go the beach, boardwalk, all over the place. Do you remember?  As you got bigger, Billy got his playmate.  It was a real joy for me to watch how close you became. Do you remember loving matchbox cars? You and Billy would play for hours with all the usual Tonka trucks that boys play with. The 4 of you together would watch Disney movies over and over and over.  You each had their favorite, Michelle’s was either Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast, which were Jaime’s also.  Billy’s favorite was Aladdin and your favorite was Lion King.  You would refer to my kids and Jaime as “the guys”.  You were so funny – “When are they guys coming?”  When we would go to the boardwalk, sometimes it was difficult b/c the older 3 were taller and able to go on more rides, and you, being the shortest couldn’t go on everything they could.  I used to feel bad, and always made sure that at least one of the older kids went on some of the rides you could go on with you.  It was so nice when you were all tall enough to go on everything together.  I remember when you got his revenge though b/c you eventually ended up being 6′ tall; Billy isn’t anywhere near that tall at 5’9″, neither Michelle or Jaime hit 5’3″.  If I remember right, you learned how to ride a 2 wheeler younger than any of the others,  always wanting to be able to keep up.

at Holmdel Park, with Tal
at Holmdel Park, with Tal
down the shore
down the shore
you would pile the bowl up with a HUGE mound of ice cream
you would pile the bowl up with a HUGE mound of ice cream

For the longest time, you had a “Buddy” bear.  You must remember Buddy Bear – one from Bearsteins Bears?  I believe in the books, it was Brother Bear, but your bear was your “Buddy”.  It was awful if Buddy went MIA, which thankfully didn’t happen often.  I do remember having to turn the car if we couldn’t find him.  You sure did love that bear!

I believe this one is from Christmas one year
I believe this one is from Christmas one year
misc random pic I like of you
misc random pic I like of you

One time, Uncle Jay and I took you 4 kids to the Liberty Science Museum.  You all had a great day with all the hands on and climb on stuff.  Afterward we went to Friendlies for food and ice cream, I think you loved ice cream the most!  You always wanted the HUGE one, but rarely finished it!

It was difficult being away when we lived in KY.  We would miss your birthday parties, which were Halloween themed most of the time, since your birthday was in October.  After we moved from KY to PA, you decided to start a new tradition and we started going to Dorney Park in October for your bday.  For those several years we went, we all had a great time, spending the day going on all the rides and, after dark, going to the Halloween Haunts.  What great memories we have from those days!  One year your Mom and I decided my parents needed an updated pic of you 4 kids together (the old one was about 6 or 7 years old) and you were all less than thrilled about going to the mall or wherever and posing for the camera.  So, while in Dorney Park, we got pics done at one of those “Old Time Pictures” places.  You were the most willing, the others were skeptical at first, but I think they really ended up enjoying it.  At one point, the guy posing the shots wanted you to sit at the table and act like you were taking a big pile of money, while the other 3 aimed their “guns” at you.  Well, do you remember how you didn’t like that one bit?!  “Why do I have to have the guns aimed at ME?”, so after some discussion, Billy got to sit at the table and you had an ear to ear grin while pointing the Tommy gun at your big cousin!  You were so happy, and posed for as many shots as needed after that!

this one isn't the one I described above, but the only one anyone had scanned in - great pic of all of you!
this one isn’t the one I described above, but the only one anyone had scanned in – great pic of all of you! You are trying to look so mean – not like you at all!  Don’t think you had a mean bone in your body!
this one we took after Dorney Park one year - we didn't have all of us together very often
this one we took after Dorney Park one year – we didn’t have all of us together very often

Do you remember going to the park?  We would bring the dogs and you and your cousins would play at the playground for hours.   You loved it when we would go over to your house and go in your pool.  When you moved to DE, do you remember how excited you were to show us your new room?  And the pool in your community?  And how much you loved being able to ride your bike freely in your neighborhood?

One year while the kids and I were visiting NJ, we decided that Nana, your Mom, you and Jaime would come back to KY for a visit.  We left early one morning, the 7 of us and 2 dogs in my white Dodge Ram conversion van, with everyone’s luggage, beach chairs, etc. and set off.  You loved going in that van, being able to watch movies as we drove down the road!  It was quite the ride, not 10 miles into PA a beach chair flew off roof and had to be dealt with.  By the time we got to OH, you kids were getting bored.  I believe it was you who started a “fart” contest (not real farts, the kind you make with your hands under your armpits) between you and Billy – it didn’t take long til you were both hysterical.  Especially after Nana decided she didn’t like it and started yelling at you to stop, which, of course, caused you to do it even more.  Nana started yelling at me to make them stop and soon we were all hysterical, especially you.  Your laugh was infectious.  It was hard to stay angry or even annoyed with you once you started laughing.

still on a trike, but not for long!
still on a trike, but not for long!
this is one of my fav's of you and your cousins with Nana
this is one of my fav’s of you and your cousins with Nana
good one of you and your Mom
good one of you and your Mom
walking the dogs
walking the dogs

I believe it was on that same trip that you took your most famous tantrum.  I honestly have no idea anymore what it was even about, do you?  but I do remember you in my kitchen and you ended up jumping up and down (yes, your feet actually leaving the floor) and screaming at us “you are all just big FAT STUPID STUPID STUPID MEANIES!!!!”  It was truly all we could do to not laugh out loud at you.  Thankfully we were able to wait until you had stomped up the stairs to bust out in our laughter.  Even Nana had to laugh, you were just so cute!

this is from Quynn's party
this is from Quynn’s party
another one from Quynns party
another one from Quynns party
shooting a gun
shooting a gun

One time, Billy and I drove to Hershey, PA, to watch you play your trumpet in your school concert band.  You were so good, better than the kids in the higher grades.  You were so surprised and excited to see us – which was the plan.  We didn’t tell you ahead of time in case something happened and we couldn’t make it.  You also played drums, including steel drums and I loved getting to see you play at your church.  Sadly, I didn’t get to hear you in person, but I was told you were also a very good singer.

all dressed up for a school dance
all dressed up for a school dance
new leather jacket
new leather jacket

I remember how you tried Scouts for awhile, I am guessing b/c Billy was very involved in Scouts and you knew how much Billy loved it and how much fun he had.  I was sad for you that your pack wasn’t very active, and unfortunately you lost interest and you dropped out.  I do remember going to DE for one of your pack meetings, you had entered a cake contest and won the award for “Flatest Cake”.  You  were so proud!  And, it tasted really good too!

goofy
goofy

I am very sorry for the horrible sadness you experienced in your life.  You were still pretty young (7) when Nana passed away, I know you loved her, as we all did.  Nothing could have prepared you, however, for your father passing away when you were 15.  I remember your Dad, his favorite thing in the world (after you and your Mom) being fishing.  I remember the HUGE (like 38lbs, 40lbs, wasn’t the biggest was 43lb?!) strippers.  He had been fishing his whole life, having grown up on the Jersey Shore, like the rest of us.  I’m sure you remember his usual routine – going out for high tide and then come home for a bit of sleep before getting up to take you to school.  Uncle Bill and I were in Colorado the morning he didn’t come home.   Your Mom got up and took you to school then went to see where your Dad was.  Your Mom told me about how the school nurse called her to say that you were down in her office, feeling sick to your stomach, right about the same time she was realizing that he, as we now believe, got washed away off the jetty while fishing his favorite place.  How horrible to just never see him again – never getting to say goodbye.  I booked a flight home as soon as Grama called, I remember holding you tight when I arrived, neither of us saying a word for the longest time.  The simplest way to say how deeply this effected you, from my perspective, is just to say you never recovered from losing your father, not that I blame you.  You were just never the same after that.  Your never easy school career got much worse after that.  It was sad to see you get involved in things you shouldn’t have, getting in trouble, and not being able to do anything about it.  It was horrible knowing how badly you were hurting.

There were some happy times though, wasn’t there?  Uncle Bill and Billy taking you camping and sailing.  You were so happy to spend time with your Uncle and cousin.  If they were typing instead of me, they would ask if you remember how you went on a hike at Rickett’s Glenn in PA, how you got so tired that you fell asleep with your sneakers on (before dinner) and since Uncle had told you no shoes in the tent, rather than take the time to take them off, you just stuck your feet outside the tent and then slept like that all night.  Uncle and Billy also told me about how you helped set up the sailboat and learned about sailing the day you went with them and how much you loved it!  I have the pics to prove it.

Ricketts Glen
Ricketts Glen
cousins always clowning around
cousins always clowning around
setting up
setting up
one of my fav's of you and Billy
one of my fav’s of you and Billy

Bill Billy Andrew sailing (15)

no idea what the occasion is here, but whenever you were all together, I tried to get a pic
no idea what the occasion is here, but whenever you were all together, I tried to get a pic

My sister, always braver than me, agreed to let you have a snake.  It was some kind of python and it needed a cage, so you called and asked Uncle if you could come to PA to make a cage for it.  You and Billy and Uncle designed it and went to Home Depot for the supplies and you he had one happier snake when you took it home.  You and Billy were so proud of that project!

snake cage building (2)

snake cage building (3)

project complete!
project complete!
Aunt Kelly a.k.a. the photo bomber!
Aunt Kelly a.k.a. the photo bomber!
Thanksgiving one year
Thanksgiving one year
random pic
random pic

Another happier time was Grama and Grampa’s 50th Anniversary party.  I know you were less than thrilled, but I know you enjoyed seeing your cousins and everyone.  We got a lot of great pics that day, most b/c my friend, Michael, came and took them with his really nice camera.

totally LOVE your expression in this one!
totally LOVE your expression in this one!
all of us
all of us
Grama and Grampa with all their grandkids
Grama and Grampa with all their grandkids

Do you remember the last time we went to Dorney Park?  The Haunts were really good that year.  It just wasn’t the same without your Dad.  After he passed, we did have some fun times, but they were fewer and further between.  What also didn’t help was “the guys” were growing up – faster now than you were – going off to college, etc.  The whole situation just sucked.  You had started using drugs and alcohol to self-medicate your pain.  You and your Mom, both in unbearable pain, argued a lot.

a really good one of you and your Mom
a really good one of you and your Mom

image

The night of your accident, I’ve been told, you left the house very angry, in a rage, I wonder what you were so upset about.  I wish I had answered the phone when your Mom’s cell phone number showed up on my phone.  I was told you drove too fast and lost control of the car, hitting a truck head-on at a high rate of speed.  Your injuries were so bad we couldn’t say (what I was taught as a child to be) a proper goodbye.  In other words, we couldn’t have an open casket.  People have asked me “Can they really stop you from seeing him if you really want to?”  I honestly have no idea, but I spoke to the medical examiner and the funeral director myself and they both said “No”.  They advised us that it was better to just remember you with our best memory, and/or favorite pic, and as much I as I wanted to see your little face for myself and my sister to be able to have closure (which neither of you got to have with your Dad since he was never found), we ultimately followed their advice and had a closed casket.  I have to believe that was the wisest decision.  We had a very small, private, immediate family only service at the funeral parlor.  I hope you liked what we did, and what we all said.  I hope you know we all did the best we could.  Did you hear Pastor Mike read from the bible?  Did you hear the stories we told?  I’ve mentioned a few of them here in this letter.  I wanted us to remember happier times with you.  I’ve been told there is no sadness in Heaven, I hope that is true.  I hope you are now with your Dad and Nana and even meeting the rest of the family that passed before you were born, Poppy, Grandma Gorman, etc.

Some time has passed now, since that day we did our best to try and say goodbye, and your Mom is having a “Celebration of Life” for you this coming up Saturday.  I arrived in NC today and will be driving up Friday to be with her.  My own grief is still so raw sometimes, I cannot imagine what she is going through.  Do you know that initially, she spent about a month with Grama and Grampa in FL, but she has been home for a while now.  I think of you every day and miss you every single day.  What I miss most right now is your “Love you – bye” and how you were never shy with your hugs.  Do you remember me telling you – I hate goodbyes – that I prefer “see you later” but then you would just say “bye”.   I miss your rambling on and on about whatever you were excited about that day, most of the time I really had no idea, but you would get so excited to tell me something, I would do the best I could to listen and follow what you were saying.  I miss your scrappy looking mustache/beard that you was so proud of.  I miss your gentle eyes.  I miss how you would look down at your older cousin Billy, very pleased with yourself that you were no longer the shortest.  I miss that of the 4 of you, who were all taught the same manners, you were always the most polite, always saying “please” and “thank-you”.  I love and miss how you were always the first one to call to say thank you for a gift.  I miss your gentle and kind spirit, your always willing to be helpful nature.  I miss watching you with your pets, Teddy, Bella, Harley, Tiger and Petey, and even your snake (not sure if it has a name) – you were always loving them and they always loved you back!

Thanksgiving (3)

I cannot bring myself to fully believe you are gone.  I don’t want to.  It makes me sad beyond words that you will never get married, have kids, buy a house, none of that.  My sister will not be Grandmother.  You won’t be there to stand up with your cousin, Billy, when he gets married.  It just isn’t right, just isn’t normal.  You were the closest my son would ever have to a brother, as Jaime is the closest Michelle will ever have to a sister.  Together the 4 of you grew up and watched out for one another and now a HUGE piece of that puzzle is forever missing.  The saddest that causes me is unbearable.

Well, it seems I have rambled on and on for a long time.  I have read, and reread this and tried to say to myself  “this really needs to be shorter”, but I cannot bring myself to leave out a single word.  I feel like this isn’t enough.  How can you sum up a person with so few words?  How can anyone say “this is enough?”  Every time I think I am done, I think of something else to add.  Your Mom asked that the family hand write something for her to add to a book she is putting together, but every time I have tried, my handwriting gets BAD, so as much as I would love to, she might have to get the typed version.  The version that does not show the tear stains and sloppy unreadable handwriting.  Before I leave to be with her, I will try again, I just hope that if I can’t, she understands.

I love you, Andrew, and you will always have a place in my heart.  You left us way too young.  I hope you know that I will miss you forever.

Your Favorite Aunt and Godmother,

Aunt Kelly

42 thoughts on “Dear Andrew

  1. That had to be SO hard. I don’t think Andrew or Shannon ever truly recovered from my cousin Joe’s passing, that kind of burden must have been unbearable. I cannot even bear to imagine the pain Shannon has been through. I know that there was a joyful reunion in heaven between father and son, and pray that God smiles down upon Shannon and fills her with the joyful knowledge that when it is time, all three of them will spend eternity together in God’s everlasting love.

  2. kelly, that was the most beautiful heartfelt letter written that I have ever read. As Joel’s cousin I am so happy to know that you were in their lives. What a gift to know that you can make such an impact in someone’s life without being their parent. As a stepparent I can only hope that I have the opportunity to fill a place in someone’s life as importantly as you have. God bless, cousin, Barbara

    1. Thank you. My siblings and I never had first cousins, (both our parents are only children) so it was important to us that our kids were close, especially considering that Andrew and Jaime were also only children and my kids had no same sex siblings. We all made it a priority in our lives to make sure they spent lots of time together.

  3. VERY NICE WORDS KELLY…..MAY YOUR NEPHEW REST IN PEACE ALWAYS….

  4. as I sit here with tears in my eyes , I just have to say thank you for such beautiful words about Andrew. Joel is my cousin, and like Andrew , my cousins and I were raised very close. We spent holidays , birthdays, communions, etc . I did not know Andrew well , I have lived in Florida since 1979. I do know from my moms stories how much Joel loved him and Shannon. I pray everyday for Shannon and I hope one day she gets a sign from Andrew to let her know he is ok. I can not imagine the pain she carries, I can only hope through the darkness she will see the light….and one day her beautiful memories of my cousins Joel and Andrew will warm her heart and soul. May God hold her up , and may she feel the love that surrounds her .
    Rest peacefully in the arms of your Dad Andrew….and send your mom love everyday……

  5. Hello Kelly, I don’t know you but I am a friend of Shannon’s, I too have lost a husband at an early age you might remember him cj th dj. He was close friends with Shannon and Joel. Well any way I think what you wrote was the most beautiful, loving and heartfelt thing anyone has written about another person that I have read. You have honored Andrew, Joel and Shannon in so many ways with your letter. I too believe one day there will be a time for peace and serentity in Shannon’s life. Time does heal but when your heart has been crushed so badly two fold you become another person it alters who you are for eternity, you never see things the same way again. On some level you become grateful for the smallest of kindnesses, a hello from a complete stranger warmed your heart. Shannon will survive this cause she’s a fighter and one of the strongest people I know.The gift of the letter you wrote will forever be engrained in her memory and she will recall pieces of what you have written to just get through a tough moment or day. I admire you for the strength it took for you to write such a wonderful letter. May God bless you and your whole family. Praying for all of you, Tracy

    1. Thank you Tracy for your kind words – this has been by far the worst thing I have ever faced in my life and I know it is 100% worse for Shannon. She is, my far, the strongest person I know. Thanks again!

  6. Oh my god that was so beautiful and so painful. You told a wonderful story. Thanks Kelly. So very sorry for the loss of your special nephew. My thoughts are with you all

  7. Simply beautiful, my sweet friend. I know how you struggled writing this. May our Heavenly Father bless you, Shannon, and your entire family with peace and healing beyond all understanding.

      1. Kelly, this was the most beautiful, heartrenching, loving story. I too have so many memories, I love Shannon, Andrew and Joel.
        You did a wonderful job honnoring Andrew and Shannon…Thats why I consider Shannon a sister, she knows how to be a good
        one, I guess sure learned from having a loving and caring sister of her own. God Bless….

        1. Thanks Kerry! You have been a good friend to my sister and I appreciate knowing you are nearby to be supportive of her.

  8. <3 thank you all for the wonderful loving support it really means a lot to me n all my family xox very much appreciated <3

  9. What a beautiful letter – so warm and heartfelt. I feel like I’ve just met your wonderful nephew now and I also feel the pain of his loss.

  10. What a rememberence you gave your sister in honor of her son! It seems they try to recover from one thing and something else happens not being able to bounce back. I hope this memorial can bring some peace to your sister and your family. My sister lost her son last year and nothing brings you more solace ( if that’s possible) than remembering wonderful things about him and hearing it from others. You expressed everything beautifully, Kelly.

    1. Thanks Eileen! It was a wonderful service! My sister was very moved – we all were – by the stories that people told about him – it was nice to hear how others (outside the family) also saw and knew what a great guy he was.

      1. Kelly, I want to come hug you and hold your hand, with tears in my eyes and a smile on my face! That was a beautiful letter with such wonderful memories! Hold them close Sweet Girl, he is with you always! His Dad has him now and they both are loving their time together with no imperfections between them!! Enjoy your sister this week hold her close to you with all your heart!

        1. Thanks Sue! I know he is with his Dad – just sad he can’t be with us anymore. Pics are so much more important now – the ones we have is all we will ever have.

  11. Kelly, what an amazingly beautiful and incredibly moving letter. My heart aches for the tragic loss that you and your family have suffered. May the sweet memories you have of Andrew bring you comfort and ease your sorrow.

  12. It has been a long time since I’ve teared and cried while reading anything, but this did it. I wrote a letter to my brother after he was killed (though it was at the one year anniversary) and I pray that this will help with your healing and bring you some peace in the process of life after death. Till I can personally hug your neck, I am sending you a big virtual hug and love, dearest friend.

  13. I don’t know you personally but feel like I do now just a bit from your story. You opened yourself up to share this with others, not an easy thing to do. I hope this was cathartic for you and your sister. I lost my brother when he was 19 in a tragic accident. There are no words to describe the gut wrenching pain. I wish I had done what you have done as the memories for me have faded with time, it has been 22 years since my brother passed. Thank you for sharing. Maybe someday our paths will cross in an RV park somewhere across the states. God Bless you and keep you.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. This has been, by far, the worst thing I have ever faced. The pain I feel is not only for myself, but for my sister, my parents, my kids, etc. There is nothing to do but face it head on.
      My sister actually asked us (the family) to each write some memories with Andrew, to read at his Memorial, and after numerous attempts, I finally wrote TO him, which after that the words just flowed onto the paper. I did find a certain amount of healing, but still have a LONG way to go.
      I am so sorry for your loss! I am sure if you spent a bit of time, you could find memories, I’m sure they are still there, just beneath the surface.
      I hope too, that our paths cross on some road somewhere, someday.
      Thanks again!

  14. Kelly, this is extremely touching. I’m so sorry that you lost him but your thoughts and tribute to him, may help someone struggling with the same issues. I have to think that he sees this, and knows the pain he has caused and is so sorry for all of that. He sounded like a great kid, that had some tough circumstances and it was too painful for him to deal with. God may have called him away when he did so that something worse didn’t happen to him as hard as that is to believe, but whatever the reason, He had a plan for him and everyone left behind. Hang onto your memories and you should be proud of the kind words you spoke to him and the love I’m sure he always knew you had for him. Take Care and my prayers for you all in handling this as time goes on. Marianne

    1. Thank you Marianne for reading and your kind words – they are much appreciated! He was a special kid and was handed a tough hand he just couldn’t handle it.
      As I’ve said – I think of him every day – I’ll see something that will make me think of him and some days it makes me smile – some days it makes me cry.

  15. So beautifully written. Your families story is so very touching. Life is so fragile, we really never know what tomorrow holds. Thank you for sharing so honestly. Andrew seem like he was a delightful child that was deeply affected by life’s cruel turns. Praying for comfort for you and your family.
    Sandy~

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