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 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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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,