May 20, 2006 was a beautiful, sun filled Saturday. After a week of endless rain, the sunshine was a welcome sight. The day started quite normal. Andrew, our youngest, had invited his friend, Dylan, to spend the night. As was par for the course (When friends slept over) pancakes and sausage were the order of the morning. Joined by my husband, Ron, and older son, RJ, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and fun conversation. RJ and Ron excused themselves to start their Saturday projects. Andrew, Dylan and I lingered a while longer. –

“Mom,” said Andrew, “I think I finally decided what I want to do after graduation.” (He was nearing the end of his junior year of High School)- “Really, what’s that?” I answered – “I think I want to design video games.” – “Wow!” I said, “That sounds interesting. It’s a good thing you’ve been doing so much better in math. It‘ll come in handy.” – I told him that we would start looking into schools to see what options were out there. – “Okay,” said Andrew, “but I think I’m going to try to do it without using math………” The three of us had a good laugh over that. – We discussed all the “Eighties” bands they were looking forward to seeing that summer, starting with “Styx”. They were planning to see them that coming Thursday. (Andrew kept trying to talk Ron & me into joining them)- We reflected on some of the classes they had taken the past year and looked ahead to their senior year….……….So many plans …So much life……..

It was very rare that my husband and I didn’t hang out with our boys, especially on the weekends. We looked forward to having time with them without interruption. Saturday, May 20, 2006, happened to be one of those rare occasions. We had made plans to meet another couple for the evening. Normally Andrew and RJ would have found something to do together. This day was slightly different. After breakfast, Andrew spent the afternoon “hanging” with Dylan. They came home shortly before Ron and I needed to leave for the evening. I remember feeling happy they had made it home before we left. I wanted to be able to see Andrew and hear what his plans were for the rest of the night….

-“Nothing really.” he said, “I think we’re just going to “hang” around the house.”

“Okay,” I said, and proceeded to give him a list of everything in the freezer and fridge.

“Okay mom,” said, my beautiful 6ft. 2in. blonde-haired, boy.

“Clean up the kitchen after yourselves, please…”

“Okay…” he answered in his, soft-spoken, voice.

“Andrew….” I called.

”Yes… What?” (Have I mentioned his favorite color was blue?)

“Be careful.” I instructed.

“Okayyyyy.” Answered his beautiful voice.

– “Oh, and Andyrooo ….” (“Andyroo” and “Boo” were all but forbidden in front of his friends.)

This time I got the big eye roll, “What?” – (Andrew had deep brown eyes)

“I Love You”, I said.

– Coy Smile, “I love you too”…The words were not necessary, the smile said it all….I love you too.

Those were Andrew’s last words to me; the last time I heard his voice.

The last time I saw his face…the last time

Both Andrew and his friend, Dylan, passed in an automobile accident less than 3 hours later.

As you might imagine, the days following Andrew’s accident were full of shock, heart-wrenching grief, heart-breaking decisions, confusion, sleepless nights and prayers for strength. –Many, many prayers for strength… The days were also full of kindness, respect and humanity. My husband, son and I will never forget the genuine pain and grief evident on the faces and in the hearts of our family and friends…and of Andrew’s friends. – Our hearts are forever broken…true, but our hearts are forever touched and humbled by the true kindness shown to us by others.

We had always stressed the, much-underestimated, virtue of kindness to both of our sons. – “We will never ask you to be the most popular or the smartest.” we would say. “It’s not important to us if you’re the best athlete, the best looking or voted, most likely to succeed. All of that is fine and good but that which would make us most proud is people approaching us and relaying stories of your kindness, respect and humanity towards others.” These, after all, are qualities not easily come by in today’s society, but the individuals who possess these qualities are remembered long after he who scored the winning touchdown or aced the big math test. – This is what we shared with Andrew’s classmates when they asked us to say a few words at a memorial ceremony they held for Andrew and Dylan a week after the accident. – We then proceeded to thank all of the shell-shocked bodies listening intently to us, many of whom were in tears. They seemed to be reaching out to us for some solace, if even just a little. We thanked them for their outpouring of sympathy; but what we were most grateful for were their stories…..The stories came not only from his classmates. The stories came from teachers…The stories came from school staff… The stories came from his friends’ parents…..All stories of kindness; kindness revealed to them by our son and brother…..Stories we will always remember….Stories they will always remember. – Through all our grief and pain, we couldn’t be more proud.

Two of Andrew’s friends visited me later that summer. During our visit, they shared a story of how Andrew bought an order of “fries” everyday at lunch but would never eat them. “He would place them in the middle of the table, tell us to help ourselves but would rarely if ever take any for himself”, “Why”’ they wondered. –Then I told them a story – “When Andrew was about nine years old, he had forgotten his lunch money. I didn’t realize this until I came home from work. At that point, it was too late to get the money or a lunch to him. His lunch period was over. Knowing Andrew as I did, I knew he wouldn’t speak up. I knew he wouldn’t make anyone aware that he had nothing to eat, as he was very shy. – When he arrived home later that day, he was very happy to see a “lunch” ready for him to devour. I asked if any of his friends offered him anything. “No,” he answered. My heart broke. I said, “Andrew, I’m so sorry to hear that. – If you ever see anyone in that same situation, please remember how you felt and offer him or her something. No child should ever have to watch others eat while feeling hungry themselves.” – He came to me a short while later and asked me to put something extra in his lunch from now on….just in case… As I told the story, his friends realized where I was going with it. We all had tears in our eyes; me, for realizing he was still making sure nobody sat hungry; and his friends, because now they understood why he bought those fries.