Where’s Andy?

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We are coming up on the two-year anniversary of Andy’s passing.  I find myself taking a pause to reflect on the past year and how although Andy’s physical presence is no longer with us, his spiritual essence and legacy remain strong and vibrant. Andy continues to inspire and energize both the people who knew him and people who only learned of his incredible story after his death.

I feel like a proud mother in many ways knowing my pure, wholesome, beautiful, thoughtful, courageous boy that I gave birth to 26-years ago is still making his mark. His life has created a legacy and has brought wonder and astonishment to all who knew him and all who learn of him.

Looking back on this year, what ignited a new reverence for Andy began with a story. The story was told through a hiker and writer from Back Packer Magazine titled “Gone Hiking.”   The author told of Andy’s heroic journey to hike the entire Pacific Crest Trail despite his diagnosis of terminal cancer.  The story asks us to consider that even healthy people rarely complete a solo through hike of the entire PCT! Because of that story I received numerous emails from people across the nation who reached out and shared with me their awe, their joys, their sadness, but mostly their reverence.

Today I’m sharing the ways that other people (many times complete strangers) took Andy’s story as inspiration for adventure and creativity and for making a positive difference in their lives and the lives of others. In my last blog I mentioned Hike Healthy and the podcast interview that I did with Paul Shoemaker who profiled Andy as a way to help people realize their dreams and make changes in their lifestyle that enable them to have happier and more rewarding lives.

After that a fellow hiker from the PCT class of 2012, “Typo” aka Jeremy Star offered to make a documentary of Andy’s trek on the PCT and tell his story through images using Andy’s own voice from recordings he made while on the trail. As I write this, Andy’s friend “Gourmet” aka Marc Fendel is hiking on the Pacific Northwest trail with fellow PCT hikers as part of “Team Astro.” They have dedicated their hike to Andy’s memory and plan on finishing on August 30, the two year anniversary of his death.

VERY EXCITING . . . the local Nevada City radio station KVMR will be broadcasting a beautifully written account of Andy’s adventure on the Pacific Crest Trail as a tribute on this special day.  The broadcast begins at 9 pm on Sunday, August 30th.  You can tune in via your electronic device at http://www.kvmr.org.  I have listened to it and found it to be extraordinarily inspiring, but of course, I am biased. It’s very well done and better than anything you might find on TV.

The broadcast is part of the KVMR Pacific Crest Trail Trailside Readings by Larry Hillberg.  Feel free to share this with anyone you know who is interested in the nostalgic fireside chats of radio in years gone by.

Lastly, there is a young woman Neda who heard of Andy, read the story and this blog and is riding her bike from Vancouver to Mexico in honor of Andy with the hopes of raising money to donate to the Make a Wish Foundation!

On my part I have taken a little bit of Andy on every adventure that I’ve been on these past two years. I’ve taken his ashes in my pocket. He’s been to Portugal, Greece, Italy, Croatia, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, France, Poland, Spain (he ‘walked’ the Camino de Santiago with Michael) and Burma (see below)! There is still a little bit more of him left – so we will see where he goes to next. I do know one thing for sure that he is always with me. He’s in my heart and whenever I think of him there he is, full of love and tenderness.

To see the adventure that Andy’s been on over the last two months check out the link to Team Astro at: http://www.teamastro.org/

*The picture on the top of this page was taken at the Shwedagon Paya in Yangon, Burma.  It is one of Buddhism’s most sacred sites.  I was honored to accompany my teacher and other dharma practitioner’s this year on a Pilgrimage and Retreat.  On New Year’s Eve we had a ritual where I spontaneously put some of Andy’s ashes in the middle of our circle, drew a heart and we each placed our fingers into the middle to touch him.  It was beautiful!

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Hello Friends, Family and Fans,

As you may remember, our last blog linked you to a story about Andy written by Backpacker Magazine’s Senior Editor Casey Lyons titled “Gone Hiking: Terminal Cancer. What would you do if your Doctor Delivered the Scariest Two Words in the English Language?”

The article garnered many beautiful and poignant responses and feedback from readers. We received comments through this blog, Facebook, email and in Backpackers mail and the readers’ comments page.

These are some of the things that were posted:

“Andy ‘Astro’ Lyon, PCT thru-hike in the face of terminal cancer (“Gone Hiking” by Casey Lyons, March 2015) made a powerful impression on readers.

“The single best article to appear in BACKPACKER since I picked up my first issue in the summer of 1974,”

Ted Moore writes. “Its it too much to ask that Clint Eastwood pick up the rights to this awe-inspiring and inspiration tale of courage decency and resolve?”

Ellen Mates was especially moved by “the strength, care and love [Andy’s] mother and stepfather gave in supporting his choice of how to live his life.”

The real lesson of Andy’s hike according to Tiffany Reed, is that “Life is a terminal illness and we have no excuse to not live each moment like it’s our last”

Andy’s story in Backpacker Magazine also inspired a writer/blogger/podcaster by the name of Paul Shoemaker from Eastern Washington (near Yakima) to contact me and invite me to participate in an interview in this months podcast about hiking.  He wanted to have an opportunity to share Andy’s story with his listeners so they might be inspired. He produces and monthly blog called ‘Hike Healthy.’  You can click on the link below and listen to what I think is an inspiring podcast called “When Cancer is the Diagnosis”. It was my first podcast ever!!

It is amazing to me that just after a year and a half since Andy’s passing that his life and it’s meaning continues to evolve and inspire many people. I am also aware that the loss and the pain that I feel about loosing my beautiful son, that was and is so precious to me, has changed me in many ways. I’ll save that blog for another day!

In other news, my husband, Andy’s stepfather Michael Gosselin is now walking on the Camino de Santiago as a Pilgrim. This is a trek that he and Andy talked about many, many times and doing it together. Michael had originally planned on walking it the year after Andy finished the PCT, but with Andy’s continued decline he decided he wanted to wait and stay close to home. He has dedicated his pilgrimage in honor of Astro Andy and I have added Michael’s link below, it’s fun and upbeat and you can travel along on his adventure.

The Podcast – a word about it:  I recommend skipping through the first 5-7 minutes till you get to the interview.

http://hikehealthy.com/when-cancer-is-the-diagnosis-go-hike-the-pacific-crest-trail

Michael: Walking the Camino Blog:

https://caminopilgrim2015.wordpress.com/2015/05/24/big-city/

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17 Months — A Story in Backpacker Magazine — “Gone Hiking”

Friends ~

This is an amazing account of Andy’s story written through the eyes of a gifted writer from Backpacker Magazine, Casey Lyons, who took many hours to truly get to know Andy (Astro), to interview his family / friends, by reading this blog, listening to Andy’s numerous voice memos while on the PCTrail and pouring over his personal journals. This is Andy’s story, a journey of walking IN and OUT of life and his incredible pilgrimage from Mexico to Canada.

Be sure to listen to the short excerpts of Andy’s own voice.

Thank you so much for your support over these last 17 months of grieving and looking back.  I have so many sweet memories of a wonderful son that continues to bring me much joy and happiness.

As always, I look forward to your comments.

Betsy

http://www.backpacker.com/features/gone-hiking/

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Reflecting

Yesterday it was 11 months since Andy passed away.  I have a difficult time conceptulizing whether that is a short time or a long time.  While I miss him and think of him everyday, the way I view his absence from my life and the lives of all of us who loved him and those that he loved, has gone through suble changes and shifts in my consciousness.

Initially my memories and reflections of him were so caught in reliving the ‘trauma’ of the last year of his life.  Remembering how his body slowly lost its ability to sustain him. Remembering how he experienced more and more pain as time went on and his restlessness and discomfort, wanting to conceal it from others, but feeling to freedom and safety to share it with me.  I also reflect on how he then gently began to let go and accept his destiny.  He let go of material items like his computer, much-loved books and other objects that would have no value to him as he moved towards surrendering his physical body.

He started to move closer to the people he loved, wanting to spend more time with them, sharing life, it’s experiences, it’s celebrations, it’s miracles.

I have been revisitng so many of the pivitol moments of deep anquish when he was learning that the cancer was growing throughout his body and there were no options anymore.  Sure, we could have contiued with western medicine, toxic chemicals that would surely take him out first, along with what quality of life he had left.  He chose the natural course of awareness:  knowing that  tumors were slowly shutting down his internal organs and using pain meds at a minium to keep him comfortable.  Over time during this year, my mind slowly started to drift away from these thoughts that were so difficult, the times I felt helpless, knowing I couldn’t fix his cancer or make it any better.

As the visitors of anguish began to diminish, the sweet memories of Andy’s presence began to come and go — the fun we had together cooking and experienmenting with food and healthy ways to use diet as a remedy to kill cancer cells.  I remember many times as we were driving in the car and we could casually touch my hand to hold it and then tell me how much he loved me.  I remember how quick his mind worked when solving a math problem, saying the answer before I could formulate how to go about figuring it out.  I remember looking up at the night sky so many times (some place where you could see the stars, like on vacation or out in the wilderness) and he could call out the Milky Way, the Big Dipper and beyond.  I reflect on his journey along the Pacific Crest Trail — the amount of courage that it took to even start the hike knowing the obstacles he would face, the pain he was already enduring and facing the truth of a fatal diagnosis.  Andy had an energy and awareness of how he wanted to spend his life — what little he had left of it.  Hiking the PCT brought me and many, many others such hope and joy and happiness for six and half months.   The legacy that he left for us is his thirst for adventure and fearlessness of the unknown.  This has brought a measure of peace, knowing he did what he wanted to do on his terms.

As we approach the one year anniversary of his death on August 30, we are looking forward to celebrating him in a way we think he would have approved and enjoyed.  We have a group of committed family and freinds who are ready to get on the trail!  We are going to a place that Andy loved and that he mentions in the voice memos he made on his phone while on the PCT.  We are going back-packing for three days!  We will be taking his ashes and carrying just the things we need on our backs, sleeping in the dirt, gazing at the stars and the moon, inviting the wildlife to celebrate with us — becoming one with nature and Mother Earth.  We are going to honor a life that is very special.  Every person who ever knew or heard of Astro Andy knows he was a very unique human being.

Two things that I am excited to share ~ a very kind and sincere woman named Nalini who resides at Ananda Village — the place where Andy took his last breaths and his spirit moved on to another realm —  is writing a book about death and others whom have passed away in that spiritual community.  She has included Andy in her book.

Second, I am very excited that we will have a special guest joining us on our “Anniversary Expedition.”  A writer from Backpacker magazine will be coming along because of his interest in Andy and his quest and completion of the Pacific Crest Trail in 2012.  We are looking forward to the telling of a heart-warming story that we know will bring inspiration to many.

Thanks for reading!

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In Andy’s Memory

For those of you that have been through the death of a loved one, you know that the memory and essence of them is always with you. In fact, their memory and image springs up at some of the most surprising moments, completely unexpectedly. And then there are those times we anticipate, when we hear a song, see a picture, find a memento and the memory will arise, and we silently say to ourselves, “no, not now.” Why? Because we prefer not to live through the deep pain again of the reality that we’ve lost a great love. But like it or not, we live through it again and again and again. These moments of remembering are like opening an old wound. Tears prick around the eyes and the heart muscle clenches sending a contraction up the throat and that sense of knowing that if you spoke right then there would be a quiver, a break in your voice that reveals the impulse to hold back the emotion of grief. There is an idea that something surreal has transpired, then knowing it was real, he died.

Recently, there is also something wonderful happening around the memory of Andy that is bringing a smile to my face, a lightness and joy. There are friends, family, acquaintances and even strangers that have contacted me spontaneously with offers of remembrance who want to honor a life that touched them and continues to do so in many different ways. The life of my beautiful boy. I would like to share these offers with you, albeit a little bit selfishly because — it contributes to my healing.

A friend of Andy’s who he met on the trail named Wolverine (trail name) is beginning a through hike of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) and is dedicating his hike to Andy, to honor his memory. Wolverine met Andy somewhere in Oregon and struck up a friendship. I’m not certain, but Wolverine was one of the few people Andy confided in on the trail about his cancer. Andy so wanted to be ‘normal’ on the trail, he chose not to share his cancer story. Being on the trail amongst strangers allowed Andy to leave behind an identity that had come to define him — the young man with Hodgkin’s disease — the trail gave him anonymity and a fresh start.

For some reason, Andy found Wolverine to be a trusted friend, and at the same time he was beginning to realize that his body was not performing at its optimal best as his leg was giving out. It was Wolverine that suggested it might be a good idea to get off the trail and check into the ER at Yakima Valley Memorial in Washington. From then on Wolverine became a protector, a guardian in a way. He also became a person that I could rely on to keep an eye on Andy. I remember this bringing me great peace.

Many of you know the story of Andy’s short stay in Yakima and his return to the trail to finish. When he did return, he started out with friends that included Wolverine and they were excited to be reunited. But then bad weather struck on the PCT in early October 2012 and they were separated with no way to communicate. Andy was joined by his step-father Michael, and another PCT hiker, Gourmet and a friend Dave, all to act as a support group to get Andy to the final terminus, the border of Canada. The morning they arrived at the terminus, after all the mugging and photos filled with glee, they were packing up heard someone walking towards them. And guess who hiked? Dog-tired, hungry, wet to the bone, probably dehydrated and definitely scared — Wolverine! He had been hiking alone through the snow for a number of days, wondering if he had veered off the trail, taken a wrong turn. Astro-Andy’s group set down their packs and made him a meal, gave him a shot of gin, recorded his momentous moment at the terminus and proceeded to walk into Canada together, so happy at their reunion. Astro-Andy and Wolverine were together and finishing together! Wolverine has been so touched and inspired by Andy that he has unselfishly dedicated his CDT hike to his memory!

I invite you all to visit Wolverine’s blog at: http://wolverinecdt.blogspot.com Scroll down and find April 9th read his story about Andy and find lot’s of great pictures too. Follow along if you feel so inclined. I also invite you to make a contribution to his hike. For many thru-hikers they are fulfilling a dream to see the world in a different view, to be filled with nature and find adventure. Often times funds are limited and they are proceeding on a shoe-string budget and through the kindness of others. Wolverine was very kind to Andy and our family, we were strangers until we became friends. Just like the many friends that you now have in your life.

I have some more stories about offers of remembrance, but for now I am going to leave you with the one above. I’m going to come back to this blog and share — for you and for me.

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A Beautiful Life ~ Join Us in Celebration

This obituary appeared in our local hometown paper, written by a dear friend Robin Pierson, who has two son’s close to Andy’s age.  Please join us in Celebration of Andy – Astro’s Life on September 29th at 4:00 at the Neighborhood Congregational Church in Laguna Beach, CA.

Andrew Lyon

Guest Contributor | September 13, 2013 |

Ten months after triumphantly crossing into Canada having walked there from Mexico, Andrew Lyon, 24, passed away on the morning of Aug. 30, 2013 cradled in the arms of his mother and sister.

Lyon took his final breath at Ananda, a spiritual community in northern California where he had spent many months throughout the five and half years he spent living with cancer. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2008, when he was 19 and a freshman at UC Berkley studying astro-physics on a scholarship.

Before college, Lyon had an illustrious academic career in each of the Laguna Beach schools he attended from Top of the World to Thurston to Laguna Beach High School.

Linda Barker, his fifth grade teacher, recalled the 10-year-old Lyon as “one of my most intelligent fifth grade students with a love of math and reading.” While one of her most gifted students, Barker said Lyon never bragged about his abilities and instead helped students who struggled. Barker remembered Lyon’s stellar performance as the jester – who brought love and laughter back to the community – in a play written by David Saltman, who ironically lost his life to Hodgkin’s disease at 23. And she recalled that Lyon “was a good big brother” to his sister, Alexandra. “He always watched over her when he was at school and would wait for his little sister to join him.”

Lyon continued to impress his teachers at Thurston Middle School. “There are some students you just never forget,” said Patricia Twitty, Lyon’s eighth-grade science teacher. “He was the boy who walked in everyday with a smile on his face that lit up the room. He was always very present. The world is such a better place because Andy Lyon was here.”

The theme of kindness and caring for others continued to play out throughout Lyon’s life.

When he was 16 Lyon travelled with a group of students, all girls, to Costa Rica to paint and spackle a church in a poor community. Ann Quilter, the adult leader of the group, will never forget his “willingness to share, believe, to be brave and have fun while doing it,” even while surrounded by girls determined to pluck his “magnificent unibrow.” Quilter recalled seeing the emergence of Lyon’s “already magnificent sense of adventure,” which only grew despite the adversity he was to face.

Following his cancer diagnosis, Lyon took a year off from school, underwent chemotherapy and radiation, learned to play the piano, got a dog and returned to Berkeley, sailing through his sophomore year. As he was to begin his junior year, the cancer returned. His doctors prescribed even stronger chemotherapy and a grueling stem cell transplant treatment that required Lyon to be in isolation for three weeks. One hundred days after his release from the hospital, just a few months after his 21st birthday, Lyon learned that the cancer was back. After a 10-day silent meditation retreat, during which Lyon said that he “allowed the power of the universe to flow through me a bit more,” he decided to literally walk away from his oncologists’ prescriptions and instead immerse himself in nature, which he dearly loved, by attempting to walk the 2,660-mile Pacific Crest Trail.

“Carrying a big bundle of worries everywhere can be exhausting,” he said. So instead of shouldering the weight of the world, he packed his camping supplies, put on his running shoes and walked away from it all.

On the trail he became known as “Astro Andy.” And while his family was initially skeptical, they became his ardent support team. His mother, Betsy Gosselin, cooked, dehydrated and shipped an unending river of food packages and his stepfather, Michael Gosselin, often surprised Lyon on the trail and hiked with him for days.

Just 300 miles shy of the Canadian border, Lyon began to falter. The pain that he had learned to live with became intolerable and he started falling on the trail. Dr. Albert Brady, an oncologist at Yakima Memorial Hospital in Washington, told him the bad – and the good – news. His cancer had returned but the physician had just received a newly approved drug designed for people with reoccurring Hodgkin’s lymphoma. After receiving the treatment, Lyon got back on the trail the next day, and after walking through days of rain and snow, crossed the Canadian border on Oct. 19, six and a half months after he started,

“We’re a small town and he was quite a celebrity for us,” Brady said. “It’s an enormous undertaking for anyone to walk the entire length of the PCT in a single season and to do it with cancer made people just want to jump in and help him whatever way they could. People so admired someone with a terminal illness who accepted it with such courage and equanimity. He was a most remarkable young man.”

While on the trail Lyon and his mother started a blog: “Andy’s Big Adventure” which provided updates on his progress and served as an inspiration to friends and strangers alike. When it became clear that the “miracle” drug he received in Washington was not working and that he was dying, Lyon asked that his mother continue the blog to let people share his last earthly journey. A friend from Ananda commented that Lyon had “embarked on another type of PCT:  A Purposefully Conscious Transition.” With courage and an open heart, Lyon laid down sign posts to help others on a trip that all will make but few speak about.

Lyon and his family talked openly about how and where to celebrate his life and where he would like his ashes to be placed. One of his last dreams was to have his family and friends take him to one of his favorite passes in the Sierra to camp, have fun, share stories and revel in nature that he dearly loved.

Lyon is survived by his mother Betsy Gosselin, his stepfather, Michael Gosselin, his sister, Alexandra, and his grandparents.

A memorial service will be held at the Laguna Beach Neighborhood Congregational Church on Sept. 29. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Lyon’s honor to Ananda Village, 14618 Tyler Foote Rd., Nevada City, CA  95959 or to The Pacific Crest Trail Association:  https://www.pcta.org/donate/#why-give.

 

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Andrew Banks Lyon aka Andy – Astro – D-Andy-lion

Dear Family and Friends and Followers,

Our beautiful son, brother, friend, hero — Andy — passed away on Friday, August 30th at 7:30am.

I feel so very fortunate that Andy was able to die in a place that he loved, as close to nature as he could possibly be, under beautiful tress, overlooking a forested ridge line and a graceful river.  Adjacent to the little cottage where we stayed during the last days of his life are beautiful gardens and a sacred chapel called the Crystal Hermitage.  Andy had taken me on a visit to the gardens a few years ago and what I remember most is that we laid down on a grassy area surrounded by colorful flower beds and looked up at the sky. Andy always took the time to appreciate nature, and he was so happy in that moment, recognizing a of a little piece of heaven.  He was delighted to share it with me as though it was his own personal discovery.  It never occurred to me then that he would die just a hundred yards from this peaceful place where he found beauty and sanctuary.  When I think back to that time and reflect on all the events that lead up to his death, I realize that all the pieces came together in divine right order.

On that Friday morning when Andy passed over to an infinite realm, we once again watched the sun come up together and then decided to sleep in “a little bit longer”.  When he woke up again I noticed that his breathing was definitely different. We laid on either side of him in bed.  We laid there for a long time holding him and crying, telling him how much we loved him, how much his life meant to us and what an inspiration he had been to so many.  It was peaceful and beautiful.  I could not have wished for a better ending of his human life.

I know that Andy’s spirit and our memories will live forever in my heart and in all the hearts that he loved and loved him.

There are so many people that I would like to thank for your unwavering support to me and to my family on this journey.  I hesitate to name names for fear that I would leave someone out. (I’ve done my best to thank you personally, but in the midst of it all I may have overlooked some)  May I say now THANK YOU . . .  your love and kindness has surrounded us on this path and it is with deep gratitude and joy I thank you!

We will be honoring Andy’s life in Laguna Beach on Sunday, September 29th.

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