We’ve made it to Northern California, continuing our incredible journey, walking on a trail that we’ve never walked before, all without a map.  As I’ve said in an earlier blog entry, what’s really weird is everyone eventually takes this journey, but there is little preparation to know the way into death.  For Andy and our family we are navigating through by trusting the unknown and what lies ahead, not knowing how things will play out, or what the end will look like.

We are inspired by our spiritual values that are based on yoga philosophy and Buddhist teachings — but what I reflect on is this path is so much like what Andy and all PCT hikers do on the trail — to just keep forging ahead, never knowing what was going to be around the next traverse, over the next crest or even where we will would find the next watering hole to replenish and refresh.

Fortunately we’ve found a perfect place to ‘camp-out’ and at the same time replenish and refresh.  We are staying in the Guest House at the Crystal Hermitage in Ananda Village.  The house sits on the ridge of a sloping mountain surrounded by beautiful pine and oak trees.  We can see a peek of the Yuba River and all kinds of wild life including deer and fat furry squirrels.  Andy feels at home now is this quiet serenity.

It’s just the three of us — Andy, me and Alex (Michael is closing down the Laguna house). I haven’t referred to my daughter, Andy’s sister Alexandra during this journey, but she is an intricate part of Andy’s life.  If I can say so myself, she is a beautiful strong young woman who loves her brother dearly and has been by his side since we began hospice a month ago.  They have a very close bond with one another, having experienced so life together.

What do you say and how do you console a daughter who is loosing her brother?  I have to reach deep inside me to find words that support her grief.  Even though Andy is still alive, we are loosing little bits of him everyday.  And its painful beyond belief.  We are loosing his fast analytical mind, his agile ability in the kitchen concocting a new culinary masterpiece and his talk and hopes and dreams of his next adventure.

We cling to what is still left — his smile and wirily humor about the mundane things such as modesty — I should say lack of — and his meager attempts at hygiene as we both step in to do the dirty work. We still have his never wavering love and gratefulness for all we do for him now.  It is so amazing that he still shows his care and concern for Alex despite his slowed speech. It brings me to tears when he says to her in broken down gasping breaths, “How are you doing Alex?”  He says this in the midst of his own obvious frailty and broken down body. This is the spirit of Andy — compassion for others.

Alex and I cry a lot together and talk about what the end of Andy’s life will look like. Neither of us has seen someone die.  She is afraid to leave his side fearing she will not witness his last breath. I know from my research and trying to be more informed, despite being map-less, that he could take his last breath without anyone around.  Alex is fearful of the future of what her life will look like without her brother and regrets that she didn’t spend more time with him when she was able.

All of this is so delicate.  I can share with her my process and that through my spiritual practice I have been preparing for Andy’s death as best as I am able.  I also know in my heart that I have spent so many meaningful moments with Andy, more than most mother’s do in a lifetime. I hope that as his life comes to an end I will have no regrets, only memories of a beautiful boy that brought so much joy and excitement and the true spirit of what it means to be alive.

One last thing to finish this entry . . . in the middle of many sleepless nights Andy and I sing or chant together.  We sing silly little songs, some sanskrit mantras or we make up some of our own little melodies to suit the moment and bring peace and tranquility to our hearts and minds.  Here are two that we ‘sing’ frequently:

In breath, out breath
deep breath, slow breath
calm breath, ease breath
smile breath, release
present moment, wonderful moment
~Thich Nhat Hanh

May the door open to my heart,
may all people be free from suffering,
may all have joy flow in.

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24 Responses to Alexandra

  1. Geoffry White says:

    I’d rather die in pain surrounded by loved ones than alone without any pain.

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Jamie says:

    God bless all of you.

  3. Nancy Deline says:

    Beautiful beautiful thank you! I’ve been concerned for Alex in my heart, having a son and daughter close to their ages. I honor your honesty in sharing what all of you are going through and you are all guides for the rest of us. Blessings and love for your continued journey.

  4. Terri says:

    You are all in my thoughts and prayers. Thank you for sharing such inspirational posts with strangers.

  5. Sheri says:

    You all have a special place in our hearts and the memories our families have shared are priceless ! Andy, you have touched our lives with your strength and courage. Much Love from the Fetrow family

  6. Maria Katsantones says:

    Thinking of each of you and so grateful that you are sharing your personal story with friends and some of us strangers who followed your blog while Andy hiked the PCT. This story is touching, heart breaking, and inspiring. It’s a story to keep us all humble, grateful, forgiving, and more in the moment. Thank you, and many blessings to you during this sacred time. May Andy’s final days be free of suffering. He is so blessed to have you.

  7. Janet says:

    Thank you for sharing.

  8. Dambara says:

    Yay. You’ve followed the heart & Spirit, and nothing brings greater happiness! 🙂 (Plus, your family love & connection lasts way beyond this life…) Thanks for sharing your heart. Deep blessings to you all.

  9. Hani Bibi says:

    Thank you for taking the time to share Andy’s and your family’s journey with us Betsy.
    Much love to all of you. xo.

  10. Loyola Doran says:

    Andy is God’s gift to you. He loves him more than you will ever know and you as well. Trust in Him. God is always with us, in good times and times like this. Have enjoyed Andy’s Adventure. Thank you for sharing. Our grandson “Robinhood” finished the PCT a year ago. Our daughter works at the Emergency room in Yakima where Andy received treatment. Blessings to all of you

  11. annamce says:

    Thank you for sharing with so much honesty and dignity.
    Blessings to your family at this time of loss and transformation.

  12. My heart is open wide full of gratitude and love for each of you! Honoring the sacred journey as Andy is stepping into the great mystery. Your words land deep into the soul’s sense of knowing and surrender to the path in death.

    Feel the love blowing wings beneath your wings…

    Andy is etched in my soul….

    much love is flowing

    I am not saying that we should love death; but we should love life so generously, so without calculation and selection, that we involuntarily come to include, and to love death too…. Only because we exclude death, when it suddenly enters our thoughts, has it become more and more a stranger to us; and because we have kept it a stranger, it has become our enemy…. Death is our friend precisely when we most passionately, most vehemently, assent to being here, to living and working on earth, to Nature, to love
    Ninth Elergy Rainier Maria Rilke

  13. Thank you for sharing… God bless you all in your process… Love never dies…

  14. Spencer says:

    Dear Andy, Alex, Betsy, and Michael,

    I’m thinking of you. I’m so sorry I can’t be with you. I miss you all.


  15. Blessings and gratitude for your writing. You’ve offered up light and insight. Aum

  16. princessbea says:

    Congratulations on making the passage to the other side, Astro. You must be delighted with what you are seeing right now. There is pain of course on this side but your remarkable journey has left a mark on a huge number of us, even those who didn’t know you well. A peaceful passing with family holding you, many people sending love and kind thoughts – that’s success.

  17. Astro!!!!!! Love you broheem!

  18. kayostensen says:

    Heartfelt thoughts – of care, concern, and inspiration. Deep gratitude for your willingness, all three, to take us on this journey – painful and meaningful, both beyond measure. Namaste, Kay O.

  19. says:

    It seems the only thing to send is the strength and love of a higher power. We  love the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh as well. He also says something to the effect of taking the hardships of life, and growing a flower from them. You are all doing that, by giving lovely Andy the gift of being in a place of incredible beauty. I suspect if we knew of his journey’s destination, we would be supremely happy for him.  Perhaps it is simply the best of us that get to go there sooner. They say that prayer helps, and   I send the deepest prayer  that a higher power of love and strength and beauty  descends on all of you and that your last days with Andy are blessed with the beauty he deserves.

  20. Karin Klein says:

    I wish that at times too sad for words, there was a way to leave our tears instead. A young man so impressive that even though we never even met, he inspired admiration and awe and left an indelible impression. You said it, Betsy. We all travel this hard and unmapped path one day; Andy is once again the trailblazer. We’re not on a different trail, we’re just behind him on the same one. May we follow it with even a fraction of the grace, energy, good heart and love of life that he showed.

  21. stupidtrip says:

    Out breath, slow breath, ease breath, release …
    Goodbye Astro.

  22. I followed the last part of Andy’s PCT hike on this blog, and I was so sad to learn of his passing. Andy really inspired me with his bravery and his commitment. Condolences to all his family in this difficult time. My husband and I are hikers, and we’ll be thinking of you all.

  23. Renata says:

    I wish you strength to deal with this loss. I know what you go through because I lost my mum two months ago and we had the same struggle, the same ‘letting go’s’, the same beautiful moments. With us the dying also had some beauty in it and I learned so much my mum -more than a lot of daughters will experience- and that’s so special.
    Thanks for sharing your journey. RIP Andy.

    The Netherlands

  24. Cathy says:

    Dear Andy,
    Tonight please let me give you one more big hug, just like that last PCT day as you came down fresh snow covered trail under the blue autumn sky. Thank you for briinging me strength at the hardest times, thank you for inspiring me to live life to the fullest and making every step every breath count, thank you for being part of my life ….Betsy, thank you for bringing a beautiful young man to the world and thank you for sharing Andy’s and your family’s astronomic jouney with the world!!!

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