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.