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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14 Responses to Reflecting

  1. Betsy – I think a hike on the PCT is a fantastic way to remember Andy and to celebrate his life. Wish I could be there with you. Chris

  2. Carol U L O says:

    I so appreciate it writing this. The choices that you and Andy and Michael and Alex and your wide circle of friends made about Andy’s experience I find truly inspiring. The hike on PCT is another meaning filled choice.
    Thank you so much for sharing.
    Hugs,
    Carol

  3. I am so grateful for your willingness to share so deeply and your love and grace permeate through every word. Andy permeates through every word. Blessings to you all on your journey.

  4. Dorothy groszhans says:

    Your hike sounds like a most beautiful way to honor your son–in his way that I hope will bring you the healing and peace of his enduring spirit, and the peace he would want you to have.

  5. Elba Meays says:

    My love and prayers are with you. I am very moved with your writing . It helps alleviate and remember the good times and smile. Blessings dear one.

  6. Sandra C. says:

    Dearest Betsy – What a marvelous message to receive this morning, for I dreamed about you, Andy and your family (including your dad!) last night. I woke up to this rich visual memory that just kept lingering. We were all moving along an interior path, turning corners, following the other, and as I turned to look back, my eyes locked onto Andy. He returned the gaze but appeared as a younger boy. We later were sitting at long communal tables with many people everywhere.

    Thank you for the reflecting message today. I will keep you in my heart and be communing with you on your wilderness “Anniversary Expedition”. Sandra

  7. Fran Abel says:

    Lovely posting. Thanks. Your summer PCT hike for Andy is a perfect tribute to him and will be wonderfully healing to all his loved ones. Fran

  8. Mary McManus says:

    Your words and your experiences are such gift to all of us who knew and loved Andy and who are graced with your friendship. I feel deep gratitude for your sharing. Andy is all around and always with us….and yet he is still missed so deeply…..

  9. Mark Christy says:

    Absolutely beautiful! I’ve lost several family members, and the memories of the laughter and joy never fade. But I find it almost impossible now to remember their pain near the end. I’m thankful that love trumps sorrow.
    I will never forget playing catch in the street with Andy. he threw harder and would converse during the game. A curious mind like his is rare indeed and can never be forgotten.

  10. I had the great fortune to meet sweet, brilliant Andy when we were both volunteers at Ananda in the summer of 2010. Andy is an inspiration and a model for how to live – he will be on my mind and in my heart on August 30 when I am sleeping under the stars. Sending blessings your way. Thank you for sharing on this blog.

  11. Mirella Taibi says:

    Dear Andy’s Mom:
    I came across Andy’s blog and found it very inspirational. This entry you wrote about your hike is a wonderful tribute to your son. My son Paul also passed away from Hodgkin’s lymphoma on March 4, 2013. So when I found this blog, I felt a connection and want to share my story with you. Paul was 24 when he passed. He was diagnosed October 2005 at the age of 16. My son, as well, loved nature. He loved the ocean, the sun, the snow, being outdoors. He graduated college and became an architect technologist. He loved photography as well and took many, many beautiful photographs of nature and structures. Some are hanging in our home and some I have given away. We are so proud of him and miss him profoundly.
    He disliked chemotherapy so much that he would run away outside the hospital and the nurse or social worker had to gradually and convincingly bring him back inside. It broke my heart and I felt helpless. He was 16 and the treatments made him very sick and he hated losing his hair. But his cancer was early stages and of course, as you know, the prognosis with Hodgkins is very good… 85-90% cure rate(as the doctors told us) But within 8 months it was back. Doctors recommended a stem cell transplant with 50% success rate. Paul did not want to go that route at all. I did not want to put him through chemo/poison again. I wanted to help him by building up his immune system so his body can heal and help fight this disease. I found this place in Bahamas that treats cancer with immune augmentative therapy. We went for 7 weeks. He also had IV vitamin C, he tried to eat better, found recipes and fruits/vegetable drinks to make and vitamins. His next CT scan showed that the tumour in his chest shrank by 4cm. His oncologist was very surprised and impressed. Paul continued with this and he started to gain weight, became stronger and looked great. After about two years, Hodgkins started to progress. So he eventually agreed to do the stem cell transplant. Four months later, PET scan showed increase in two areas. So he started with many different chemotherapies. He even tried SGN-35 (Adcetris) in 2011, but it did not work for him. He was also getting intravenous Vitamin C through all this. He wanted to keep his immune system in somewhat good condition, while the chemo was going through his body. He kept up his studies and travelled and wanted a normal young man’s life as much as possible. He told me how he loved me and appreciated all I did for him. By January 2013, the cancer progressed quickly and every chemo seemed to make things worse. He spent the last 30 days in the hospital. Those memories torment me from time to time. How he quickly deteriorated. It tore my heart in pieces. Our son was dying. How could I possibly endure seeing him go through this. How could I live without him? My son, my friend. His two younger brothers sobbing I held him close as did my husband. We cried and sobbed. Seeing your child slowly passing away is not the way it should be. My husband and I wished it was one of us instead. He went peacefully.

    It has been a very difficult year and a half. I have been feeling guilty and so sad. Did we do the right thing with the alternative treatments? Should he have had the stem cell transplant sooner? Would that have made a difference or just cause the poison to weaken his body more? Even though the Hodgkin’s was shrinking and he felt wonderful during that time, I continue to question myself. I just miss him so, so much. His laughter, his sense of style, his quirky sense of humour, his kindness and patience. Some days are unbearable. I try to capture the wonderful memories we made together and as a family. Our trips, our celebrations, his achievements, his legacy of photographs he has left us. I soon plan to send some to an art gallery and hopefully have an exhibit of his art. He would love that.

    We have to remember how brave and special our sons were and keep all their memories alive.

    Thank you for letting me vent and share my story.

    Take care,
    Mirella

  12. Matt Parker (Double Tap) says:

    My name is Matt Parker (aka Double Tap). I met Astro on the PCT in 2012 in the Southern California section. I remember our first meeting at mile 471 at the Oasis Cache in Section E. For the next 220 miles we would talk often as we saw each other taking a break from hiking. I had no idea what Astro was going through and I remember how happy he looked being out on the trail. I didn’t make it to Canada in 2012 but in 2014 I did make it all the way and I owe a lot of that to Astro. When I got tired, I would think of Astro and that would give me immediate motivation. Thank you Astro, I miss you.

  13. We hiked with Astro out of Etna and ran into him often through the early parts of Oregon. He had an amazing spirit. He is often in my thoughts…

  14. Duane Purcell says:

    Betsy, although my life is on another path, I think often of Andy and his struggle. I am in another stage in my life where leaving, even for a few months, to experience a little of what Andy experienced on the PCT, is not possible, I feel such sadness in his passing. I believe that we are on this earth for a short time. We will live on in the afterlife. I hope to meet Andy then, when I pass on.

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