On July 20th, 2012, our beloved oldest son, Andrew was struck and killed by a car in the early morning on a highway in Indiana. He was on a Crossroads Pro-Life walk from San Francisco to Washington DC. He was a month shy of 21 years old.
This page is here to capture some of Andrew’s story and perhaps allow God through Andrew to touch a few more lives, to His Glory. None of us lives for ourselves; neither do we die for ourselves.
Here are links to various articles and other things about Andrew, his life and his death, and what he meant to a surprising number of people:
This essay was written in the hours immediately after his death, in the early morning hours.
Andrew’s death and the life he lead inspired many people to write and call us with condolences and stories from all around the country and, indeed, the world. From these, we learned that Andrew’s death was the proximate cause of the conversion to Catholicism of a lifetime Evangelical Protestant, that he had, during a college bull session, remarked that he wanted to die while saying the Rosary (he did), and that he could be found praying in the school chapel before a statue of the Blessed Mother most any time he wasn’t in class. An unknown (but non-zero) number of babies came into the world as a result of his prayers and counseling.
Everybody is unique, but Andrew was something else again. He was a very gentle and loving soul, shy, and brilliant. He went out of his way to be courteous and loving to 4 younger siblings, and had a motley collection of friends which included several people who might otherwise have been friendless. At the same time, he had the respect of his peers, even when they disagreed with everything he stood for – it was close to impossible to hate or even dislike Andrew if you knew him even a little. Like his confirmation patron St. John Bosco, he never showed off his intellect. But his understanding was deep and wide.
On a lighter note, Andrew was tremendous at any craft he cared to take up. The catalog sounds ridiculous, like a junior Most Interesting Man in the World, but he just mastered almost anything that interested him in a completely un-self-conscious way. As a small child, he learned knitting from his mother. He didn’t just learn to knit and pearl, he mastered all kinds of intricate patterns and techniques. As a teenager, he took up pottery, and his early – and only, now – efforts look like the work of a master.
He built his own desk, including exposed dowel construction and a glass top, and made a matching bookcase. He was renown as a baker, producing an assortment of breads that were expected and requested by family and friends. He made his own cheese. He made candy that looked like something out of a See’s catalog but tasted better,
built his own computer from components, learned enough vector math to program a ray-tracing CGI routine (I have no idea what that means, BTW, but I saw the little cartoons he made – they were fun.). He passed every computer programming course offered down at the local community college before he was out of high school. He had reached the point in college where Latin was no longer a chore but a joy for him.
And always remained a sweet and loving son.
All was not sweetness and light for Andrew by any stretch. For several years as a teenager, he was tormented by scruples. He battled an obsessive personality that often made him unable to tell when enough was enough. Once he became involved in pro-life work, he felt he had to spend nearly every spare moment he could praying in front of the Planned Parenthood a mile from our house. What could be more important than trying to save babies? So, day after day, whenever the clinic was open and he didn’t have class or some other obligation, there he was, saying a rosary out front and trying to talk with the people going in.
Witnessing on the sidewalk, more often than not by himself, was just short of torture for him. The abuse occasionally hurled at him did not roll off his back. When he tried to talk to women walking in, he always felt he didn’t say the right thing. On occasion when someone would listen to him and still go in, he was devastated.
But some women would later show up at the Birthright center down the street, holding the card Andrew had given them.
Andrew was so often alone, and that did not seem good. I felt I had to stop this somehow, afraid that Andrew’s obsessive behavior would destroy him. Moderation did not seem an option with Andrew. So I pushed him to go to college at Thomas Aquinas College 300 miles away, hoping that being in a community of believers would help, and that the Great Books would delight his mind. I assured him that one of the chaplains there would make a great spiritual adviser.
So, he went. and he loved the college. He soon became engaged with the intellectual life. The college has an active pro-life group, and so he still got to go pray and witness, but not for hours every day. He made friends.
That summer, as a 19 year old, Andrew still went to pray at Planned Parenthood almost every day, but with this difference: before, he went in a sort of exhausted panic, now he went with a grim determination. He was not being destroyed by his worry and obsession, but was doing what he could. He was getting more balanced. He seemed to be growing into a man.
His sophomore year was a delight, to both him and me. He was taking great delight in learning. Latin, which had been a challenge, was becoming easier and more fun. Phone calls and visits started including more discussions on intellectual topics. His grasp of the material – philosophy, theology, science, literature – was remarkably deep. I was not sure he was out of danger, but at least things looked much better.
As the school year drew to a close, Andrew announced that he was going to spend the summer on a pro-life walk with Crossroads, an organization that was given birth by one college student deciding to walk the country one summer to spread the pro-life message.
I was not happy. This seemed to me too close to Andrew’s obsessions coming back into the fore. So I told him that I expected him to contribute something to his college education. He talked to the Crossroads peoples, and wrote letters to family and friends asking for their support for the walk. They came through. Feeling a little like St. Francis’ dad, I gave in.
So, off he went.The other walkers promptly nick-named him Pharaoh, for the goofy goatee and long hair he decided to grow over the summer. But he seemed very happy.
We talked over the phone or texted just about every day. On weekends, the Crossroads team would stay with families willing to put them up. Afterwards, we learned that Andrew had always quietly helped clean up after meals, and had in fact offered to cook for their hosts. After his death, people sent us pictures of the bread he made, and wrote letters telling us about how quietly helpful he was.
On July 19th, he texted me asking for the recipe for calabasitas, a New Mexican dish made from squash and corn. I sent it, he said thanks. That was our last communication.
Crossroads walkers worked as a team. At any one time, two walkers would be on the road, while the rest of the team rested in the team’s passenger van. The van would drop off the 2 walkers whose turn it was, then drive ahead a few miles and park and wait. When the walkers caught up, 2 new walkers would take a turn.
The Central Walk team had spent the weekend of July 14 in St. Louis. Andrew and another walker had spoken about their efforts at masses at St. Margaret Mary Alacoque that Sunday. Since resuming the walk Monday, they had covered almost 200 miles and were just outside of Indianapolis when Andrew and his partner took their turn in the wee hours of the morning on July 20th.
The policy was for walkers to walk into traffic so they could see oncoming vehicles. At that point in Indiana, state highway 40 is divided, with a median. So the van dropped them off on the eastbound side, and they made their way to the median and started walking, planning to cross over when convenient. The van drove on a few miles ahead.
In the best chivalrous tradition, in mixed teams the man walks on the outside, the traffic side. This Andrew did. They then started saying a Rosary as they walked along, as they always did.
A young man on his way to work driving along didn’t see them, and, as he approached from their backs, they didn’t see him coming either. The median shoulder is less than a foot wide. His car struck Andrew, threw him down the highway. Andrew died instantly. The driver then lost control and struck the right hand rail further down the road. He was not seriously hurt, thank God. The police report says the cause of the accident was Andrew walking in an unsafe area and darkness.
The other walker, a lovely young woman, was walking beside Andrew and was unharmed, thank God.
The outpouring of love, sympathy and kindness to my family and me in the wake of Andrew’s death was overwhelming. We are all so grateful to all of them. Given how much sorry there is in the world, it is great blessing to be reminded that people can certainly be good. Our family’s gratitude and prayers go out to all those who were and remain so generous.
A few people and groups warrant special mention. I’m not mentioning the names of individuals simply because I have not asked their permission to mention them – no slight intended:
- The other young people on Andrew’s walk were remarkable, especially the walk leader and his walking partner. Even though they were going through their own emotional turmoil and grief, they all were very considerate of us.
- Crossroads and its staff really stepped up for us.
- The parishioners at St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, the last parish Andrew had spoken at, offered prayers, mass and generously helped defray funeral expenses.
- A number of people flew in for his funeral mass, including two priests and the walkers on Andrew’s team.
- Thomas Aquinas College, its president, staff and students, who welcomed us, told us precious stories and celebrated a beautiful memorial mass.
August 6, 2013 Update:
Here is a blog post Andrew was working on when he died, sent to us by Becky Frybarger, a fellow walker whose computer Andrew was using. It was clearly in early draft stage, but I’m leaving it as is, misspellings and all:
The Agony of Ease
On Crossroads I have found that the hardest things are never what I expect. For example if I had to walk 20 miles in a day I would actualy be happy about it: exercise makes me feal good, and there is nothing like the satisfaction of looking back on hard work accomplished. But if for some reason I was only able to walk 5 miles, or only 3, I would be most unhappy: I would feel week, pampered, and useless. This is the Agony of Ease.
All my life I have heard of, or even seen, people enduring great trials. Some survive them, like the saints, some do not, but to me people who suffer are worthy of pitty, respect, and thus love. I see my friends and aquentances struggling to grow up in boken families, I talk to my fellow students in college who are working so hard to aford to be there, I hear of the saints, like St. Phillumina, who clung to God dispite the attemps of everyone they loved to pull them away, even most of my fellow Crossroaders seem to have been through alot to be here today. These people seem worthy of pitty and a cirtain respect: they know what “hard” is. But my life seems to have always been easy: my Catholic parents have always loved each other; we have always had at least enough money, or if we didn’t they hid it from me; all my sibblings get along; I live in a nice town and have always gone to nice schools where I have been respected and had friends. Even my health is mostly good, and when not we have good insurence. In my mind, half unconciously, I had equated having suffered with being worthy of love and respect. Somehow pitty and love have gotten strangly crossed and distorted in my mind. Thus when I head about other peoples trials or felt that things were going to easly for me I would get very angry and sullen: I would feal that these others deserved to be loved and respected while I did not. Because I am so week and pampered, so shilded and protected, I felt that all I deserved was disgust and contempt. Now mind you it’s not like I lived in a continua
Likewise, here are some pictures from her camera. Click for a larger view.