The rest of the story

Published 8:30 pm Friday, November 21, 2014

Several months ago, I wrote about a good friend of mine who left this world at the tender age of 26. Andy died of leukemia in March of 1996, yet has remained as strong an influence on me in death as he ever did in life. What I am about to share with you will reveal one of the many reasons why.

Something began tugging at me back in the spring, gently urging me to write about my friendship with Andy and the lasting impact it has had on me even after his death. Writing about him was something I hadn’t done before — either personally or professionally — but I suddenly felt compelled to do so. However, the day I sat down to write the story the words simply would not come. It was an unusual experience for me, in that most of my difficulty in writing comes when I sometimes struggle to come up with a topic. Once I have that, my columns almost seem to write themselves. But this was different, almost as though the thing that had been nagging at me to write about Andy was suddenly telling me to take my time and get it right. Andy certainly deserved my best effort, so I decided to put the column off for another week. When I sat down to begin working on it the following Friday the words flowed like water. His column was published the following day.

I hadn’t really stayed in touch with his family since the funeral. There had been a couple of courteous hellos on social media in recent years, but not much else. Yet I somehow felt as though they would appreciate seeing Andy’s name in print and knowing that others still thought of him often, so I posted the link to my column on Facebook and invited his mom and a few old friends to read it. The response was overwhelming. Within a couple days it had been read by hundreds of people, and their reaction to it was quite touching. Not surprisingly, many people still remembered what a terrific guy and a great friend he was. Dormant friendships were rekindled and great memories came flooding back. It was all that I had hoped for, a tribute to a great friend who, even in death, was able to bring people together.

The following Wednesday I received this message from Andy’s sister Laura, who said it was okay to share here:

Hi Tony. Thanks so much for the article. The timing is a bit incredible. I’m Andy’s sister and one day in the hospital (December before he died) he was telling me that he wanted to stop fighting and go home to spend his last days. We were alone (my parents were at church) and I was telling him that I completely understood and would support that decision. So, with the knowledge and quiet understanding that he would be dying soonish, we hatched a plan that he would give me a sign that he was OK on the other side. We decided that April 6th would be the day and that he would try to turn on a faucet at my house if that was something he could do. The faucet thing has happened a few times over the years and not always on April 6th. This year, he visited me in a dream I’d say around the 2nd of April and I thought that was all I was going to get, until I saw your article. I just had to share that with you. I laughed and said, clearly this year he wanted it to be Andy week all week long. In the dream I had, I was at some kind of graduation ceremony and he was sitting next to me, then I went to where Lynn (Andy’s brother) was sitting and he was sitting next to him too. Then I went to where my parents were sitting and he was sitting with them too. I think he is with us, all the time, all in a way that our little human brains can’t understand, but we will one day. Have a great day and thank you again for the article.

I sat there in stunned silence for a few minutes, soaking in what I had just read. Then, after a good hard cry, I spent a few minutes gathering my thoughts in order to explain to her everything that had taken place in the last few days. I told her that I had originally sat down to write the column on Friday, March 28, but the words just wouldn’t come. I explained to how I felt I needed to give it another week, and had written it on Friday, April 4. The electronic version she had read was dated April 5, the day it was posted online.

The date on the newspaper in which it actually published was Sunday, April 6.

Faith in God’s eternal promise is a very unique and personal experience. For some, it is as unwavering and as solid as a rock. For others it is completely nonexistent. My faith had always existed somewhere in the middle. Mind you, I have always had hope. But faith is different, and today, thanks in part to Andy, mine is stronger than ever. I have always believed that God put Andy in my life for a very good and specific reason. It just took 18 years since we said our last goodbyes for that reason to be revealed.

As the season of giving thanks approaches, I once again have much to be thankful for. I have been blessed with a beautiful family, wonderful friends, and a job that has allowed me to share this story with each of you. But this year, I will say an extra thank you to God for giving me Andy, and for using my friend to help strengthen my faith in Him.

TONY CLARK is the publisher of The Tidewater News. He can be contacted at 562-3187 or