Saturday, September 10, 2011


"Uncle Andy,
are you going to join Uncle Don
and the ancestors
in the Spirit World?”

He was seven.

Andy and I were helping him
get ready to dance
in the Wacipi (Pow-wow).

It was a private moment
with a captive audience.

He had obviously heard
the adults in his world
talk about
how sick his friend was,
he decided
to check it out
for himself.

His question
echoed a conversation
Andy and I had
just hours earlier.

We had been sitting outside,
after dinner,
the local reservation paper.

Their obituary page,
“Journeys to the Spirit World,”
had been passed over by Andy,
who thought it was merely
of summer visits
to out of state relatives...

you know,
“Last Sunday,
Jeff and Lily White traveled
to Ainsworth
and were guests
of her Aunt Gertrude and Uncle Harry
at their palatial hog farm…”

Only when I commented
there were too many
'young people'
in the obits
did Andy realize
what section he ‘skipped’.

He laughingly remarked
it had been
'unconsciously' done.

Then he went on,
saying how comforting
the Lakota concept of death
was for him...

viewing it simply
part of your journey,
an adventure,
with beloved friends
waiting for you
at the other end.

We both knew
it would be his last trip
to the reservation.

He told me in confidence,
during our drive out to South Dakota,
that his cancer had returned
with a vengeance;
his prognosis was bleak.

There would be no reprieve;
no magic drug
to buy him
more time.

He was living with the knowledge
that he was living
the last few weeks
of his life.

So Alan’s question to him,
made me catch my breath.

Yet Andy didn’t hesitate or falter;
he lovingly and quietly
“Yes, I am;
but not tonight.

I’m going to watch you dance.
I’m going to enjoy
listening to the drums,
seeing you move
a beautiful sunset.

I’m going to just enjoy
being here.”

It’s one of the qualities I’ve loved about Andy;
his ability,
and deep desire
to be fully present
in whatever moment
he’s in.

Andy is a man whose presence in my life
has reminded me
there are good men in the world –
and, trust me,
in my line of work
I have desperately
that reminder.

We shared the same home state,
maniacal driving habits,
political inclinations,
spiritual beliefs
sense of mission.

yes, we had matching T-shirts for our road trips!!

Andy loved words,
was a skilled,
and thoughtful,
and, on more than one occasion,
(OK, on more than one dozen occasions)
over the years,
has acted as my interpreter
and defender,
“what she really meant to say was…”

Those of you who know me only from work
will probably find it hard to believe
I let anyone else speak for me…
but Andy could,
more often than not,
got it right.

Andy was so many things:
an actor, singer, artist,
brilliant Creative Director,
Emmy winner,
story teller,
loving father,
spiritual friend
to so many.

Andy has been one of my closest friends for over 20 years.

He died today;
while I’m glad he’s been delivered
from his pain,
my heart aches
for his family
and for all of us
who loved him
were lucky enough
to call him

my point is,
there are a lot of people in the world.
no one ever sees everything the same
way you do;
it just doesn't happen.
so when you find one person
who gets a couple of things,
especially if they're important ones...
you might as well hold on to them.
you know?"
Sarah Dessen

My dear friend,
you will be sorely missed.
The party wouldn't have been the same
without you.

I'll always hold onto the memories.

for now.

I love you.


Jodie Allen said...

This was so hard+good to read. I've known Andy my entire life and while mostly a kid-adult relationship, in the past few years (I think) he looked at me as more of a creative peer than "kid from church" which meant the world. Ann Marie and Andy both have such special places in my heart... today's new just has me so sad. It's hard for me, at this point in life I guess, to feel the happiness that he's out of pain and dancing with Jesus. I think I keep putting myself in Ann Marie's position and I'm not sure I could function in life right now without Chris. And it just makes me so sad for his future grandkids b/c he would have been an awesome Grandpa. Anyway, so glad I popped on here tonight to read your words. Thanks Donna and I'm so sorry for the loss of your good friend.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this Donna. It means so much to hear how much my Dad meant to those not lucky enough to be his daughter, but lucky enough to be part of his life. I, in turn, am grateful to have a friend like you.

Mark said...

Wow, what a great guy, I'm so sorry for your loss.

Kim said...

OMG!! No truer words have been spoken, Donna. It's crazy how things work in our lives. Recently, we baptized my new granddaughter in my backyard out of my bird bath. Strange, I know, however, permission was granted for the baptism by her father, my son, under some duress as my son has turned a hard heart towards religion. He originally wanted to have the baby baptized by way of native american traditions which is hard to achieve with authenticity for many reason. I'm not exactly sure why he chose the native american"ways", but nonetheless, he gave in to a non-traditional ceremony based on his Lutheran background. In an effort to satisfy my sons original desires, I made a traditional dream catcher trying to blend the two religions in an odd sort of way. While I was contemplating the presentation of the gift I had made, I thought of Andy and his love and respect for the Indians and their traditions and tried to think of the presentation "Andy's way" to make the blend pleasing to all. The way Andy was sooo good at. Thank you for sharing such awesome remarks about Andy and your friendship with him. He will be sorely missed by many. God's peace my friend