Ten years ago today, the world lost the brightest of stars and I lost one of my best friends, my flesh and blood, and part of who I am. On the morning of July 14, 2007, my son, Andrew John McDonough, was alive and we still had hope; albeit small. But, at 1:55pm that day, a wonderful, amazingly kind person died. My son was gone! My friend was gone. My soul was forever torn apart. Chris, Ali, Andrew, and I are who we are because of each other. How could we go on?
After a few days, the ‘world’ went back to their lives, as I know you all need to. For Chris, Ali, and me, our lives as we knew them were forever changed. While we strive to laugh and find happiness because that is not only what Andrew would want, what God wants, and what we should do, we will always carry extreme sadness and loss in our hearts.
For the last 10 years, Andrew hasn’t literally walked the earth. But, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t touched people, made people smile, and made the world a better place. While we carry tremendous grief, if you’re reading this, we want to thank you. We thank you for wearing a B+ shirt, for raising money for his Foundation, for attending an event, for praying for us, for telling stories about him, for connecting with him even if you never met him, for teaching your kids about Andrew and his Foundation. And, for so many more things. You have helped us honor Andrew, build his legacy, and in a different kind of way, keep him ‘alive’. Just as I cannot describe to you the pain of loss that we feel, I cannot describe how much you have given to us. I literally pray that you’ll never stop.
There hasn’t been one day amongst the last 3,653 days that I haven’t thought about Andrew 10-15 times during the day. Sometimes I cry and sometimes I crack up thinking about him. You will see Chris, Ali, and me with smiles on our face, but behind the facade is our reality…a reality that you don’t want to see. But, I know that we’re not the only ones in life with challenges. I actually feel very lucky and blessed in so many ways. Yes, my son died at 14, my wife has battled breast cancer, and our daughter has had to grow up with unthinkable trauma, but I have been married for 34 years and Chris and I are the parents of two AMAZING kids. Two kids who couldn’t have been closer…and still are in a different way. I am SO proud of both of my kids. Our family is still together. I’ve been given the opportunity to be Andrew’s and Ali’s Dad! I am SO thankful for that. God has blessed Chris and I with this incredible privilege of bringing them into the world and raising them…even if we thought we’d have more time to raise Andrew. We had 14 amazing years with him…because it was so amazing is part of the reason why the loss is so great.
But, we soldier on. We continue to talk to Andrew, to represent him, and I try like hell to dream of him. God willing, we will be reunited with him in person some day. But, for now, I miss him so badly. I miss hanging out with him, his laugh, his kindness, his spirit, and his hugs. Nine years ago today, just one year after he passed away, I wrote a letter to Andrew in Heaven. Here’s an excerpt from it:
Andrew, I don’t think about God’s plan. I just think like a Dad who lost his son and best friend from this world. I get very, very sad! I miss you SOOOOO much!!! I feel like someone took my heart out and is just stomping on it. There’s so much that I miss, including:
- Your smiles
- Your hugs
- Your voice
- Your kisses
- Your practical jokes
- Your funny faces
- Your sense of humor/your goofiness
- Your kindness
- Your generosity
- Your warmth
- Your faith
- Your hair
- Our talks
- Our games of pool, basketball, our catches, kicking the soccer ball
- Just hanging out with you
- Watching you and Ali together
- Seeing you sitting on your Mom’s lap
- Watching you play with Casey
- Watching you play sports
- Watching you with your friends
- Seeing how much you cared for people
- Seeing you go off to school with your coat and tie on
While time has given me an opportunity to cope, I miss Andrew every bit as much today as I did on the One Year Anniversary back in 2008.
In the hospital, one of the last things Andrew said to me was:
“I love you Dad! You mean the world to me. I’d die if I didn’t have you.”
Me too, pal. Me too!
I love you, Andrew!