“I had just buried my whole family and woke up the next day and thought, ‘What do I do now?’” To say Andrew was lonely is an understatement. The morning after the funeral, his friends had to leave and return back to their own lives and families. Even worse, he worried about his impending future.
Stacey’s mom and dad helped Andrew move his family’s belongings to his garage. He explains “I didn’t want throw anything way, but I also could not see things that reminded me of them. The only things I let remain were Stacey’s clothes in the wardrobe.”
He chose to not move out of the house fearing he may regret it down the road. Instead, he had the house redecorated with the hopes of making it more bearable to live in for an extended period.
Andrew sought counseling and support from the non-profit organization, Cruse Bereavement Care. Cruse provides emotional care and support free of charge to bereaved people, helping them cope with their loss. Andrew credits much of his ability to move forward to the care and guidance of Cruse.
The counselors at Cruse encouraged Andrew to establish a goal – to find something to aim for. He soon learned that the local branch of Cruse was in danger of going under due to lack of funding. In an effort to both find that goal to aim for and raise funds for Cruse, he decided to begin training for a marathon. Andrew said, “The main reason I committed to running in six months time is that it would mean I would be around to at least the day after the run.”
The training occupied a lot of Andrew’s time. “It totally consumed my life.” He was resolved to meet the challenge and determined to even crawl if he had to. “The training was very therapeutic for me.” He said that he would listen to music that reminded him of his family as he ran. It helped him remember what he was running for. Several of his friends trained for the marathon with him. They would meet up regularly for runs together in spite of them all living hundreds of miles apart.
On September 6, 2006, he and his friends finished the Nottingham marathon in an unusual low of 27 degrees for that time of year. He had sustained an injury 3 weeks before the event on an 18 mile training run and had been advised not to run the race. “I was going to run even if it meant permanent damage,” he says with a determination I admire him for.
Supported by many well wishers, 18 ran with him.
(Andrew is center – number 11436)
“All of us finished. Time was unimportant.” Raising both money and awareness were his primary goals.
The first person he saw as he crossed the finish line was Stacey’s mom. “We both hugged and broke down. Then, she looked at me and said, ‘Stacey and the children would be so proud of you.’”
Those are words he has never forgotten. “Those words broke me in the moment, but also gave me a massive lift, knowing I had completed something for them.” The determination of those who ran was, indeed, a testament to their courage, their resolve, and their hearts – which were with Stacey, Joshua, and Georgia. “We did it for them,” Andrew says.
Andrew has ran another marathon since the Nottingham run, raising more than $90,000 for Cruse. He made sure that half of the money raised was donated to his struggling local branch, which was able to train eleven new counselors because of his efforts.
He has continued to give back to those who helped him through the loss. He commenced an hour and half talk for the police on how to deal with crash victims. On September 11, he attended Cantor Fitzgerald offices in London to speak to traders about his experience. And, he also went on to meet with the houses of Parliament on behalf of Cruse, talking to its members in an effort to raise awareness. “I think it’s too easy to forget the help we were given when we were in need.” He did not want this to be the case in his situation. “Too many people talk a good game but do nothing.”
One thing Andrew has learned in this tragedy is that life as he knew it was over the day he lost Stacey and his children. He would never be the same. He says “moving on” was not possible. But he could move “forward.” He could not move on and continue life as he knew it. But, he could move forward.
And, he has.
Is the pain still there? Every single day. “All the days you once looked forward to (birthday, holidays, etc.) suddenly become something you dread,” he said. He added, “There is no easy way to deal on a day like that. It’s just pure survival.” Andrew’s counselor explained to him that his life was like that of an egg. The egg, once broken in a pan, was his life with Stacey and his children. The white of the egg expands around the yolk, becoming bigger – filling the pan. This filling is time. As more things come into Andrew’s life, the larger that white becomes. But even as more things help fill that space, the yolk always remains the same.
His life will never be the same. And, if anyone ever had a right to bury himself in a hole and never come out, it was Andrew.
He kept on going. He moved forward. And, he forever carries his family with him.
Andrew writes, “It will never be easy. However I am still the same person, I still like to take the piss [tease] and laugh. But I am also a lot more sensitive and willing to talk about how I feel.”
How trite I can be in my own life. I let little things take up space that have no bearing on what really matters. I quickly forget the brevity of life. It is but a vapor.
If you would like, you can donate to Cruse Bereavement Care here.
To be continued…