And extremely sacred.
And one the best things to attend if you need a good "this is what's important in life!" wake-up call.
Which I did.
I was going as a Relief Society sister--help set out squares, and fill water pitchers.
I had no idea it was going to be so personal. Or touch me so close.
Then I saw the wheelchair displayed. The photo on the program, that all too familiar expression, void of any trace of self-conciseness, un-touched by the "do this"s and "be that"s of this world. I walked in suddenly realizing I was about to have my heart entirely blubbered out onto the fist full of tissues I quickly grabbed. It was good I did.
Andrew's parent were told he might make it to age nine or ten. He passed away at 36.
People tried to place all sort of limits on him, and he and his family accepted none of them.
There was an amazing amount of what they simply referred to as "challenges",
but even greater evident was his strength.
I admit, I sat in the overflow of the chapel and experienced the whole thing in a very self-indulgent manner. I couldn't help myself. I felt like I was vicariously experiencing Aaron's funeral. If that sounds creepy, it wasn't. It was a gift. There are very good chances Aaron will out live us (a fear I constantly feel, so convinced I am the only one who can love him enough). It was such a profound gift to feel the potential impact of such seemingly simple lives. Here was a boy--a man--who had none of what we think we need to be influential and yet he had touched so many.
Andrew's three siblings gave a beautiful biography. When the siblings spoke, saying things like "Andrew had so many lessons to teach us, if we'd just pay attention". All I could hear was my kids one day. It was my grown kids, the same kids who already makes sacrifices, including some "normalcy" for sure . My kids I worry about. But in that moment I saw only privilege.
It is such a privilege. Such a incomprehensible blessing.
Andrew's siblings shared memories and inside jokes that the whole audience seemed in on. So many sentences, began, "If you know Andrew, you know that...[insert punk line]. And to my amazement the whole crowd did know him. Workers and staff, family and friends knew this special boy. His likes, his dislikes. Knew how to make him happy.
You could tell interacting with Andrew was the same. Indescribable.
But they tried.
"Andrew, always knew what he wanted and those around him just had to figure it out!"
"Andrew brought out the best in everyone...and taught us what community really was"
"Andrew brought so much love and joy into peoples lives."
"Andrew could say more without words than most of us can with them."
"Our family loved Andrew without any reservation, and we always will."
Every Andrew, I heard Aaron.
His parents spoke at the very end "Thank you to our children," his mom said, "thank you for being so committed and so consistant in your interactions with Andrew. They were his greatest friends and his best advocates."
"All those who have worked with him, thank you for understanding who he was, and what he was meant to do here. We always tried to honor what he valued and his own integrity of who he was." She was my gypsy, and I was eager and willing for my fortune to be described.
Andrew's mom. At the dinner after there were black and white photocopies of family photos, spilled onto the middle of each of the tables. Images after images of Andrew and his family at various ages and activities. There was one of baby Andrew held up against his mom; it was stunning. It took everything I had not to snatch it into my purse! This was not just an another image of "mother", this was a picture of someone's everything, that small infants whole world, and a mother who seemed to know that for this child, that "everythingness" would not trickle away like with the rest of her children as they grew-up. She would ever be someone's all. No matter how independent they helped him become, his protector she'd remain.
I loved a story another speaker told, of starting a goal meeting saying something like
"We're all here to talk aout Andrew's program."
"We're here to talk about Andrew's life." She corrected him.
You could tell she had been strong
(the kind of mother, and fierce advocate I'm terrified I am not).
Then I thought of Aaron's last school meeting. We had been asked to brainstorm and write down Aaron's strength and then his needs.
All of mine had quotations. I had inadvertently wrote them from Aaron's point of view.
I was being Aaron's voice.
His interpreter to the world.
Andrew had many who "listened" to what he had to "say".
His dad closed by saying, "If Andrew could speak today, he'd say:
When you see people like me do not pity them,
help them and reach out to them and they will pay you back ten-fold"
This has been hard to write, with all the thoughts and emotions the funeral evoked.
We as humans look forward. Little girls play mommy. Little boys tromps in Daddy's shoes. We look at people who look like they've gotten where we want to go.
And we look for the how's of their journey.
If my journey can parallel even a little the path I saw in Andrew's family today, not discounting how very difficult their road must have been (and is)
but seeing what that path has made them...
A "road less traveled", but that's "made all the difference".
Privilege. A humbling, humbling privilege.