Story by Kristi Powers (Author)
I sit down on the cold, hard pew. It is at that moment that reality hits me. The memories and sadness rush over me like the rapids on a river. I bite my lip; I am about to lose control. The sobs begin to creep up my lungs, and I want to scream. It is the saddest day of my life…
Andy came into my life when we were four years old and my Mom baby-sat him for two years. When I look back on my life I cannot remember the day I met Andy. It just seems like he was always a part of my life. We played together well from the start with the occasional spats like a brother and sister relationship. I remember sitting on our stairs and Andy asking me, “If I write on the stairs will you tell on me?”
“Of course not” was my retort.
Andy proceeded to write on the stairs and I did what any good “sister” would. I promptly told on him.
When we were five Andy and I trudged off to our first day of kindergarten. Andy loved the bus and it fascinated him to no end. When we were at school that first day our teacher asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up. We all followed with the typical answers: police officer, fireman, nurse, or teacher. Not Andy. Andy wanted to be a school bus when he got older. Not a bus driver, but the school bus itself! All the kids laughed and I did too. At recess he would often run around pretending to be a school bus and occasionally he would be a typewriter. All the kids thought he was weird. I just thought he was Andy, and Andy was my friend.
Later that year, I became very sick with a cold and a very high fever and my parents thought I might even have to be hospitalized. I spent days in my room with a warm vaporizer on, clouding up my room with its warm puffs of smoke. No one but my Mom was allowed in my room and everyone else was warned to stay out. Andy came though. My friend sat next to me and asked me how I was doing. He stayed with me until my Mom found him and he got in huge trouble.
When I think back on my childhood one thing is very clear to me. Andy was always there beside me, behind me. Somehow, always near. There was never a joy, or a tear that he wasn’t there for. You see, Andy loved me, unconditionally. I was his friend, as close to a sister as he ever had.
As the years went by, it became clear that Andy acted different than other kids. He liked being himself and didn’t conform to whatever everybody else said or wanted him to be. Unfortunately, that made Andy a target. Throughout our school days it was as if Andy had a huge bulls-eye on his chest for other kids to vent their frustration on. He was teased, hit, and laughed at. There was no reason for this cruelty; there never really is, is there? And he never fought back. He would stand there with a faraway look on his face as if he went to another world when he was teased. I imagine he did that to survive.
I am not sure exactly how or when it happened, but as we got older our relationship changed. I became Andy’s defender. If you were going to pick on Andy, you had to come through me first. Those who were the worst towards Andy would look for the moment I was not around to pick on him. As soon as I would walk in the classroom there would be silence. I could tell by Andy’s face that he once again had been the butt of someone else’s joke. Maybe no one realized what they were doing to Andy. But I did. As each day went by the torment was slowly etched on his face and his tortured soul receded farther and farther into a corner.
I wish I could say that at home Andy received the acceptance and love that he needed to help him face those long days at school. Andy would call me on the telephone whenever he got a chance and from the dark corners of his room he would whisper to me of the horrors in his house.
I now stand away from everyone else. They are standing at Andy’s grave. I can’t make myself go any further. I was not there when Andy died. No one was. He died alone. So utterly alone.
My mind keeps replaying something over and over again: Andy’s favorite verse. Although Andy was never to recover from all the wounds that scarred his being, at one point in his life he did reach out and find the one who ultimately would heal his wounds in heaven. Andy loved Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. plans to give you hope and a future.” He would write that on his letters to me and next to his senior picture in our yearbook. In my heart I keep fighting with God. THIS is your hope and plan for his life, Lord?? Dying alone in a hospital room. No one to hold his hand. No one to stroke his hair and sing him songs as he went from this world to the next?
The answer came whispering into my soul. God does have plans for our lives. Plans to give us hope and a future. But we have to give total control of our lives over to Him and cling to the promises He has given us. We have to allow God to start the healing process in our life. Somewhere along the way in his adult life, Andy stopped clinging to those promises and He began living his life the way he thought it should be lived. But hope is eternal. Sometimes God’s plan for our lives can only be fulfilled when we have left this earth.
It was at this moment that I knew what I had to do. I made my vow to Andy. As long as there was breath in me, I would tell his story. I would never stop telling kids, teens and adults all I know about a little boy named Andy who was picked on and bullied until his very being was battered and torn. And I would never stop letting people know the devastation that bullying leaves on souls. I write this today for all of you who have been picked on and beaten down until you are not sure of anything anymore. I want you to know that God has plans for your life. Hang tight to him. Never, ever let go. He loves you. He really does. When you feel like your innermost parts are being cut by a knife and there is no one to clean your wounds, remember the One in heaven who heals all. You need but ask Him. He will take that pain and sorrow and make it His own. He will heal you if you let Him. Hang tight. Hang tight.
It has been two years since the funeral and I still think about Andy a lot. I am thankful for having known him. Andy changed me. I will never be the same. He was my friend, my brother. But most of all, he was Andy.