Andrew is a friend of mine from high school. To this day, I still think he is one of the funniest people I have ever met. He was someone who could have the entire room laughing with his outrageous sense of humor. After high school, Andrew struggled with drug and alcohol use. He was doing really well in his recovery while living in Florida and was given the opportunity to work as an addictions counselor technician. His plans came to a devastating halt on April 18th 2015, when he got into a motor vehicle accident resulting in a severe traumatic brain injury.
I was 24 years old at the time of his accident. Seeing someone my age in a coma, completely dependent and unable to move or communicate, profoundly impacted me. I wanted to know what he was thinking and feeling, if he knew what was happening to him, and if he would ever walk and talk again.
During this time I was also a member of 410 CrossFit. It was the first time I ever thought of working out as a privilege. I thought about the condition Andrew was in and how easily it could be me, and I felt so lucky to be functionally independent and to have the opportunity to go to the gym.
Andrew was eventually able to move back home with his parents, Tom and Suzanne, the most selfless, thoughtful and compassionate people I know. The Gallup Gauntlet was started at 410 CrossFit as a way to help Tom and Suzanne with Andrew’s therapy, equipment, in-home care, and other not-covered healthcare costs.
Even when something tragic happens, it’s a chance to learn something new about yourself, about others, and about the world. Even if you didn’t know Andrew before his accident, showing up to the event is a great opportunity to learn something new. It’s a chance to open yourself up and to make meaningful connections with others, to gain perspective, and to share in the courage, vulnerability, and compassion that the Gallup’s so openly share with us.
I’m attaching “Guidelines to help friends and family understand what we’re going through” from Tom Gallup’s blog post below.
1. Remember our son. The pain of losing your child is impossible to understand without experiencing it firsthand. So if you see something that reminds you of the old Andrew, tell us. When we talk about him, relive the memories with us, don’t shrink away. If we are missing Andrew on holidays, birthdays, etc. tell us you remember him. If you didn’t know him before the accident, ask us about him. One of our greatest joys is talking about him.
2. Accept that we aren’t fixable. When your child dies or is injured like Andrew, it’s an out-of-order event which can’t be fixed or solved. We will learn to pick up the pieces and move forward, but our lives will never be the same. Please don’t say ‘new normal’ to us, it’s time to get back to our life, it’s been long enough, or time heals all wounds. But please give us lots of hugs and commit to remembering all of the love we share for Andrew.
3. There are 2 days a year that we need a time out. We will always count Andrew’s birthdays and fantasize about what he would have been like without the accident. Birthdays are hard for parents like us, and there will always be a hole in our heart, especially on May 4. Then there’s the date of his accident. April 19th will forever be etched in our memories as a day of loss. Remembering Andrew on these days will help us.
4. Realize that we struggle every day with happiness. We are constantly battling overwhelming grief and finding happy times after Andrew’s accident is almost impossible. We have few truly happy moments, because we don’t feel like “whole” people anymore. You might observe extreme moments of sadness at random times. Please don’t walk away. Give us a hug and be a part of our process.
5. Accept the fact that our loss might make you uncomfortable. Our loss is unnatural, out-of-order, and challenges our sense of safety. You may not know what to say or do, and you’re afraid that you might make us lose it. It’s ok. We will never forget the Andrew that once was. We would rather lose it because you remembered how he was, than shield ourselves from the pain. In fact, the stronger and deeper the love you show him and us, the more emotional we may become. Consider this a sacred opportunity to stand with us, people who have endured one of life’s most awful and frightening events.
This Saturday, come stand with us!