It is his laughter I shall always remember.
It rolled up out of his belly frothing with mirth too big for one body to contain. It spilled out like waves crashing against a rocky shoreline, splashing everyone in close proximity with its insistence we give up all resistance and join in the frivolity at hand.
It is his laughter I shall always remember and his loving friendship I shall carry with me forever.
My friend Andrew Z took his last breath on Friday evening. And, just as he did in life, he surprised us with how he did it.
Andrew was not a quiet man. A larger-than-life character, in business he was a tough negotiator, a fair boss, a brilliant strategist and visionary. Revered by many he lead, he commanded his domain with deft hands and an uncompromising demand for excellence from everyone who sat around him at the board room table. He knew what he wanted and went after making it happen, with gusto. He loved the chase he once told me and dreamt of building a billion-dollar company before he retired.
When he’d succeeded (which he always did) and the time came to let go, he did not go into retirement easily. He sat on many boards, sharing his knowledge and wisdom freely.
We often talked about how challenging he found retirement. And, while he admired me for my work and volunteerism, he knew himself well enough to know not-for-profit boards and volunteering were not for him. Though, when Christmas dinners came around and I insisted our guests first go serve dinner at a homeless shelter, he did not balk. And, when I organized Thanksgiving dinners at a building that housed formerly homeless veterans, he and his beautiful wife, Ula, were the first to join me in making it happen.
Along with his laughter and unwavering friendship, I shall miss sitting around the dinner table diving into conversations about everything from China to the MIddle East, Canadian politics and Indigenous issues and what he considered the ineptness of certain governments to take care of business first.
Andrew read voraciously. He consumed news like a fire consuming oxygen and had a discriminating mind that could drill down into salient facts revealing perspectives I would never have seen without his insight. And, though throughout our over 40 years of friendship I failed to convince him to use “Indigenous Peoples’ and not ‘Indians’, as Andrew read more about Indigenous history and colonialism in Canada, he shifted from asserting ‘it’s a business problem that could be fixed with good management’ to acknowledging that as we ‘the white man’ were the architects of the intergenerational trauma and poverty, racism and discrimination that has destroyed Indigenous culture, lives and well-being, we did not have the answers, nor the right, to dictate the future of Indigenous peoples.
Andrew was my friend. Warm-hearted, generous, loving. I always knew I could lean on him, call on him when times were tough and count on him when times called for a celebration.
Once, when I had ended a relationship I knew needed ending but felt the pain of loss deeply, he called to invite me for dinner. When I walked into their home, Andrew wrapped his arms around me and said, “You can always come here Louise where you know you are loved.”
And, after five years of an abusive relationship, Andrew and Ula stood by my side, helping me stand up again, always supporting me and surrounding me, and my daughters, with their love.
My dear friend Andrew took his last breath on Friday evening. I had spent the day supporting their friend Mark in organizing around-the-clock nursing and palliative care and a hospital bed and all the things that needed to happen for Andrew to have his wish after Covid pneumonia had taken its toll – to die at home.
Mark had promised he would not let him be taken back to hospital and worked feverishly to ensure it didn’t happen.
And then, when the arrangements were all in place and the first nurse due to arrive for the overnight shift, Andrew surprised us all by slipping quietly away while Ula and their son sat in the kitchen quietly chatting and he lay in the living room on his own.
And while I so wish I could have been there to hold his hand as he slipped over, I know this is exactly how Andrew would have wanted it.
No lingering death. No waiting. No tears. No fussing over him.
In an article on death and dying I read on my flight back from Vancouver on Wednesday night, the author suggested something we should all consider, “What will the world look like without me in it?” Imagine it and find peace with your imaginings.
Andrew, my world without you in it has a big hole. To find peace within that void I imagine only Love filling the space you left behind because Love is all there is left to hold onto in your passing.
Thank you my friend for your constant love and care. Thank you for the laughter, the joy, the meals, the times we shared in Barbados and Mexico and the times spent at your beautiful home here and on Barry’s Bay.
Thank you for always being there for me and my daughters. Thank you for loving us all so fiercely and for always letting us know how much you cared.
Thank you for being you. You taught me how to be myself no matter what. And no matter what, I shall always love you.