The mini bike

December 30, 2010

Merry Merry and Happy Happy, everyone!

I’ve had a wonderful Christmas with family, following the doctor’s orders to rest and relax — with the possible exception of a drive halfway across the country to give my children a memorable, snowy Christmas with their Florida cousins and Midwestern grandparents. We all had a lovely time, and I have GOOD NEWS to share with you on the advocacy front, when the dust settles and the laundry is clean and we’ve all caught up on our sleep. For now, I’m offline, trying to get caught up, but I want to share with you a very special story that makes me cry — and smile, with hope.

This story was written by my friend, Lisa Moreau.

On the first day of Fall I received the horrible news that my eldest cousin was killed on his way home from late night farm work in rural Kansas.  I was in shock and was having a difficult time trying to accept the reality of the situation.  Why him, why now, what about his wife and two teenage kids???  Andy was more like an older brother to me than a cousin and I just wasn’t sure I was going to be able to get through his funeral.  I just wasn’t ready to let him go. 

When we got to his home I managed to keep myself together.  It was so good to see my extended family and reminisce about Andy’s fun times with all of us.  He always seemed to live life to the fullest.  His wife was struggling, but was on top of everything as usual.  I think we were all taking everything one moment at a time. 

On the day of the funeral, the family had been at the church for the flower service.  We were having a little refreshment in the fellowship hall when they said the service would begin in the main sanctuary, so we walked back together toward the main entrance of the building.  As we were entering, we couldn’t help but trip over a little mini bike (very small motorcycle) in the middle of the sidewalk with a hooded sweatshirt lying right next to it.  At the time I thought it was funny that someone had left it right at the entrance to the sanctuary, literally right in the middle of the sidewalk.  My first thought was that one of his fraternity brothers may be paying his final respects with a bit of flair– inside I knew Andy would have loved it!  I kind of put it aside in my head to figure out later and went in to try to say goodbye.

The day was hard. As I was checking in with Andy’s wife as we prepared to leave the church, I asked if she knew anything about the mini bike.  She smiled and said that the mini bike belonged to one of the boys that played football with Andy’s son.  He has a single mother and used the mini-bike to get places independently, since she worked two jobs and couldn’t get him to practices and such.  Andy and his son had befriended him and given him the nickname Frenchie.  Frenchie had told his mother that he wanted to make sure and go to all of the events surrounding the death of my cousin, to be there for his friend. 

Frenchie came to the house and sat with Andy’s son and the rest of the family the morning and day after the accident.  He came to the viewing, once again on his mini bike, although he had tucked it a little further from the entrance that night so we didn’t all see it.  The next morning he set his alarm to make sure he got to the church in time.  His mother later said she heard him get up and make himself breakfast and get going.  He arrived in his football jersey, to honor Andy, and had worn the hooded sweatshirt on top to keep the jersey clean of bugs.  Out of respect, he took off the sweatshirt when he entered the church and just threw it down next to the bike.  Andy’s wife said he even beat the motorcade to the cemetery.  She couldn’t believe he had the wherewithal to do all of this by himself, noting that Frenchie is only 12 years old. 

Now, Frenchie is a tall 12 years old, and his knees almost touch his ears when he rides his mini bike.  That weekend, Andy’s wife and brothers-in-law decided to do something that Andy would have loved and give them something to be happy about in the middle of all the sadness.  Andy’s brothers-in-law drove to the nearest store and purchased Frenchie a new scooter, big enough for a tall 12 year old to ride around town and presented it to him, with a personalized Frenchie name plate on the back, as the 12 year old and his mother returned from church on Sunday morning.  They told him that Andy would have wanted him to have it and thanked Frenchie for taking the time he took to give Andy’s family support. 

I know that Andy made a difference in my life, but it was so nice to hear and see that this young man felt touched by him as well.  This was a light for me and my family in the midst of a lot of darkness.  I know that good will still continue to come to the world even as I have to say goodbye to those I love.  Luckily, their love keeps on giving, even after they are gone.

Lisa is a faithful reader here and will see the comments.  Thanks for reading – and Happy New Year!