A Tribute To Uncle Andy. RIP
I posted this photo and writing just over a month ago. Today we received news that Uncle Andy has passed away. I wrote this a month ago in hopes I’d get to see him again soon, but it’s not to be. I wanted to share this image and these words I shared on here not long ago, as I think it pays tribute to the man he was. And to his two remaining sons (my cousins Bryan and Kevin), my heart hurts for you both. They have lost their brother, Mom and now Dad in the span of 2.5 years. We love you Andy. Rest in Peace.
A tribute to my Uncle Andy. Not an easy moment to capture or write up…it took me a year and a half to share this story as the pandemic took hold, and I never properly internally held space for Emily and Andy. I had to let this image and moment in time marinate.
“Yhello.” “Hi, yes this is Andy Bebla…I have an oxygen equipment thing I need to return.”
“We are sorry to hear you are having problems with it….”
He interrupts stoically…”There’s no problem with it, but my wife Emily died a couple days ago, so I need to return it.”
Silence for a moment. Then order of business continues on how to return her ventilator.
This was March of 2020. My dad and I flew out for his sister (my Aunt) Emily’s funeral to Northeast Pennsylvania. Little did we know the eerie foreshadowing symbolism that was unfolding.
On this trip is when COVID really took off as we knew it. The airwaves were filled with hysteria, closures were imminent and widespread death was on the horizon. In this very moment when I saw Andy in his room, I had a premonition that things were going to get very dark. I look at this image today and still feel that heaviness, but now as we hopefully move forward all with a bit more wisdom and gratitude, I can use this as a pivotal moment of growth and recognition.
My Aunt had just died from a prolonged battle with respiratory illness, it wasn’t COVID, but the timing was so palpably strange. She was also a emergency room nurse for so many years. I think she somehow decided it was time for her to let go at this time.
I’ll never forget this moment, as my Uncle Andy sits in ‘his’ room making this call to return her ventilator. I’m sure in short order, they were in extremely high demand, and I’d like to think this piece of equipment saved someone else’s life.
Andy is a helluva a human. Just a year prior, we were at his house for the funeral of one of his son’s Andy Jr. who died suddenly way too young. I watched him open the local newspaper quietly reading his son’s obituary. I can’t imagine the feeling. I’ve shared this photo of that moment in the comments below. He’s been through more than I’ll recount here or ever know.
He’s always remained calm and there for everyone. He’s in his 80’s and has had major back surgery and struggles a bit to take care of everyone and the house now. He’s given up so much of his time and energy to be there for those who needed it most. He doesn’t ask for anything in return. It’s just who he is.
In his younger years, he was a happy go lucky butcher in small town America before the business closed, and he was forced to find another job in a place where there weren’t a lot of opportunities after coal mining slowed. He got one as an overnight guard at a mental asylum prison. He went through the beyond imaginable at work through the years, from behind spit and peed on, beaten, screamed at…. he did it all for his family.
Now he can’t sleep at night. He sits in this room and watches TV and occasionally drifts in and out. It’s his safe and quiet space and has been since they built this house more than 40 years ago. Nobody bugs him while he’s in here. He’s able to internally have a modicum of peace and mitigated sense of responsibilities.
I’ll always hold a special place for Andy and what he’s been through. I need to tell him that. He doesn’t do social media and really this doesn’t do his character and selflessness any true justice, but often photos and words help me navigate the complex emotions of life. I’ll be sure to tell him what an incredible guy he is next time I see him. If you’re part of my Pennsylvania family reading this, give Andy a hug. Go over to the house and say hello and see what you can do for him to help his day out.
I know the loss of his wife Emily was beyond measure. She was his rock too. I saw him finally shed a few tears at the funeral service. His emotions overcame him and he couldn’t escape them. It was special for me to see. It was as if he finally innately relinquished for a few moments and had to lean a bit on all of us. I hope he is continuing to do so. We hope to visit him soon, and we miss Andy Jr. and Emily all the time.