The following letter was written by the father of a 20-year-old California student at Thomas Aquinas College, who was killed on July 20. Click here for previous story.
Millions of fathers have had to come to grips with the tragic, untimely deaths of a beloved child. I am no different, and no different in wanting my son remembered for the unique and good man that he was. Here are a few pieces of his story.
Andrew, our beloved son, was hit by a car while walking along an Indiana highway with Crossroads, a pro-life group that sponsors college students on walks across America each summer. He died instantly. In this modern world, we’d reflexively add that he died doing what he loved — a somewhat true but strangely self-focused way to see it. What Andrew loved was not, exactly, the pro-life movement. In fact, I can safely say he pretty much hated praying in front of the local abortion mill, and had a very hard time making himself say anything to the people as they walked by. He hated the occasional mockery and confrontations. He hated being there alone most mornings. There was none of that peculiar self-righteousness that is the hallmark of the secular protests us residents of the San Francisco Bay Area see, the patting of oneself on the back for sticking it to the man while hooting it up for the cameras. Andrew’s mostly solitary protests were not a party, and were hardly even a protest. There was no man to stick it to — only women faced with a terrible ‘choice.’
What Andrew did love was the Truth. Decades of deconstruction, of Orwellian ‘critical thinking,’ have succeeded in painting the love of Truth as some sort of disorder, as naïve and simplistic — Andrew, by some mysterious grace, was immune to this poison. While he might have been naïve and simplistic about many things, his intellect, by another mysterious grace, was profound and mature far beyond his years. His love of Truth led him to a love of God, to a love of neighbor, to Thomas Aquinas College — and to untold lonely hours spent in front of Planned Parenthood. And to the walk that resulted in his being taken from us.
Once Andrew understood the truth, he saw no way he could escape spending hours praying on the sidewalk. Nor — and this is critically important — helping out at all the crisis pregnancy support groups in the area. He is well known and well loved by the people at Concord Birth Right and at the Gabriel Project, as he always showed up to help whenever they needed him. He knew that success was not defined by simply talking a women out of getting an abortion — success meant that he — and all of us — stepped up to help, to love that woman and her baby unconditionally and materially for the rest of their lives.
But on a much deeper level, he understood that embracing the truth meant, ultimately, embracing the Cross. There is a heavy price to pay for loving people. We will fail, and we will be ridiculed, and we will be spat upon by those we try to help. But that is nothing compared to the suffering when we succeed, when we will the good of the other for the sake of the other. The pain we then feel, if we are so blessed, is the slow death of our selves.
Some people have called Andrew a martyr. I can understand why, but it makes me very uncomfortable. In the popular imagination, a martyr gets dragged in front of a firing squad or thrown to the lions. Since Andrew’s death was nothing so dramatic, calling him a martyr risks making his sacrifice merely hyperbolic and therefore easily dismissed. At the same time, martyrdom is the correct and traditional way to describe the process of dying to one’s self for the sake of God through the selfless love of others. Understood in that way, Andrew’s life was a martyrdom, and I cannot feel he was cheated in any way by how short it was. For the rest of us, his death remains a tragedy and a mystery. May God have mercy on his soul, and console the inconsolable.
Funeral / Memorial Information
Vigil: Monday, July 30, 7:00 p.m. at Queen of All Saints Catholic Church, Concord, Ca.
Funeral Mass: Tuesday, July 31, 1:00 p.m. at Queen of All Saints Catholic Church
Interment: Following Mass, about 2:30 p.m. at Queen of Heaven Cemetery
Reception: Following Interment, about 4:00 p.m. at the hall at Queen of All Saints Church