One week ago, I watched my sons carry the casket of their oldest brother from the church to the grave side. After one year of suffering, my son died, leaving behind him a wife of ten years and three small children. How does this happen? Why does this happen? We may never know, but we have learned to trust an all-wise, all-knowing God. This week, I am posting my tribute to my son, read at his funeral by his aunt and uncle. These are hard days.
“I want to be like my dad,” Andrew spoke those words almost three years ago at his father’s funeral. Who would have guessed that God’s plan would include taking Drew through the Valley of the Shadow of Death in a very similar way to his father?
Drew was a remarkable young man. In his early years, he showed a simplicity of character and discernment that was unusual for a little boy. One Sunday after an evening service, Drew was running around the church, which was a big “no-no” at our house. At home, I sat him down and had a talk with him about disobedience and discipline. I asked him, “Why did you disobey?” His honest answer stunned me. “I can’t help it!” That was the right answer. I explained to Drew that he was born with a sin nature and that his penchant for disobeying was a natural action. He knew that he needed Jesus to wash away his sin and give him eternal life, and he accepted Christ that day.
In the days that followed, we not only saw subtle changes in his behavior, but we also saw an amazing aptitude to perceive spiritual truth. One day, as we were reading the Bible for our family Bible time, Mark asked Drew why Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, could not see the army of the Lord that was surrounding and protecting them. Young Drew’s answer was, “Because Gehazi did not have spiritual eyes.” We were startled by his understanding of this Biblical concept. We saw this spiritual insight many times over the years.
Drew was a loving son. His dad was very proud him and his accomplishments, but most of all, his love for his Savior. Mark and Drew fished together, went on the Father-son campouts, played golf, and discussed a broad variety of subjects. They had a unique and special bond. Mark always looked forward to speaking with Drew on the phone, visiting him in Shippensburg, watching episode after episode of the show 24 until 3 AM, and eating ice cream and cookies. They loved each other dearly.
One of my fondest memories of Drew is something he said as a teenager. He said, “When I grow up, I always want to live close to my mom.” Both Mark and I were thankful that God allowed them to return to the area, making this thought a reality.
Andrew often offered to help me with my computer issues, pushing me to write my book, finding a publisher, and setting up the website. He hung pictures on my bare walls when I just couldn’t do it and often spoke frankly with me when I needed a little straightening out.
Drew was a loving brother, especially as he grew older and began to foster his relationships with his siblings. Tory affectionately remembers back to her high school days when their friends drove to the Point 40 Diner after church for fellowship. Drew, Tory, and Chris Shaw ate at the diner, enjoyed fellowship and then piled into Drew’s brown truck to travel home. Before heading down Rt. 77 towards home, Drew made several unnecessary passes around the Point 40 Circle just for the fun of it, with everyone crammed in the truck, bumping and squeezing against each other.
Kirby can attribute many of his computer skills to Drew. He, Drew, and John Shipley enjoyed getting together regularly for LAN parties, eating pizza, and drinking root beer.
Asa tells stories of how when he was afraid of the dark, he would roll himself into a blanket and army crawl into Drew’s room to sleep on the floor next to his bed.
Because he was at the right place at the right time, Asa was privileged to overhear Drew’s side of many muffled romantic phone conversations between Drew and Melissa.
Asa also has fond memories of going on the Canada fishing trip with Andrew. On one special occasion, Asa expressed his critical need to go to the bathroom while out on the boat, to which Andrew responded by steering the boat to a nearby cliff. While Asa desperately scaled the cliff, feverishly looking for a spot to take relief, Andrew pulled out his camera, delightedly capturing the moment for posterity.
Drew loved Melissa. We ALL know how much Drew loved Melissa! They have known each other since they were eight years old. They traveled in the church van to Tristate for junior camp. They attended years of Family Camp there with their families, and they grew up as friends. As a senior in high school, Drew came to Mark and me and announced that he liked Melissa. Not liked Melissa, but LIKED Melissa. Even after they were engaged, Mark still introduced Melissa as Drew’s “friend”, instead of as his fiancé. Melissa hated that, but Mark enjoyed teasing them.
Drew and Melissa committed to putting Christ first in their home, and they showed a great example of sacrificial love throughout the ten years that they were married. I want to thank and honor Melissa for her extraordinary acts of love and sacrifice, particularly during this past year as she stayed by Drew’s side night and day in and out of the hospital, trying to juggle family responsibilities, church events, and hospitality, all while caring for Drew. I saw her commitment to her promise to care for Drew “in sickness and in health” worked out in their daily lives. He loved her so much, and she loved him so well. Their lives were a picture of Christ and the Church. Please pray for Melissa as she begins this new journey of her life with the Lord as her guide and companion.
Drew was an amazing dad, as you can see if you watch the videos of him with his kids. God blessed Melissa and Drew with three little ones, and Drew adored his children. Drew loved his sons, playing games with them, teaching them how to play hockey, reading to them, and trying to teach them to obey God. When Melissa was expecting child number three, Drew was hoping the new baby would be a boy. He said he “didn’t know what to do with a girl.” He was a little nervous about having a girl, but when R– arrived, she warmed Drew’s heart and immediately became Daddy’s girl. Before long, she had the whole family wrapped around her little finger. Drew’s desire is that his children grow up to know Jesus as their personal savior. Please pray that B–, B–, and R– will come to know Jesus.
After living in Shippensburg, PA for six years, Drew and Melissa decided to come home to NJ. They lived with us in our parsonage home, spending time with Mark as he was ailing. These times were precious to Mark because he enjoyed having Drew at home, talking with him about the Word and church matters, and having the family and the grandchildren surrounding him.
Upon his return to the area, Drew immediately became involved at HBC. His heart’s desire was to encourage young adults and young couples to commit to the Lord, live for Him, and serve Him in the church. He attempted to set an example by faithful attendance and commitment. He cared about the widows, forming a group of people who cared for the “widow of the month.” Drew became a deacon and served in King’s Kids. He was particularly enthusiastic about the monthly men’s breakfasts. Drew enjoyed participating in the church golf and fishing outings.
In his last days on this earth, his primary concern was for his family to know and live for Christ. On the day that he died, Drew gathered us around his chair and gave us a sermon. In gasping breaths, he shared with us “his heart.” He wanted us to understand that this situation was for the glory of God. He asked that we be sure we had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He told us that God is good, always and all the time. His burden was for you as well, particularly the young adults. He wanted to mentor you to serve God with sincere and fervent hearts. He wanted to encourage you to faithful commitment and service.
Drew asked specifically that we share this message with you today. Those of you who have battled cancer have been given a second chance by the grace of God. If you are a believer, perhaps the Lord wants you to serve Him or commit to Him in a new and convincing way. If you who have not accepted Jesus as your personal Savior, you have been given a second chance to come to Christ and accept the gift of salvation. We do not know what a day will bring forth. Each day that you live is a gift from God. If your life ends today, are you certain of your eternal home? Will you stand before the Lord and receive His commendation of “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” or will you hear Him say, “Depart from me. I never knew you.”
In his last talk with us, Drew asked us to thank his doctor friend, Dan L–, who devoted so much energy to caring for Drew. Drew had great confidence in Dan, always grateful for his careful attention to his condition. Dan, you used your God-given brilliance and skill to help Drew through these terrible months. Thank you, Dan, for your kind attention to Drew, treating him not just as a patient but as a friend. He wanted us to tell you that he loved you.
We are so grateful to Lane B– for helping Drew through his last days. Taking time off from work, Lane stayed up all night caring for his needs. She encouraged us by being by caring for Drew, offering us her shoulder to cry on, and being a godly calming presence with medical knowledge. Thank you, Lane.
We also want to thank all of you for the year of intense prayer that you offered to the Lord, pleading for mercy and grace, for healing, and for endurance in this trial. We ask that you continue to speak to us about Drew. Share your stories with us. Don’t be afraid to speak of Drew to B–, B–, and R–. We want to keep him in our hearts, and knowing that you remember him and miss him too will be an encouragement.
Drew’s words, “I want to be like my dad,” came to pass. In so many ways over the last five years, Drew grew to be so much like his dad. In recent months, he felt God’s direction into the ministry, and we rejoiced, believing that he would one day follow in his father’s footsteps. We now know that was not God’s plan. God has allowed these events, sad and inexplicable as they are, for His glory. We do not understand why God took Drew at such a young age, or why Drew suffered as much as he did, but God is sovereign. Drew believed that. We know that God makes no mistakes, and so we trust Him to bring good from this situation. The last words of Drew’s tribute at his dad’s funeral were “To God be the glory.” His final words to Melissa, me, and his siblings were “To God be the glory, great things He hath done.” Let that be true.