When I first heard the terrible news I was absolutely crushed. I told my wife the news and she was in just as much disbelief as I was. I held everything together long enough to drive Roman to school. I used the last of my strength to drive to the Ehrensing tomb in Metairie Cemetery. I sat by our tomb for who knows how long. I sobbed uncontrollably. I contacted my brothers and our mutual friends. I sent a text to your beautiful wife. I became angry….not at anyone or anything, just pure unadulterated anger. I was angry because your gorgeous daughters would grow up without you like I did with my father and that just isn’t fair. I cried some more until I thought I would throw up.
I don’t really know how I drove home and much of the day was hazy at best. When Roman returned home from school I told him the news. He’s only 6 so I’m not sure how much he understands of this but he has clung to me at night since then. That evening I contacted other family members as I had avoided most phone calls throughout the day. I spoke to Abel for the first time since 2005. At some point that first evening I began to go numb.
The next few days were a blur as we awaited information on your services. I spent a great deal of time trying to determine how we would travel to Chicago and where we would stay. Throughout this entire process I knew my family and I would be there for your girls as soon as we could. Over the next few days everything seemed to blur together. At some point the Saints lost to the Falcons in overtime and Weston celebrated his 3rd birthday. I couldn’t really tell if this was a dream or reality.
On Wednesday morning we loaded the kids in the car and started our journey to Chicago. That drive was one of the longest in my life as I still was numb to things and didn’t really process the reality. We left New Orleans at 4am and arrived in Deerfield at 11pm. My boys did incredible and had no issues on the ride. The first morning in Chicago was one of exhaustion, anxiety, and incredible sadness. We drove to your house for the first time and I was shaking. I didn’t know what to say to your wife and kids. All I wanted to do was hold them as tight as I could and somehow make them feel like everything would be ok. Unfortunately, Sara was in school and Haihong was taking care of some issues away from the house. I saw your dad first and, although we had our issues, we embraced and I knew right away that this was real. I saw your mom and she was putting up a strong front as you knew she would. Eddie was in the basement shoveling the leftovers from a sewerage pipe burst.
Your house is very nice and my only wish was that I could have visited your place before you were gone. I did tell you we would do our best to get up to Chicago sometime this year. I would have loved to give you a hard time for having a pink bathroom.
When Sara returned home from school on Thursday, Jaala and I loaded up the kids in Haihong’s car and took them for Oberweis and Potbelly’s…in that order. They had a great time. On Friday, I pretended to be you in order to take a bunch of us to the Field Museum. Roman has been wanting to see the dinosaurs for a long time and I promised him I’d take him to Chicago to see them. The ride from the house to the museum found all 4 of the kids laughing, telling stories, and just being cousins. Once we left the museum I took everyone to the McDonalds across from Wrigley Field. I figured the kids would be full and tired by that point but I still wanted to bring them by our old apartment. We did a quick drive by the apartment and figured we’d head home and they would all sleep on the way. No such luck. Instead, they were just as full of life and laughs as ever. My heart ached for you to be there to hear our kids play and laugh together like we had always talked about.
On Saturday a bunch of us went to the Pancake House. I have to tell you, Oberweis, Potbelly’s, and the Pancake House all next to each other should be illegal. It’s like a slice of heaven on earth. Early in the afternoon I promised my boys I would take them on a train ride so Jaala, Patrick, and I took Roman and Weston on the blue line. On the escalator to the top we had a minor mishap. Weston decided to kneel down on the escalator and his pant leg got caught. Patrick hit the stop button and Weston was physically ok but his pant leg couldn’t say the same. He kind of looked like Hulk. My initial thought after determining he was ok was to take a picture and send it to you. I couldn’t…so here it is.
After the train ride we had the family visitation and the first time any of us saw you since you boarded the flight to Sydney. Your wife and kids, parents, and brothers all went in first. I told Jaala to keep the kids out until I went in and came back for them. While I came to say my goodbye to you, Sara asked me if she could bring Roman in. I went with Sara and Arden to get Jaala, Roman, and Weston. Sara led Roman over to see you and Arden and Weston hung out behind them. At some point all four of them were sitting on me on the floor. All I could do was hold them tight and try to keep from becoming angry again. These are not moments you and I planned. You weren’t supposed to be laying there with me holding all of our kids.
Saturday evening was full of alcohol and laughs. Your brothers even made a special run for me to have some gin and tonic…just like you taught me. Haihong’s sister flew in on Friday and she and Jaala took the kids swimming Saturday evening. I still chuckle when I picture Jaala with the four kids and your non-english speaking sister-in-law in the car going swimming with our kids.
Sunday was one of the most beautiful days I’ve seen in a long time. Bright blue skies and cool temperatures. We should have been sitting at Wrigley watching the Cubs lose. Your services were informal and consisted of family and friends talking about how great you were and telling countless epic stories that only you could have been involved in. We learned just how brilliant you really were at work and was not surprised at how many people you touched and inspired in your life. The reception at your house afterwards was a great time as well. Lots of stories told, drinks had, food eaten, and most importantly laughter. I think you would have been pleased. I’m pretty sure we all were waiting to see you come around the corner with that bellowing laugh. I guess we’ll only hear that laugh again in our memory.
We drove home late Sunday evening after everyone had left your house. I was exhausted but I knew we had to keep moving. At some point after the sun rose I had Jaala drive. I don’t know that I have ever been so emotionally and physically exhausted. My nerves were raw. I sat in the passenger seat and just cried for a while.
I didn’t speak at your funeral service. I don’t really know why. It’s not like I didn’t have anything to say about you. Maybe it’s because I could have talked for hours about your influence on my life. I could have told about all the books, movies, and news articles you recommended to me. Maybe discussed all the sporting events we attended together. You took me to my first Cubs game at Wrigley. My first game at the old Soldier Field. We sat next to each other in Busch Stadium when the Red Sox broke their World Series curse. We were with each other in Wrigley the last time the Cubs won the division.
Maybe I could have talked about how I always tried to outdo you whether you realized it or not. As most people who knew you already know this was nearly impossible. I thought I had you about 7 years ago though when I called to tell you Jaala and I were pregnant with the first great grandchild. I could feel your smile beaming through the phone when you asked when our due date was. I told you September and you crushed my dream when you responded, “Cool, we’re due in August!” I wasn’t really crushed though. I was actually very excited as our kids would be the same age. Fast forward a few years later when we were all eating dinner in New Orleans and you remarked how it used to just be the 2 of us and now there was 8 of us.
Maybe I could have talked about our plans for our families. How we wanted our kids to be as close as we are. That, although we were born cousins, you and I became brothers. I will forever have a hole in my heart. You were my inspiration, my mentor, my friend, and most importantly, my brother. I will miss our talks. I will miss your laugh. I will miss your outlook on things. I will miss knowing no matter where you were in the world you would take the time to talk to me and I could always rely on you. I will miss everything about you. I love you.
I will look after your girls and will keep the bond between them and my boys strong. I will do what I can for Haihong. I will keep your memory and spirit alive.
PS I hope you enjoy the pictures and music I picked for your slideshow. Click here Andrew
Sorry there is other stuff on the blog post that might be distracting. I need to clean it up but I’ve been a bit of a procrastinator. I learned from the best.