A Few Thoughts About Andrew

A few weeks ago, my little brother Andrew died rather unexpectedly.

I shouldn’t say unexpectedly; we’ve kind of been waiting for his body to give out for the past few years. He’s been in and out of hospitals most of his life. Cardiologists have been impressed his flawed heart has made it this long—even half this long.

Still, that almost made it more unexpected for me. I’ve been living my life with the understanding that Andrew was a medical miracle, that he would stay until he died, and that I had no way of knowing when that was. When he was actually dying, I only really had about two days’ notice.

Mom sent out a text from the hospital (where Andrew was staying, again, and nobody seemed to bat an eyelash, because he’s in the hospital all the time.) Anyway, Mom sent out a text talking about how difficult it was to watch her son struggle to breathe, and she felt like he might not have much time left. She hadn’t slept all night, watching by Andrew’s bedside. I assumed she was overreacting and sleep-deprived, and called Dad to find out what was going on. Dad confirmed what Mom had said, though; Andrew didn’t have long to live.

Ethan came home from work early and drove me down to the hospital, then waited with John while I went up to say my goodbyes. Andrew was ornery, mildly sedated, and unamused by my comments about the cute nurses. Eventually, I got a smile, a hug, and an understanding that he wanted me to go back to Provo. Which I did.

The next morning, my parents gave the okay to take out his IVs. I came back the next day, just to see how he was doing, and walked into the room just as he was taking his last breaths. I stayed to hear my dad give him a final father’s blessing, then to watch him die. It wasn’t as fast a process as I thought it would be, but it was also more peaceful than I had expected.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve been blessed by friends and family willing to help me clean, talk, cry, and laugh. My cousins’ children learned enough sign language to perform a musical number in ASL at the funeral. My aunt and uncle stayed while Andrew died, and then stayed in town throughout the next week. We’ve received a lot of support as a family.

It’s been an unusual grieving process for me; when my cousin’s wife died last year, I had a harder time accepting it. She was young, healthy, and had a husband and child to take care of. My brother, on the other hand, probably took a step up by leaving his body behind. His health was crap, and has been getting worse for years. As his pain levels went up, his personality clouded, and he got crabbier and crabbier. Besides all this, he had special needs, and looking at the afterlife raises interesting questions there.

I have never doubted that there is life after death, or that we will be the same people there (wherever) as we were here. But leaving behind his physical body means, technically, my brother might not have Down Syndrome anymore. I don’t know whether he’s autistic now—I don’t know enough about it to feel out whether that’s a physical-body-only thing, or whether that’s a personality thing. At any rate, I do have a strong impression that he’s much better able to think, function, and express himself now than he has been for the past twenty-four years. I just wish I was as able to listen.

We had a remarkable opportunity on Saturday to meet with a General Authority from the Church, Elder David Warner, who was in town for a stake conference. Apparently, my parents’ stake president told him what we were going through, and how much our neighborhood had banded together around my parents. The two of them arranged to meet us at my parents’ house.

I was expecting to be intimidated, or at least to feel a little guilty. I’m pretty sure that was anxiety talking, though—he introduced himself as “David,” chatted with my parents about favorite cars, and ate cookies while trying to make friends with my son, who was running circles around the room and chattering like a monkey. He asked about my brother, listened to our funny stories, laughed with us, sympathized, and assured us that Andrew was uniquely equipped now, more than ever, to sympathize with people who had led difficult lives. “You have a missionary in the field,” he told my parents,”and you should expect blessings to come to your family as a result of that. Andrew can now share the gospel with those who’ve already died, and he has experiences to draw upon that few others do.”

I was also struck by the reverence with which he looked at my  parents. “You’re doing this right,” he said. “There’s joy in this room. And that means you appreciate the time you were given with Andrew. Don’t feel guilty for being happy without him—he’s still here.” He then gave each of us a personal blessing before leaving us with a smile and a request to stay in touch. Mom, of course, gave them cookies for the road.

I’ve had my faith and my endurance tried over the past few weeks, but one thing I know for certain: God loves me. He loves my brother. And my brother—who is just the same person he was before he died—loves me, too. It’ll take some time before I see him again, but I have no doubt that I’ll recognize him, and we’ll finally be able to sit down and have a good, long chat. ♦

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Andrew’s Obituary

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On Friday, January 13th, 2017, Andrew James Cope passed away peacefully after a difficult fight between his failing heart and a bout of RSV pneumonia.

Andrew was born on September 12, 1992, only 20 minutes after his parents reached the hospital. Born with several heart defects and Down Syndrome, Andrew was popular with the hospital staff—both because of his advanced medical needs, and his elevated cuteness. He was an adorable baby.

Throughout his life, Andrew brought joy and difficulty to those around him. Ever the prankster, Andrew enjoyed breaking household objects, hiding things, and telling jokes about setting people’s hair on fire. Just a few weeks before his death, he hid every pair of pants his mother owned. They have not yet been found.

Andrew pursued many passions in his 24 years of life, including trains, Fig Newtons, pretty girls, music, fire, toilets, dogs, and keeping a strict schedule. He has held (unpaid) jobs at the Corner 22 gas station, numerous bowling alleys, Smith’s Marketplace, and the DATC in Davis County. He frequently went to Dick’s Market to buy M&Ms or Swedish Fish. He has also become known for his loving character, his willingness to laugh (and make others laugh), and his caring obsession with his nephew. Despite how rarely he spoke, he has always been very expressive and sympathetic, and was often moved to tears by the sadness of others. (Adele, for instance, always made him cry. As she does to so many of us.)

After struggling to breathe for several days, Andrew passed away shortly after a final father’s blessing from his dad. He will be missed by those he has left behind, but he will be welcomed with open arms by those who have gone before him, and his presence will continue to bless his family for years to come.

Andrew is survived by his parents Ray and Naomi Cope, his sister Rachel Unklesbay, his brother-in-law Ethan Unklesbay, and his nephew Jonathan. He is also survived by his Grandma Keener-Fast, and many aunts, uncles, and cousins. The family would like to offer special thanks to Andrew’s cardiologist Dr. Ron Day, as well as the wonderful staff at Primary Children’s Hospital and all of Andrew’s devoted friends. He has so many friends.

Funeral services for Andrew will be held at the Hidden Chapel, 1450 S. 350 W., Bountiful, Utah on Saturday, January 21st, 2017 at 11:00am. Viewings will take place Friday, January 20th, from 6-8pm, and Saturday morning at 10am, where Andrew will be forced one last time to wear pants to a public event.

Burial will follow at Bountiful City Cemetery, 2224 South 200 West, Bountiful, Utah. Condolences may be sent to the family at http://www.cityviewmemoriam.com.

Cassie, You Will Be Missed

This is part of the reason I haven’t written for a while. The day before Father’s Day, my cousin came home to find his wife on the bed, not breathing. After over a week in a coma, Cassie passed away. All in all, it’s been a difficult time for my family, but healing will come, and for most of us, has already started.

One of my cousins, Nate Eaton, works for East Idaho News. He’s written this better than I could, so I’m shamelessly reposting.

EATON: CASSIE, YOU WILL BE MISSED

Reposted from East Idaho News

0  Updated at 9:52 am, July 1st, 2016 By: Nate Eaton, EastIdahoNews.com

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Cassandra Honn Nelson took her final breath late last night.

The 35-year-old mother, wife, sister, aunt, cousin and friend died peacefully in a Boise hospital bed with her husband, Eric, by her side.

Her unexpected death comes nearly two weeks after she suffered a stress-induced cardiomyopathy – also known as broken-heart syndrome. A portion of her heart became paralyzed and prevented the rest of her heart from circulating blood to her body.

Cassie is married to my cousin, Eric. He has been by her side for the past 12 days. So has their three-year-old daughter Scout – who, we’re praying, will have wonderful memories of her mother’s short time on earth.

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When I wrote about Cassie last week, we were hoping she’d be able to bounce back. But doctors determined she had suffered debilitating brain damage due to lack of oxygen. While the rest of her body was relatively strong (including her heart), her brain would never function again.

Last Thursday, Cassie’s family gathered in her hospital room to say goodbye. She was taken off life support and for seven excruciating days, she slowly passed away.

Your kind thoughts and messages over the past two weeks have touched our hearts. Many of you, who don’t know Cassie or Eric, have been praying for them every day. A GoFundMe account was created to help pay for medical bills and within days, $25,000 was raised.

Thank you.

While Cassie’s untimely death doesn’t make sense, a message Eric posted on Facebook does. He wrote these words the night before his best friend was taken off life support:

The best thing to hold on to in life is each other. This evening I will sleep by Cassandra’s side and hold her with all the love I have; tomorrow and every day after I will hold her love, her beauty, and her memory with every feeling in my heart.

I am feeling a hundred different emotions but am clinging to love. Anger for losing Cass so early and envy for losing a life I expected are burdens that are simply too great to bear. I was able to have Cass for 13 incredible, adventurous, and beautiful years. And now she will remain what she has always been: the girl of my dreams.

Cassie, you will be missed.

The Art of Racing in the Rain

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The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein, is a bestseller. So when I wandered through a thrift shop in St. George and found it in their books section for only twenty-five cents, I bought it immediately. Even if I don’t like it, I thought, I’ll just give it to Pioneer Book. It’s only a twenty-five cent risk.

I knew nothing about this book going into it, except that there was a dog on the front cover and the book is popular. I expected some sappy story about a dog doing great things and then dying, and assumed it would be a tear-jerker.

Technically, all of those things were true. But what this book actually is, is more of a philosophical musing on humanity generally, told through the eyes of an outsider (the dog Enzo.) It’s the story of Denny, his wife’s death, and his terrible struggle with his no-good-dirty-rotten-in-laws for custody of his daughter Zoë.  It’s about life, love, death, and the refusal to give up on the things that matter most.

This is a beautiful book. I was not, however, moved to tears by it. I knew I probably should be. And since I weep openly at Disney movies, I was very surprised that I didn’t end up with at least a little water in my eyes. But I think what happened was this: somehow, I didn’t connect with the characters quite enough. I knew it was fiction. Maybe it was because the main character was a dog. Or maybe it’s because so much of the book is musings about death, the afterlife, and ethics generally – and I’ve been brought up in a very spiritual environment that frequently address these as everyday topics. But somehow, I found myself saying, “This book has a lot of soul,” without feeling like it really touched mine.

Also, here’s a content warning: there’s a lot of foul language in this book. Like, at least half a dozen F-bombs. (I wasn’t really counting.) Also some nudey scenes (told from a dog’s perspective, these are less erotic than you’d think), death, sexual assault, and some generally very heavy content. In a nutshell, this book is rated-R. If you want a lighter version, I just learned today that there’s a “for young readers” version (with a puppy on the front cover, which I think is hilarious.) If you’re fine with the content, however, it’s a great book.

I give this book 4 stars. It’s well-written, tells a beautiful story, and leaves you with a lot of hope for humanity. I can’t give it 5 stars, though, because there was still something missing. I don’t know what it is – it just didn’t connect with me like it should have. ♦

The Bean Trees

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Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees is possibly one of my favorite books of all time. The book deals with an incredible amount of life experience in a very short amount of time, and it does it with grace. The book follows Taylor Greer as she runs west, away from her small Southern town, and ends up taking care of an abused and shell-shocked toddler whose parents she’s never met.

The real appeal of The Bean Trees is in how well Kingsolver addresses pain. The story contains death, violence, irrational fear, child abuse, sexual abuse, disillusionment, divorce, deportation, blindness, loss of a child, kidnapping, “dirty war”, torture, guilt, and unrequited love – and yet, all of it is handled so carefully that I would recommend the book to anyone over twelve years old. The book opens wounds and then heals them so completely that the entire experience is uplifting, even when there are still loose ends. It makes you feel empty and full at the same time.

Five stars, and please go read this book. ♦

A Stream of Haiku

Poetry experiment!

Nothing makes me miss

Summer quite like the smell of

A fresh, ripe orange.

Orange in the place

Of teeth, a first-grader goes

Running off, grinning.

Grinning once, glowing,

The jack-o-lanterns now sit

Shriveled, old, and dead.

“Dead as a doornail”

Is certainly dead, and yet,

Never once alive.

Alive: alert and

Active, animated, filled

With life, organic.

Organic matter

Makes this strange machine that is

My body, a Soul.

Soul is the difference

Between words and poetry,

From music to sound.

“Sound the alarm! The

Great White Whale! Thar she blows, mates!”:

Ahab’s final words.

Words are funny things:

They can make or break a war,

Or else mean nothing.

Why I Hate Multiple-Choice

Prepare for a lot of stinging….

Because I’m pretty much about to destroy my History professor.

I’m taking a course online. And I’m notoriously bad at multiple-choice. So I study, right? A lot. Here’s the routine:

  1. Review “Learning Objectives” prior to reading the chapter. You know – just to get a good idea what to look out for.
  2. Review “Key Terms.” Same purpose.
  3. Find “Key Terms” in textbook, define them, and highlight them. So I know what to look for.
  4. Read chapter. (Reviewing “Key Terms” and “Learning Objectives” as I go.
  5. Write an essay. Get at least 94% on said essay. Clearly, I know what I’m talking about, right? Right.
  6. Give it a few days to percolate. Let my brain settle.
  7. Make flash cards of “Key Terms” and “Learning Objectives.” Look up definitions again, and review.
  8. Look over the chapter and ensure that I know what I’m talking about.
  9. Begin open-book quiz, textbook close at hand.
  10. Double-check every question, just to be sure I’m getting it right.
  11. Click “Submit,” with fingers crossed.
  12. Get a 50 or 57% score, with minor explanations about nit-picky details that the textbook doesn’t actually state in the first place.

I’ve come to a personal conclusion: the man who invented multiple-choice testing deserves to die. Only he doesn’t deserve to be sentenced; he deserves to have to choose his demise from a bank of 5 options, nearly identically worded, and all of them ending in slow, horrible, gruesome, torturous, painful death. ◊