You can shed tears that he is gone

Or you can smile because he has lived

You can close your eyes and pray that he will come back

Or you can open your eyes and see all that he has left

Your heart can be empty because you can’t see him

Or you can be full of the love that you shared

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday

Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday

You can remember him and only that he is gone

Or you can cherish his memory and let it live on

You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back

Or you can do what he would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on. 

David Harkins 1959 – Silloth, Cumbria, UK  1981

Several years ago I came across this poem.  To be honest in any single day, I would have experienced many emotions, shed tears and prayed that it was all a nightmare and that Andy would be coming home, the nightmare was over.  Reality would set in, and at times I could open my eyes and see all the wonderful things he left us with. The hope, the faith, the smiles, the joy, the big crazy beautiful grin of his and so much more.  Over time I learned to just cherish his memory, and feel so blessed that I got to be his mother. Missing Andrew, well that is and will be forever, remembering him with a smile, that is forever too.

This poem speaks volumes to me and puts into words what I was believe and was trying to do.  By being determined to not let evil win, by knowing in my heart that Andrew was with the Lord in Heaven, I/we were able to forge ahead to make something good happen that would help our soldiers, hence; the formation of Boomer’s Legacy!  On the plane to Trenton, I heard Andrew say to me, “It’s okay Mom, Iam in a better place and I have done what I was supposed to do, I am in a better place, now it is your turn, help my buddies”! I had the assurance that he had been killed on impact and was with the Lord, that he had heard “well done my good and faithful son” before the fire consumed the G wagon he was trapped in.

So how do I/we help his buddies?  By putting smiles on the faces of our military and bringing them joy, that same emotion that Andrew had when he gave the kids good stuff and they smiled at him.  So helping his buddies help others became the plan. In Aug of ’06 I had no idea that our military would come home and not receive the help they personally needed.   So just as I had sent Andrew “good stuff” for the kids, because that is what he asked for, we raised funds to enable our military to purchase good stuff for the people they saw.  Andrew had said, “putting a smile on a child’s face is the most important thing about this tour” and I had said to him, “but aren’t you helping to save life & limb?,” his answer was, “Yes that is my job, the smiles are my joy!”  When we can open our eyes to the needs of others, we get to smile because we helped, and we have that joy. In the case of Boomer’s Legacy, we help military members get some “joy” the more joy, hopefully the less PTSD, and the people they have chosen to aide get some too.  A double positive!

Even though I relate to the words in the poem, it is not easy, to always do – but definitely what Andrew would want – so we smile through the tears and go on.

Over the next while I am going to share some of the stories that leave me in wonder to this day and some of the amazing people and experiences that I could not have ever imagined. I hope your journey can be lighten and inspired through ours.  So if you are going through an horrific loss, and I think of all those parents in Humboldt, Saskatchewan right now, all the families who don’t have their sons, the survivors who don’t have their friends, my heart aches for them.

If and when you can, I pray that you will heed these words the poet wrote,  “Or you can do what he would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.”

Maureen Eykelenboom