I have been wanting to write about my friend, Andrea, for two weeks now, and just haven’t be able to. In fact, I haven't been able to write at all for these past two weeks. But today, I was inspired by Autrice DelDrago, The Bemused Muse, and the ripple effect that every event (and person) has. The ripple effect of a pebble in a pond. A blog and the comments. A person on society. I think I can now write. My good friend and teammate, Andrea, passed away suddenly on Saturday, May 12, 2007.
Andrea lived in another part of China, but we work for the same company, and I have known her for many years. Whenever I pass through her city, which is actually quite often, I always stayed with Andrea. ‘Girls’ night out’ was always planned by Andrea, when I came through town. When people on another project were doing something, Andrea would always be the first to offer to come and help. She was not only the hospitality person, but the entire committee, making sure that new team mates were invited to each team member’s home, got settled and adjusted quickly, and helped them to find their way around a large city in China. She even drew me maps, complete with bus numbers, so I could find my way around the city, as I was always hopelessly lost.
By profession, Andrea was a teacher, and a special education teacher. She spent many years in Taiwan teaching at a school that catered mostly to foreigners. In China, she was an education and resource consultant, travelling throughout most of the country helping school children, teachers, home schoolers, children with learning disabilities, and disabled children. She brought several homeschoolers into her home weekly to give them extra training in writing, and she even brought a few kids with learning disabilities into her home for extra schooling so that their parents could get a break. Last fall she came to the town where I was living and taught the people at the orphanage how to arrange their orphanage-school better so that all the kids could learn, how to separate the mentally disabled from those who were only physically disabled. And she was just getting ready to start a new project of vocational training for physically disabled teenagers.
In early April, Andrea had pneumonia. I stayed with her just as she was finishing her medicine. The first week of May, she travelled to Singapore to turn over all her files from being an educational resource person. She was a bit tired and short of breath, but the hospital there said that nothing was wrong. I spoke to her on Tuesday May 8, as she was buying a computer part to send to me (that was just like her to go out of her way for others). The next morning she gave the computer part, along with chocolate and spices (which I hadn’t asked for but gratefully received) to a colleague who was returning here. That afternoon, she went into the hospital because of shortness of breath. Other friends and teammates stayed with her night and day, as she joked, told stories, talked with her family on the phone, and just carried on with normal life. While in the hospital and over the phone, she taught her sister Beth in America, who has Down’s Syndrome, how to take their mother out for Mother’s Day. Andrea taught Beth how to use a credit card, not to use mom’s gift cards or coupons, and definitely not to go out for pizza.
In the afternoon of May 12, Andrea complained of chest pain. She went into respiratory arrest, then cardiac arrest. In addition to the regular hospital staff, emergency room personnel were also there to help. They worked a long time with the most modern equipment, but just couldn’t save her.
Andrea’s family, and friends and I are still trying to come to terms with Andrea’s sudden and unexpected death. She was only 40 years old, and single. I think about her everyday. She leaves a hole that just can’t be filled.
None of us will probably know the full extent of her impact on the lives of so many children, at least not until we get to heaven. She wrote voluminous articles on working with and educating the disabled. She doesn’t have to write anymore. She was a gifted teacher. Andrea was such an advocate for children. She made sure that every child she met was heard and that their needs were met. She made a ripple in the lives of so many children. So many people benefited from her loving friendship.
Beth took their mom out to lunch on Mother’s Day, to mom’s favorite restaurant… and paid with a credit card. Andrea would have been proud.