It has been two weeks and I would like to say that the pain is less, but the opposite continues to be true. I am afraid that will be the case for a little while and will be part of our family’s journey. Through the pain we were able to have 2 memorial services which reflected Anne. Anne asked us to have a light hearted service and not a dreary cry-fest. So, through our tears, we did exactly that; twice. In California we pulled off a wonderful service and ended it with a collection of Anne’s favorite foods; Vietnamese, Thai, Indian and Dominoes. In Utah we had a similar service and enjoyed her favorite deserts from Costco. My hope with the services was to celebrate Anne, and I think we accomplished that goal. I am going to post the Eulogy pretty much as it was spoken and next week will post a video we showed at the service. One point to bring up for people who know us as travelers, Anne and I are both people of faith with deep convictions. I know that theme is implicit throughout Sixintheworld, however, it is much more explicit in our personal lives and therefore in Anne’s eulogy.
Our lives are a gift. They are a huge gift. What we do with this life, how we embrace the opportunities we have, how we grow and what we give of our lives to others is how we show gratitude for that gift. Today we are gathered to celebrate someone who understood what it meant to live life and what it meant to give back. Anne lived life to its fullest, she never did anything halfway and when she had life by the horns she didn’t let go. I consider myself lucky to have had her as my better half for over half my life.
Her and my life were magical, a true partnership made in heaven. Anne was so much to me, spouse, best friend, traveling partner, lover, the straight man to my jokes, and editor. It needs to be pointed out that I mispelled Heaven in the title of the blog post announcing her death. I can hear her words in my head: “Seriously, I am not gone 2 hours and you can’t spell my post correctly.” Thankfully everyone except McKane felt sorry enough for me to not mention it.
Anne was born in Beech Grove Indiana on October 2nd 1968. She grew up in Maryland, New Orleans and upstate New York. She took on each move as a positive and enjoyed making new friends, attending new schools and pursuing her interests each place she went. Her wanderlust and joy about what might be around the next corner was set early in life and helped define her adult persona. As a kid she always did well in school and her dancing. Dancing was her passion…until she met me. Her mother says as a child it was like Anne was about to burst into flames if she sat still. She graduated from Niscayuna High School in New York and matriculated to Duke. After spending 2 years at Duke Anne transferred to Yale. Anne and I did not meet at that time because I had left Yale and was 8 months into a 2 year mission for the LDS Church in Japan. She did however meet all my friends, and in the words of one of them assimilated quickly and became part of the group.
Anne excelled as a scholar at Yale, she was part of the Yale dance troupe and in her spare time she worked about 15-20 hours a week. When I returned from my mission, we met in the middle of her Sr. year. I almost immediately fell for her. She was a little ball of energy, a compact nuclear reactor. I found her intensity infectious. I commented to a mutual friend, that I thought she was “pretty cool.” He looked at me understanding what I meant. He shook his head and said… “what do you think, she is going to drop her boyfriend of 4 years, join your church and marry you.” I don’t think I responded in the affirmative. But we began seeing more and more of each other. It didn’t hurt my chances that we lived down the hall from each other and shared a bathroom. About a month after we met and on my birthday we had our first date, Anne and I took a day trip to New York. She had research to do at the New York Public Library and I guess I didn’t care about my classes that day or track practice, to be honest it’s all a blur. After spending the day in the library we wandered around the city, went to the NYC Ballet and then went to a little Thai place for a late night dinner. We barely made the last train back to New Haven. That was our only date for the next month, I loved it, she loved it, but she still had to break up with her boyfriend.
That was one of the longest months of my life. She was so headstrong and would not entertain a second date until everything was over and done. After she broke up and we had the obligatory 2 weeks apart to make sure she wasn’t “rebounding” we were off and running. We were together every day for 2 months until her graduation. People knew Anne as a dancer and a friend, they did not realize what a scholar she was. I still remember the gasps of surprise when they announced Anne’s name and all the subsequent Greek words which followed her name. Anne graduated Summa Cum Laude from Yale and received her Phi Betta Kappa key. Which was not only good for her but good for me, because since our family already had a key… we didn’t need a duplicate 2 years later.
After her graduation I returned to my home in Utah and 5 days later Anne was on a plane coming after me.
Life was amazing but we still had the religion question hanging out there. I had told Anne I didn’t want to marry someone outside my faith. At the time she told me that was good because she would never marry anyone that closed minded. However, Anne began studying, praying and really trying to figure out if it was right and if she believed it. As with everything she does, Anne doesn’t do things half way, she threw herself into it and within a month of intense study, a discussion with one of our 12 apostles and her own spiritual witnesses she joined the LDS Church. My friend’s words were ringing loudly in my ears and that same day I asked her to marry me. We began planning for a December wedding, with our first action being to move it up to a November wedding and our second action to move it up to an August wedding. On August 11th 1990 we were married.
The next two years were newly wed heaven. Anne put her life on hold for a couple of years to stay in New Haven with me. She worked at a law firm as a paralegal, where she quickly got bored. So, like any bored over achiever she kept her 50 hour a week job and started working on a masters of teaching english as a foreign language at night school. As we approached the end of my school, Anne was ready to ramp her life up. She applied and was accepted to Stanford Law School, however in the middle of my Sr. year we got pregnant with Dax. Law school was not an issue and she deferred a year to have Dax.
After my Greek free graduation we returned to Utah to have our baby and hang out before we headed off to Palo Alto. It was a tough year, prepping for Palo Alto. I applied to 150 different companies and received a grand total of 2 interviews and 1 potential job. That didn’t deter us and we visited the campus knowing I could always wait tables until I could break into the tech industry. However, over the year she deferred, we had a number of talks and she spent a lot of time on her knees praying about what she should do. It became clear to her that she didn’t want to practice law and that she was going to Law school because she loved learning…. she also loved the competition and awards. It was the most critical crossroads of our married life. She came to me and said she decided she wanted to focus on raising the kids.
To some this may seem like a huge sacrifice and at the time it felt very much like a sacrifice. Here was this incredibly brilliant, competitive and young woman stepping away from the treadmill before she even really got on it. However for our entire lives together, any time I would ask… and I asked a number of times, she never once had an ounce of regret, she would say she stepped away from law and into the greatest profession she could think of, “motherhood.” What appeared a sacrifice at the time became a huge blessing for our family.
It didn’t mean things were always easy. There were times in our marriage where a second income was needed or just desired and at those times, some opportunity would always come her way. Anne wrote 4 different books as a ghost writer, the most successful making it into the top 200 on Amazon and was commissioned to write a biography. Also she and I were employees #1 and #2 at a start-up and Anne did everything from the tech writing to office management to the accounting. In the end I would say Anne was one of the most competent people I have ever met.
But as she said then and proved throughout her life of service, her greatest and noblest role was as mom. Of course, Anne never did anything halfway and motherhood was not different. Anne had Dax at the tender age of 23. Our lives were changed in an instant. This amazing little boy who had Anne’s will, intelligence and competitive nature thrust himself on our lives with a rush of intensity one could hardly believe. Do most 18 months olds know all the dinosaurs? Can they demand an after midnight bedtime? Who was this kid?… well it was pretty clear… here was a little piece of Anne.
Two and a half years later we had McKane. As much as Dax thrust himself on us intellectually, Mckane did the same, only physically. Again how many babies are born able to roll over? His humor, energy, his sense of fairness and his just pure boyness changed the dynamic of our family. For the next 5 years Anne cherished these boys. She spent just about every day with them and focused on making their lives amazing. During this time I was traveling all too much, even commuting from LA to Portland 4 or 5 days a week for over 6 months. Anne took it in stride. She would get the boys out of our apartment to museums and parks all around LA and and it was during this time she fell in love with California.
Then came Anne’s little buddy. It felt like there was a little crack in heaven and Kieran slipped through that crack and fell into our family. I love all my kids and think they all were cute babies but Kieran took the cake. Here was this kid with Anne’s eyes, the worlds longest eyelashes, sweetest demeanor and little did we know at the time, one of the wryest senses of humor ever. Anne scooped up Kieran and continued to play around LA. She also started being a little bored and did what most mothers do and started taking design classes at UCLA at night. Learning was such a part of who Anne was. She once told my mother that every day before she went to bed, she would ask herself, “What have I learned today?” If the answer was “nothing” she would walk over to our incredibly well stocked bookshelves and pick out a book. Anne loved books. Books were a huge part of our lives. Our first Christmas present to each other was a collection of the world’s major religions scriptures. This Mother’s Day the kids purchased a large Asian design book for her. Fortunately for us, Anne has left a short list of her favorites and long list of suggested books for us to read. Books were one of our family’s defining factors and Anne was the center of that doling out to all of us different things to read.
In 2002 we left Santa Monica. Anne would say for the next 5 years the only love she ever lost in her life was “California.” How can you not fix that when your wife says that? However, at that same time she picked up what she called, “my treat”. Asher was born and at first Anne was a little put off because she had the audacity to come as a girl. Again Anne doesn’t do things half way and she had boys. But we hadn’t even gotten Asher out of the hospital before we were absolutely in love with her. Asher was exactly what our family needed, she fit all the holes, a girl, an athlete, a social vivant and a blondie, and as I said here was “Anne’s treat.” Anne gave herself completely to these kids.
When the school system in Georgia let her down and was not meeting the criteria she had set for her kids she pulled them out of school and began homeschooling. Anne doesn’t do anything halfway. It was only a matter of months and there was an entire new bookshelf in our basement filled with homeschool books and a giant room covered with maps, charts and all the trappings of school. Anne partnered up with two amazing ladies, one who has spent at least 5 months with us over the last 2 years helping Anne battle her cancer. They put together a home school I was jealous of, in part because it didn’t get started until 10 or 11 in the morning but in part because it was AWESOME. Anne inspired the kids with her love of learning, history and letters. For 2 and half years the kids learned about ancient Greece, memorized Shakespeare and did amazing things.
The fact that we could do homeschool opened us up to an entirely new world, we could travel when we wanted, we could add subjects we wanted and we could discuss things on an adult level the way we wanted. But after 2 years, Anne decided we should put the kids back to make sure we weren’t messing them up. We were so not messing them up. They both went back and like any dad, I put down some rules. As long as you get straight A’s you can play video games and I will try not to bug you about how much. Well I should have picked a harder goal. Anne had prepared them to excel and straight A’s was just natural for them.
This was the beginning of what turned out to be a pivotal year for us. During the 2005/06 school year 3 things happened to Anne and me. The first was incredibly hard on Anne. During our time in Georgia Anne was called to be a sunday school teacher. In my 44 years in the church I have never seen a more dedicated and caring sunday school teacher. She would have between 5 and 15 teenagers in her class every week. Once a month they all would be at our house for a huge party, watching movies on the side of our house, fire dancing in the backyard, or rocking out the neighbors with impromptu concerts. Like I said, Anne doesn’t do anything half way. These kids were her adopted kids. She dragged our kids to all their activities, she became part of their lives. And then, that fall one of those kids was in a car crash and was killed. That loss hit Anne hard. For a number of nights I would console her as she cried in our bed. Shortly there after Dax, my dad and many of my friends volunteered to do clean up in Mississippi and New Orleans after hurricane Katrina. That had a big impact on me. The next spring I had a pretty routine surgery to replace my hip and I ended up having some life threatening complications. Those 3 things lead Anne and me to follow a dream which was a joint dream we both had for a while…. of course I got that dream after she dished out a book for me to read called “One Year Off.”
Anne and I talked about it for a couple weeks and the financial timing was not the best. We had been waiting for about 7 years at this point for my Earthlink stock to fund our dreams. It wasn’t going to happen, so inspired by what we had seen the previous year we decided to take the kids out of school and travel. Just reminding you, Anne doesn’t do anything halfway. The trip was both the single biggest undertaking either of us have ever made and the single best decision outside of marriage and child rearing either of us ever made.
The trip with Anne was magical. For one year we lived everyday uniquely. We had goals for the trip to inspire our children, to educate them and give them a sense of gratitude and service, and to expand their horizons. Anne made sure we accomplished those goals. On the trip Anne and I talked about the Sixintheworld trip being the first part of a 3 part trip, with a second round the world trip happening when Kieran and Asher were a little older and a 3rd trip happening when the kids had moved out and it was just the two of us. We found inspiration for the 3rd trip in the middle of Africa. We were staying at large hostil in Zambia and this old (mid 60’s) Japanese couple checked in in full leather. Anne and I watched them as they sat down at the dining table and pulled out a bunch of topographical maps and started planning out their next day. They didn’t speak much English but I went over and introduced myself to them and for the only time in our 1 year trip got to use my Japanese. They shared that they were just an average retired couple and they just wanted to ride around Africa. When we went out in the parking lot we saw their ride. It was a big black motorcycle and side car. Anne and I laughed and without saying anything we knew that could be us in 25 years.
The trip is overly well documented on our website and I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have her words to go back and read periodically. That one year was like 10 years of normal living and would have been a great midpoint in our lives if it were up to us.
When we returned home things were never quite right with Anne. Nobody can tell us when the cancer started or what the side effects were. We thought it was allergies or perhaps she was just having a hard time adjusting after having spent a year living on the magical edge, but she was tired and her zest started to wane. When we got home it felt like she could only do 1 and half times what a normal person could do, not the double I was use to. I remember her saying, “40 is way harder on your body and feels much older than I thought it would.” Perhaps the cancer even started before the trip and was part of what inspired Anne to live so fully.
Luckily the job we had waiting for me to go back to when we returned disappeared about a week before we got home. For a moment it was pretty crushing, we had spent a good portion of our savings on the trip and it was time to start getting back to college funds and mortgages etc. But then a window opened up and we could go to Southern California or we could go to Seattle. Well that wasn’t a hard decision. Back to Cali we came and we overshot Santa Monica by about 5 miles and landed in Malibu.
Anne continued on her work as a mother. Volunteering 2 days a week at the school for Kieran and Asher, being a drug monitor at the high school and helping her big boys take advantage of the schooling placed in front of them. Dax and Mac both followed their mother’s stellar academic career and Dax at Oxford and McKane at a yet to be named great school have made and will make her proud every single day. It crushed her that the 2 years she was busy fighting cancer, the rest of us had to fill in to give Kieran and Asher the same level of care and support she had given to the big boys. We never took another big trip as a family. Anne took the big kids to the UK to check out Oxford and Anne and I did go explore job opportunities in Mumbai and New York. On those trips it was clear to me that things were not great with Anne but at the time, I would never have guessed what it was. At that time, I guessed even nuclear reactors run out of fuel eventually.
We found Malibu to be a lovely place. For a place with more stereotypes than The Village People, we plugged into a pretty normal circle.
Our ward or congregation is an amazing family and we plugged right in. However if you can’t guess, Anne doesn’t do anything half way. As a little point of background for those who do not belong to our church. Every job at our church is on a volunteer basis, however, you don’t get to choose which job you do. The leadership prayerfully tries to understand which role is right for each person at each time and you are asked to do a specific job. You are free to pray about it and make sure you feel the calling is from the Lord, after which you accept or deny the calling. After we had been here for a year or so, this one night Anne was crying. She wasn’t afraid to cry but I would never call her a cryer, so this was out of the ordinary. As we talked about what was troubling her she expressed concern to me that the Lord didn’t love her or need her. The fact that she had not been given a job which she could throw herself into was weighing heavily on her heart. It wasn’t a week later that she received a call to be the Relief Society President or the head of the congregation’s women’s organization. I think this is one of the 2 hardest callings in our church. Not only did she then know she was loved and needed she now was in the middle of everything: every personal problem, every financial problem, every intrapersonal problem, etc. Anne was there to help. Just like she did when she was a sunday school teacher, Anne took on this task with vigor and wore herself out in the service of others.
I am so proud of her for the way she attacked this job. There wasn’t a woman in the ward she didn’t pray about or seek out a way to serve. From helping people who were homeless find places to live to getting people who were mired in their suffering to move past their suffering, addictions or abuse and get themselves to church where the healing of the gospel could help them, or just helping friends with temporary crisis of faith, Anne didn’t do things half way. 2 days before she went into the hospital, Anne trekked up to Big Bear to give a talk to the youth of our stake. She was to the point of collapse but that did not stop her. By this time, unbeknownst to us the cancer was spreading through her abdomen and it was forcing Anne to slow down, and that slowing down was driving her insane because she had so much more to give the kids, to give the ladies of the ward, to give me….
Anne’s cancer fight was a brutal one and is mostly a tale for another day. Anne was a warrior, she changed her diet, she ate things which would have made her puke years before, she exercised more than any time since I knew her, she meditated, she mixed 5 or 6 different healing medicines, herbs, elixers, etc. She did not fight it half way. She took on the toughest chemo they had. When doctors told her she had weeks or months to live she did not accept it. She found doctors who said there was a small chance and she did everything she could to get that small chance. And rather than die weeks or months after she was diagnosed with cancer the size of a grapefruit, an orange and a lime in her little abdomen she lived almost 2 years. As the end drew near she fought hard;she raged against the dying of the light just as she had for the past 2 years. Suffice it to say cancer stole the center of my life. My heart, soul and entire being feel ripped in two as my soul mate and eternal companion goes ahead of me. If it wasn’t for the wonderful friendship so evident in the room (and on the web) and the amazing family that Anne and I have, I am sure I could not go on. But if Anne has any say in it, I need to not only go on but need to go on in a way that I don’t do anything half way.
I have been a member of our church my entire life and Anne joined when she was 21. We would always joke about how she was a better Mormon than I was, and she was. However, my faith is incredibly strong. 21 years ago Anne and I made covenants in the temple to each other. Those covenants bound us in this life and I know they bind us in the next life. When Anne was diagnosed, the very first day, she told me she had no regrets in this life, she had everything. She had a man she loved, she had 4 amazing children, her life was rich with learning and books, she had seen the world and she found the gospel and it changed her life.
Anne didn’t love half way. Anne loved her kids with all her heart. Anne loved the Saviour with all her heart. Anne loved her family, extended family, and her friends with all her heart.
And I have loved and will continue to love Anne Andrus with all my heart.
Anne, God be with you until we meet again. And I know we will be together again. I testify of that in the name of Jesus Christ Amen