In the Bible it is written in Romans 13:7 ESV…
Give honor to whom honor is due.
I find such a man in my brother Andy, whom honor is greatly due him.
This was an unexpected honor for me when my sister Debbie asked if I’d be willing to celebrate her husband’s life in words, because as far as I could remember, our brother Mark has always been the official family spokesperson at times like these.
Even as Mark and Andy are heavenly neighbors now, I somehow feel Mark’s presence still, prepared to take his rightful place at this podium.
But yet I’m here instead, privileged to deliver the words God wants to comfort us with while Celebrating Andy.
They say that the hearing is the last to go and if Andy could hear my name being called to the stage today, he’d be jolted and startled for a second with these words, “Copy that???”
Today is a bittersweet day to be together, locking arms and hearts together as we navigate this maiden voyage of uncharted waters without our Andy.
This small setting has all the “feels” of our family holiday dinners; the holiday being the celebration of our Handy Andy, our Hunny Bunny, our Papa, our Dad, our Brother ‘n law.
But as beautiful as this table set before us is, it’s hard not to notice the empty chair once occupied by Andy.
I wish I had a front row seat to the Houle section in the banquet room of heaven.
Surely, there is a senior table for our family pillars, Mom and Roger, Bill and Gloria and Bon Bon, with Dad and Joyce waving from their table nearby.
Surely, there’s a table where Andy has taken his rightful place seated next to Belinda, Mark and Mary. I can almost see Mark high fiving Andy – “Bro – you made it.” I have no doubt Belinda has a left a goody bag of jelly beans on Andy’s plate, and Mary, she sits and laughs as she takes it all in.
Mom is beaming with great joy to see her sidekick back at the card table and the entire family cheers for this grand reunion they’ve been waiting for.
Yes, it is an honor to Celebrate Andy’s life.
The book-ends of anyone’s life are their birth certificate and their obituary.
Held together by these book-ends are the volumes of details, the memories, the moments, the trials and victories of our beloved’s life.
Let’s begin by reading the final book-end of Andy’s life.
Andrew Hritz, age 66 of Valparaiso, IN passed away July 12, 2023.
He was born on Sept 15, 1956 to the late Michael and Pauline Hritz in Gary, IN.
On March 5, 1977, Andrew married the love of his life Deborah Houle in Valparaiso, IN. Andrew enjoyed reading, making homemade ice cream and eggnog, but most of all he loved spending time with his wife, children and grandchildren.
Andrew was talented with his hands; his nickname was Handy Andy and if he did the job well his wife called him Honey Bunny.
Andrew will be remembered as a loving husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle and friend and he will be deeply missed.
Andrew is survived by his loving wife of 46 years, Deborah Hritz of Valparaiso, son, Phillip (Mandie Fusner) Hritz, Amanda (Jordan) Mayfield of Argos, IN,
Four grandchildren, Kollin and Zachary Hritz, Gracie and Luke Mayfield;
Four brothers Michael, Bill, John and Paul Hritz and many other loving family members.
Andrew was proceed in death by his father, Michael Hritz and his mother Pauline.
When you open up the book between the book-ends of Andy’s life, the first page begins with a shortened stanza from an old song we used to sing sitting on the pews of our Southern Baptist church as kids…
GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS…
All I have needed thy hand hath provided…
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.
From beginning to end, Andy’s life reflected God’s faithfulness as he learned to trust and never let go of God’s hand for every need and provision for his wife, children, grandchildren, employment and extended family.
Andy had a life verse whether he realized it or not, and this verse was once prophesied over him proving to be a true word from our Creator…
God will bless the work of your hands…
I looked up the meaning of this verse and it reads as follows: God has destined that our hands be empowered to accomplish great things and will be sufficient for you.
There’s a quote from the website of once evangelist Billy Graham which speaks to and exemplifies the life of our dear Andy:
The Greatest legacy one can pass onto one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulating in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.
Yes, character and faith through Andy’s hands would become his legacy…
HERE IS A SMALL TRIBUTE TO THAT LEGACY.
From his hand and heart, Andy waved the white flag of surrender in salvation to God.
Andy gave his hand in marriage to one woman for 46 glorious years, as he loved her, cherished her, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health all the days of his life.
Handy Andy hung galleries of Debbie’s Board and Brush pictures with his hands, defying physics and logic and preventing a house implosion from the sum of its weight.
Andy was always game for a hand of cards – albeit Rummy, UNO, Yahtzee, or Pinnacle against Denise, Brad, Jill and mom, showing no mercy to either of them.
Uncle Drew held out his hand and scooped up the small nieces and nephews whenever they reached for his lap.
Game shark Andy showed no hand of mercy either while playing Chutes and Ladder, Candy Land, and Mother Love with his daughter Amanda and niece Candace when they were just learning to play.
Uncle Drew’s hands walked my young daughter to elementary school when she was afraid of the neighborhood dogs.
Daddy Andy held his daughter’s hand while learning to walk on tippy toes as a toddler. He held her hand as they walked together to the altar during her Honor Star service, and most proudly, Amanda’s father held tight to his daughter’s hand as she walked her wedding isle as a beautiful bride.
With books in their hands, a father and his son Phillip treasured the words written about God, exchanging their discoveries and truth about prophecy, and End – Times. They also bonded as guys do in the garage around tools, cars and grease.
Uncle Drew’s hands wrestled through the ages of my young to my grown-up son Jake on his lap, once conning his nephew to pull out a pair of skid marked whitey-tightys from his Christmas gift as a joke for the giver– a legendary memory of laughter for us all.
Son ’n law Andy with his hands helped our mother by fixing her car, hanging pictures on her walls, sharing coffee and a seat around the table, and whatever he possibly could do to harass her.
Andy’s hands were the official carver of the holiday turkey and ham; whose place at the stove rang the silent dinner bell for everyone to take their seats at the kid’s table, senior table, adult table or any place you could find on the floor as dinner was almost served.
You wouldn’t know about them unless Andy felt led to show you, but Andy kept a library of hand written notes and diagrams pertaining to his job description throughout those 30+ years on the clock, a trophy recognizing his pursuit of excellence unto his Almighty God at work.
His hands as an employee carried a cooler/lunch pail so big and jammed pack of food, someone taking a picture might think he was toting the refrigerator to his job.
Andy’s hands clapped the loudest from the heart of the most proud Papa for his sweet Gracie during her dance and piano recitals.
Andy’s hands held and shared a fleet of trucks and cars with his little Lukie who loved and treasured this one-on-one Papa time with him.
Papa’s hands shared the hearts of his grandchildren Gracie and Lukie with Carla, Deb and well, ok…Dave, their other grandparents equally in love with them.
Don’t get me started on the hilarious sight of Andy with giant Old Maid cards in his hand and a game against granddaughter Gracie, nieces Ayva and Aubrey and their giggles to give him the Old Maid for the win.
Chef Andy’s hands concocted and shared the most delicious homemade eggnog with his daughter Mandie Renee at Christmas. But truth be told, Andy shared a cup of her stash with David and I this past Christmas.
A father ‘n law’s hands stood and saluted on the inside with the utmost respect and pride for his military son, a man of honor who lives for God, Family, Country and Flag; and in that order.
Papa Andy’s hands shared a bucket of popcorn for years with his son Phillip, his grandsons Kollin and Zachary and nephew Ethan tagging along to watch those action-packed movies at the theater. A wrestling match against old and young took place most nights during their time together.
It was a given for Andy’s hands to serve and share a cup of coffee with David and me whenever we visited, ensuring a carton of our favorite cream was bought in advance.
Andy might have been a man few of words, even though this Queen of Questions standing here tried to pry a few sentence over the years, but his servant’s hands spoke volumes for themselves.
Andy and Debbie weren’t travelers and the farthest they’d ever drive was to the nearest Walmart. But when the car doors opened from our military family, and from our southern drawl families from Tennessee and Texas, rest assured Uncle Drew welcomed you with those Andy-hugs he was famous for. Rest assured Andy made the draft cut into the Special Forces which thrived to bother, aggravate and stir up trouble as guys love to do. Rest assured his nieces and nephews found a seat at the table near their Uncle Drew, making up for lost time of love and laughter with him. Andy had a hand in being present for those long distant relationship reunions.
Andy also had a hand in being present in his quiet relationships at church, and through our special events when extended families join together in celebration.
Our sister Denise’s best friend Jill had two small children in need of a babysitter so Debbie and Andy opened their home for babysitting, while also watching my two. They became Aunt and Uncle to Julie and JT who loved them as their own. Our family adopted these two as well into their hearts. Julie and JT’s pictures filled up Aunt Debbie’s library of scrapbooks, they each had a seat along with their extended family at our gatherings, their names found themselves on every guest list of ours, became part of the cousin generation, their branches grew and became off-shoots from our family tree, and we can’t imagine life without them, all because Debbie and Andy opened their hearts and home to them.
Brother ‘n law Andy extended a hand of hope to me as a single woman, receiving my small children during the middle of the night and putting them to bed as I went off to work. Rules were meant to be broken when Debbie wasn’t around, and Uncle Drew became Mr. Fun, pulling out all the stops of entertainment while I worked the other shifts. Loving my kids to life during this most difficult season for them, Debbie and Andy bonded with my little boy and girl as second parents.
Andy’s hands touched others beyond his knowledge.
We each have a ripple effect, touching others beyond our reach, beyond our life’s stone cast across the water into ripples on a pond.
Through his wife’s pictures on social media, Andy was known at the city gates as a family man, a papa on adventure with his grand-kids, a father whose hands held the hearts of his children close, a husband who understood covenant in marriage; a rare find of gold mined from a man’s life these days.
Though a man of few words, Andy had a message and it was preached through the ripple effect of his life’s stone cast across the water into ripples on a pond.
Andy’s hands were never idle… earning his infamous title of Handy Andy.
His hands drew from the well of “acts of service”, the language of love he spoke to his family.
From his hands he gave back to God what was due him in tithes and offerings, in prayer, in time and talent and Sunday mornings with Him.
Hand and in hand along the Riverwalk of their life together, Andy enjoyed the most wonderful year of retirement with his bride. A year of bike rides, pancake breakfasts, Dairy Queen trips and Walmart shopping sprees to name a few.
Their final night together, husband Andy held the hand from the wife of his youth while sharing his devotion and love to her; they both fell asleep this way. A framed moment his wife of 46 years will forever hang from her heart.
Yes, God truly blessed the love and life of Andy’s hands.
Andy and Debbie’s faithfulness to God, their children and grandchildren will be a legacy passed on through the generations. The fruit of their faithfulness is evident and measured in the bushel basket-fulls of their family.
Amanda, the God-fearing woman she’s been throughout her life of forty years without waver is now mirrored in the worshiper we see in her daughter Gracie. Her son Lukie stands on a stage all his own, enjoying life and passionate around a race track of cars and trucks, making room one day for his calling in life.
Phillip, though man of few words as his father, has a hunger in his pursuit for Jesus which has been evident in him wanting his grandmother’s books centered around Christian living from her library as his inheritance. Phillip’s son Kollin is equally as quiet and has a presence about him in his respect and kindness for others. Phillip’s other son Zachary has this zest for life and humor like his Papa, causing hilarious trouble while drawing others unto himself.
Debbie and Andy have lived out the scriptures charged to them as parents…
We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord.
Psalm 78:4 NIV
To pass the baton of faith, you must first possess it in your hand.
For a smooth hand-off in the relay of life, you need a firm grip on the baton of faith and an intentional effort to place it in the hand of the next generation; as Andy and Debbie have.
Surely Andy has already heard these words of affirmation from the Heavenly Father,
Well done, good and faithful servant…
Andy’s address has changed.
He now lives and breathes in a perfect place with God while we attempt to process his absence here on earth; a momentary separation until our name is called and we are reunited with him once again.
BUT HERE WE ARE; WE GRIEVE.
Yes, everybody grieves.
But everybody grieves differently, and in their own way.
Some grieve outwardly, visible through the rainfall of their tears.
Some grieve inwardly, as if a dam holds back the streams of their pain, yet breaks through in the flow of their written words or song.
There is no measuring stick to gauge one’s grief,
But you grieve nevertheless.
Grief is a painting of a thousand words.
We find ourselves consoled in the brushstrokes from those who understand.
We take comfort in the sunsets that calm our weariness.
Just as the morning dew weeps over the spring flowers, we also are given permission to weep.
Jesus himself wept in grief over a dear friend who died.
John 11:35 NIV
This portrait of grief is an open book of our heart where its pages are stained from runaway tears, yet caught by the hands of a loving God who notices and stores them in a bottle, recording these raindrops of pain in His Book of Remembrance.
…You’ve stored my many tears in your bottle
– not one will be lost.
For they are all recorded
In your book of remembrance.
Psalms 56:8 (TPT)
This portrait of a thousand words hangs in our personal gallery titled,
“A Family says Good-bye.”
This season of showers of our tears,
Whether flowing from the windows of our heart or soul,
Our tears water a great hope of a family reunion one day, in heaven.
From each shower,
A “rainbow in full view” of the open sky reminds us of the nearness of God.
These April showers bring forth May flowers of joy, because in God:
Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy cometh in the morning.
Psalm 30:5 (KJV)
The season of grief most difficult,
The season which wrestles and fights to hold onto your heartstrings,
Yet a season you must find His perfect peace,
The season of letting go.
In our letting go,
We are letting God…
Sit with us beside the empty chair.
Be that telephone call when we long for theirs.
Be a song when we miss their voice.
Be an arm of comfort in the middle of the night.
Give us eyes to see our family portrait still complete.
Be a father to the fatherless.
Be a husband to the widow.
Be a friend to the friendless.
Lead us beside still waters.
Whatever everything needs to be.
Going forward, that first birthday, first holiday, first wedding anniversary and first Father’s Day without Andy will be honored and grieved differently by each who loved him, though grieved nevertheless.
God wipes our tears when they fall outwardly.
God will be those words or song when we weep from the inside.
God will be a faithful post to lean on when the weight of our heartache is far too great a burden to shoulder and stand alone.
In our letting go,
We are letting God.
We’ll get there when we get there.
In time…in time
AND NOW WE SAY GOOD-BYE
Saying good-by to Andy is most difficult; the pain unbearable at times.
The “changing of the guard” is simultaneously taking place in multiple homes of our family, causing hearts to short-circuit from the emotional overload of sadness, yet rejoicing as our Andy has just seen Jesus.
As the season of summer is about to place the baton in the hand of its neighbor called fall, closing up swimming pools and beaches in exchange for cozy sweaters and campfires, our family is in their lane and in position for the hand-off and good-bye to a husband, father, papa and friend in Andy.
Good-bye is our book-end to hello.
A shelf of memories stacked between each book-end, keeping each scrapbook firmly placed between so many years of good-byes and hello.
While our good-byes can stir up a whirlwind of joy as does its partner of hello, it’s just embracing the vision of the hello when “letting go” in our good-bye causes so much emotion.
While the shades of good-bye vary as the colors in the rainbow, good-bye nevertheless requires an exchange of the baton in our heart.
Before an unexpected good-by, Andy looked at the “love of his life” for the very last time; yet didn’t realize it.
You never saw one without the other.
Still high school sweethearts into their golden years, the glow of their faces while looking into each other’s eyes alone could fill up the pages of a romance novel.
For the first day in their marriage lifetime just a few days ago, Andy’s wife woke up to the sunrise of sadness, sensing the vacancy on his side of the bed, sitting at the breakfast table with his empty coffee cup and empty seat in front of her, void of his bright smile that didn’t greet her good-morning.
Yet, in the pain of their good-bye on this earth, Debbie’s Honey Bunny said hello to the other love of his life, the one he gave his heart to and waited a lifetime to spend eternity with, his Lord and Savior.
Debbie’s Hunny Bunny still retains his bright smile he was known for, yet he brightens up our hearts now, while leaving the world a bit dimmer.
Good-bye is our book-end to hello.
One sad good-bye is a glorious hello to someone else.
We were never meant to hold on to anything; the moments, life as we know it, each other.
Life is a daily letting go so that in our letting go, we can “Let God” have His way in us.
Good-bye might not be the hello we want to embrace,
But be willing to stay in your lane,
Get in position for the handoff of the baton,
And continue to run the race set before you.
As Good-bye is always our hello to the next step, the new beginning,
Of something wonderful God wants to do thru us.
We love you Andy. We love you Uncle Drew. We love you dad.
We love you Papa. She loves you Hunny Bunny.
Until that grand reunion in heaven, we will all miss you like crazy.