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Hull: All the pieces of the puzzle

October in Phoenix feels similar to May in Dickinson. You can stop laughing for just a second as I explain my statement. The temperature may be vastly different, but the sensation of relief from the relentless brutal weather is just the same. Aft...

October in Phoenix feels similar to May in Dickinson. You can stop laughing for just a second as I explain my statement.
The temperature may be vastly different, but the sensation of relief from the relentless brutal weather is just the same. After having “survived” this last winter in North Dakota, I felt the same sense of accomplishment in my survival skills as I do after every summer in Phoenix.
The summers drag on and on as you ache for the moment when you can finally go outside without any real thought to what the temperature is going to be like. Oh, glorious fall! It is such a beautiful season, probably even better than spring. Well, at least in Phoenix. The intensity of the summer sun in Phoenix takes your breath away like the bone-chilling wind in Dickinson. It’s like you can’t inhale or breathe. It depletes your energy and causes you to always think twice about the necessity of the errand that you are just about to run. But October had arrived and we were headed to the baseball field as we did most every weekend.
Watching all four of our children begin their extracurricular activities at around age five was something that my husband and I looked forward to.
What would they want to do? Did they want to play sports, or maybe an instrument, or possibly dance? Would they be the next budding genius and not have any interest in outside activities? One of my grandsons tells me that he is just not an “outdoor” person. Well, OK then. Indoor reading or singing for him. I don’t know why but that statement always makes me laugh, like maybe he thinks that he will melt outside. Oh yeah, I forgot, we lived in Phoenix, so maybe he was right. For Andy, it was baseball from the moment he could swing a bat or throw a ball. There were other activities as well, such as scouts, wakeboarding, snowboarding and youth group, but baseball was his passion.
As we all begin our life, we accumulate the pieces to our life puzzle from the many different interests and activities which grab us and compel us to explore them. They spark a flame in our heart that needs to be fueled.
For Andy, the first puzzle piece was Little League. We knew early on that we were in trouble because he wanted to play every day. For those of you who have watched, driven, cheered and cried through those tiring, yet wonderful, years while your children pursued their dreams, I commend you. It is unbelievably rewarding, it is also exhausting and gut wrenching.
As parents, we feel every success or failure that our children feel. I know that there were many times that I held a crying, defeated child after the loss of a game or a poor personal performance. There were also many times when I climbed the backstop fence at a baseball game, after the home run or a championship win in exhilaration, screaming and yelling. Needless to say, there were many embarrassing moments for my family. I miss those days terribly!
As Andy continued to grow and develop, so did the pieces. After Little League came club ball and, of course, there were school teams all at the same time. I remember when he was in seventh and eighth grade, he played on three teams all at the same time. Club ball was year round, but the school team and Little League were only in the spring. Phew, thank God! It was a scheduling nightmare.
I happen to have a voicemail that I saved from Andy in which said, “Mom, this is your sonner, and I just wanted to tell you that I just love baseball! I want to eat, sleep and play baseball all the time. I want to do whatever it takes to be a pro! Whatever I need to do Mom, I want to take it to the next level. I just love it and wanted you to know. OK, well, adios. Love ya!”
That was Andy. Not sure what made me save that message other than just the need to hear his passion and commitment. Sometimes, I would worry that he was pushed too hard, or that the pressure of scholarships and college were too much. But when I heard that message, I knew that this was Andy’s dream and not mine or someone else’s.
So let’s go back to October of 2012. We were at Peoria Sports Complex where the Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres play ball during MLB Spring Training.
All the pieces were about to fall in place. Andy was about to start pitching in a tournament that would solidify the direction of his career in baseball. There was so much anticipation and nervousness for this one moment. Just to clarify, I was the one with the nerves and Andy was calm as a cucumber. Picture this for just a moment: Behind the backstop stood dozens of scouts from universities and MLB teams, all with their radar guns pointed at our son standing on the mound.
This was the moment that he had been working and training so hard for. This was the moment when you would either be passed over for the thousands of boys who wanted the same thing, or you would be chosen for your ability and potential to succeed. I paced behind the bleachers so that I wouldn’t make him nervous. I had learned a long time ago to keep my mouth shut during the game and to stay out of his line of vision if I felt the need to pace. Three innings later, my son had just struck out seven batters and had left the mound with no hits or runs earned! He literally leapt off of the field in joy! Never before had I seen such exuberance and confidence from him.
I remember that moment like it was yesterday. It evokes so much emotion in me that I have to pinch myself to bring myself back to earth.
Little did we know that seven weeks later, Andy would be gone. All of the pieces to the puzzle would be lying on the ground in disarray. I will tell you the rest of the story, so far, in next week’s article. How does something like suicide happen to someone like Andy?
I hope to continue with my art ability, laugh and paint a picture of devastation and grief transformed into love and healing. There were signs and people that could have made a difference had the awareness of suicide been available. My decision is not to blame me or anybody else but to educate, prevent and hopefully save someone else’s “Andy”!

Hull is a wife, mother and motivational speaker and writer who, like many others, recently moved to Dickinson because of the energy industry. She writes a recurring column for Our Town and blogs at bloomwhereyouareplanted.areavoices.com. Email her at leannhull@hotmail.com .

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