by Jack McLean
Eulogy at Hulse, Playfair and McGarry Funeral Home, Ottawa, ON (November 21, 2011)
Dearest Helen, Relatives, Friends:
If I were to title these brief remarks about Mr. C.S. Andy Andrews, that title would have to be “Andy Andrews, the Elder Statesman of the Ottawa Bahá’í Community”, or “Andy Andrews “the Faithful Servant” or “Andy Andrews the Towering Witness”, or “Andy Andrews the Loving Presence”—and all of these titles describe Andy. In matters of truth, Andy had an aversion to exaggeration, and I know that he would not want me to exaggerate his many fine qualities. He also had a kind of humility which was not wont to transgress the limits of modesty and propriety. But it is strange but true, that it is especially after death that friends, family and loved ones can give a just appraisal and appreciation of the life that they have shared, and that has now gone on before them. As Joni Mitchell said in her 1970 popular hit, Big Yellow Taxi, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” It has ever been so. So if I may say so, love and appreciate the ones you’re with. Tell them so today. Show them. For in this life, we are all destined to temporarily leave one another, and sweet words are a comfort to the heart.
When that great Bahá’í teacher, “Herald of the Covenant” and “Mother teacher of the West,” Lua Getsinger, passed away in Egypt, in the service of the Faith, on May 2, 1916, at the age of 55, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, is reported to have repeated: “What a loss! What a loss!” And as we remember Andy Andrews today, I am sure that everyone here, every brother and sister believer, every friend, every relative, and particularly our dear Helen, feels this loss most keenly. For Andy Andrews was not only the most senior, respected male member of the Ottawa Bahá’í community since he joined the Bahá’í Faith in1953, but Andy was also a most precious resource to the community. It is in this sense that we can echo ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s words: “What a loss!”
As you have already heard, this stalwart believer had witnessed personally, and participated in, most of the major developments of the history of the Bahá’í Faith in Ottawa, and had contributed, in no small measure, to the making of that history. It is a remarkable record of service that Andy leaves behind. In these things, Andy was both faithful servant and towering witness.
My first bright memory of Mr. Andrews stretches back some 40 years. It happened to be a wedding—my own. For, as you’ve already heard, he was, for a number of years, the only official marriage registrar of the incorporated Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Ottawa– “marrying Andy” as he jokingly used to call himself. It was an atypical location for a wedding: a 19th century, grey-stoned farm house, owned by my sister Mary Lou and her husband, set close to the gravel road, on a sheep farm in Mallorytown, a village outside Brockville. But it was all a couple of university students could afford. I was standing in the driveway, when Andy and Helen pulled up. Andy, as you’ll recall, being a tall man, favoured the larger car, usually the four door sedan. Out they got, looking quite ready and prepared for the occasion. Andy was wearing his dark blue suit, pale blue shirt and large geometric blue and red tie, and black-rimmed glasses. His hair was still quite black in those days. Helen was looking smartly elegant. It was an act of service that Andy was to perform many times throughout his lifetime. So Andy is fixed there in the hearts of many Bahá’í couples, associated with one of the happiest moments of their lives.
When Andy became a Bahá’í in 1953, he had to make a few personal sacrifices. There are relatively few laws in the Bahá’í Faith regulating personal conduct, but as you know, one of the sacrifices Andy had to make was to abstain from drinking alcohol. Now Bahá’ís are not Puritans. We swim, we dance, we laugh, we play sports, we even play cards. Truly, we love life, and we don’t object to other people drinking. It’s just that it’s not for us. But he told me himself—and I still remember clearly his very words, which he spoke with a chuckle and a smile: “I used to have my elbow in the suds quite a bit in those days.” His pre-Bahá’í days, of course. But once that decision was made, there was no looking back. What for other people might have been a deprivation, or an obstacle, something that put a damper on their social life, or their personal freedom, was for him something that he gladly accepted for the greater good that the Bahá’í Faith brought to his life, and to the lives of others—no apologies, no regrets.
When I think of Andy’s many, fine qualities, I think above all of his integrity, his wonderful sense of humour, with his ready laugh, his steadfastness, his strong sense of duty. As the years rolled by, I would always check to see if Andy’s signature was still on the tax receipt issued for contributions to the Bahá’í Fund. When I read the initials and the name, C.S. Andrews Treasurer, “Andy’s still at it,” I thought. How many thousands of times did Andy sign his own name on tax receipts? How many fund reports did he give, both to the Local Assembly and to the community? How many annual treasurer’s reports did he write? How many budgets did he prepare in consultation with the Assembly? And then, we cannot forget his efforts during the 19 Day Feast, when he educated the friends in the spiritual dynamics of giving to the Fund, through the telling of inspirational stories. And we cannot forget the main lesson of those stories: it’s not the amount, but the sincere spirit of sacrifice that counts in giving. It’s not really about the money, but the treasure of a person’s heart. As his health gradually declined, and Andy entered his sunset years, we could see that strong signature gradually changing, but you felt that same strong spirit was still there, that same dedication and determination. And practically, to the very last day of life, last Thursday, the 17th, in his 87th year, Andy and Helen, assisted Fakhrodin Ziaei with the careful administration of the Fund, being anxious, concerned and careful to his last breath.
Like many human beings, Andy had great patience for some things, and little patience for others. He had little patience for nonsense, and he didn’t suffer fools gladly. But he was required to show great patience, a few years ago, by suffering through and surviving the severe sepsis attack he endured, which required hospitalization at the Bruyere Centre and a long convalescence. We were grateful then, and we are grateful now, that Divine Providence spared Andy a few more years. Battle-scarred though he was, he miraculously survived, and the veteran entered his grace period. We knew it, and we cherished every encounter.
During these last few years, when Andy was no longer able to do what he once did, we sensed that he was still with us, being the towering witness, the faithful servant, watching and participating as best as he could, in the spiritual life of his community, contributing what he could to the very last day. Andy bore witness, a trustworthy and reliable witness, of one who had seen many things and had done many things, and who was there to encourage you, even when he said nothing.
My time is up. I close by saying: “Thank you Helen for granting me the honour of being one of those to pay tribute to your dear husband today. It’s been a privilege I cherish”
“O Lord, glorify his station, shelter him under the pavilion of Thy supreme mercy, cause him to enter Thy glorious paradise, and perpetuate his existence in Thine exalted rose garden, that he may plunge into the sea of light in the world of mysteries.” (Abdu’l-Bahá)
- Jack McLean