Andrew Rhodes Bourland died this morning around 7 am, in Reading, Massachusetts.
Andy, you will be sorely missed by your family, friends and colleagues.
Andrew Rhodes Bourland died this morning around 7 am, in Reading, Massachusetts.
Andy, you will be sorely missed by your family, friends and colleagues.
Tonight I was told it is only a matter of a couple of days. I wanted you, his friends and colleagues, to know this. It would have been wonderful if Andrew could have corresponded with those of you who have written these last several weeks, as I know he would want to express his gratitude. Your words of support and care have meant so much to his family, and of course to him.
One of Andrew’s most admired traits was his insistence upon writing back to the people who wrote to him for advice. He answered every email, and once upon a time that was a mountain a day! He also took time to speak to those who approached him at conferences. He felt it was what one should do…reach out and give a hand to help the next person. He never understood why some chose to hide behind their success or to keep themselves apart. He took the responsibility seriously, and never for a moment felt it was his destiny or his right to be successful. He worked hard, more often than not obsessively so. His humility is very genuine.
In the past week his decline has been quite dramatic and surprisingly quick. While we knew this was coming, it still feels shocking. His children have arrived, so I will close now.
Thank you all for your support. I know his spirit will live on in the hearts of those who knew him and were his friends.
Jeanne Walker Bourland
The spoken word is remembered only for so long; after a while it begins to lose pieces here and there. The written word is with you for as long as you choose to keep it.
Although Southerners are known to be the very best story tellers, I am from a long line of letter writers…generations of letters have been shared and passed down. From these exchanges, and through the receiving our own, we learned the art of communicating through the written word. In an old lockbox on the floor of our closet sits all the letters my father wrote to me throughout my life, until he died 10 years ago last month. Whenever I need to talk with my father, I open the box, sit on our bed and re-read his words. Simple words of the daily goings on in my hometown when I was away at summer camp - letters of encouragement when I went to boarding school half way across the country from my family, a fish out-of-water in the cold northeast - letters of support when I entered college in Boston to study something that was my passion and gift, but would earn me very little once I was out in the real world - letters of advice and filled with love when I entered into marriage at the tender, innocent age of 24 - letters of joy and pride each time I brought a child into the world - the final letters of confusion and sadness while ALS took him away from us.
It is late evening as I write to you a second time. Andrew is sleeping, as he had been all day, seemingly peaceful under his down comforter. It is hard to fathom where we sit today. The girls spent the afternoon and early evening here, keeping their minds busy with assignments for school. However hard it is to be here and see him like this, they are drawn to share with him as much as they can. One or more of my step-children are here nearly every single day, spending precious time with their dad.
Weeks ago Andrew and I began talking about, and planning for, his funeral. It may seem morbid, but he has been adamant that everything be taken care of now so I would not have to think of anything when the time came. As a son of a retired minister, it is on the liturgy that he focuses; I tend to think about the music. It seems there is more to it than that.
Many people have told me they would like to share their story of Andrew, and have asked are we “planning time for that during the service?” Where I come from, this is not part of the ritual. The priest or preacher gives an eulogy, but no one gets up and shares. That comes later with food and drink flowing. As I have learned living and worshiping here in Andover, my experience is uncommon. People want to share - during the service.
I have to admit - there has been something cathartic in sharing about Andrew. Although ours has been a very quiet life together with our children and a small group of our friends, I have really enjoyed being in communication with you, his friends and colleagues - some from years passed and others new. Andrew has told me stories about many of you, and when I read your words of response I feel as if I know you. I am beginning to understand why people want to share.
From the importance of the written word to the need to share at funerals…where in the world is this woman going?
I wondered how I might be able to remember the stories people wanted to share of Andrew, in order for our children (his youngest 14 and mine just 12) to hear again and again as they age…so they might, in time, tell his grandchildren about him. Then I remembered my lockbox of letters…the written word. So I began to think about a book, of sorts, for our children of the things people might share at a funeral. After talking about the idea with some of our friends here, I began to receive notes, sharing some funny or loving tale of Roger, Hannah and Ashley’s dad and my girls’ stepfather. Thus the book was born.
I plan to take the stories and have them bound for the children. When they want to talk to him, I want them to be able to sit down and re-read stories of the man he was - not just a father, husband, brother, and son, but also as a colleague and friend. Andrew loved his life in your world. He enjoyed tremendously the back and forth exchange of ideas.
There have been many of you who have written responses on this blog and through personal emails, each and everyone so thoughtful and kind. I would welcome the opportunity to put your words into my book. If any of you feel so inclined, please let me know - via firstname.lastname@example.org - what you would like to share with Andrew’s family - present and future.
I hope this finds each of you well and healthy, and feeling blessed in your lives as we do in ours. Family and friends is what it is all about…the rest is just background noise.
Peace…and thank you.
Before I start, I should introduce myself. I am Andrew’s wife, Jeanne. I have been asked by both Andrew and his brother Bo to write a post for the blog for some time now.
To be honest, this whole experience has become very private and personal for me, for us, and it is hard to think about writing to all of you, most of whom I have never met. I know how much writing meant to Andrew…it was one of his greatest gifts and there are so few who have such a distinctive and honest voice. His writing has always been so easy to read and fall into. I am proud of the fact that there are so many of you who have followed his work for years, far longer than I have known him, and keep coming back to see what he has to say.
So here I am now, opening myself up to communicating with all of you for Andrew. He wants me to do this as he can no longer write. He is leaving us bit by bit, day by day.
You all know him as a writer and businessman. He is my husband and friend. Here are just a few of the things he wanted me to share.
On Monday, 16 February Andrew and I will have known each other seven years. We met at Target in Salem, NH. He always loves to tell people I picked him up on the discount aisle at Target. Actually a mutual friend introduced us purely by accident, and neither one of us were looking for a relationship. I was just four months into the separation from my former husband, and Andrew was in a sad and painful place, having ended an important relationship three days earlier which had defined his life for several years. He had vowed to take space to be alone - what man really does that? - and try to figure out who he was and where he was going.
It was the oddest thing. We met and he began to tell me his life story…something I normally am loathed to hear from someone I just met. It just began to fall out of him…it was bizarre. I remember standing there thinking, who is this guy? Yet, I was drawn to his extreme openness, honesty and his story which was rather fascinating, to say the least…filled with challenges, hard work, disappointment, fear and failure, tremendous success and a lot of pain mixed with a great sense of humor. Then there was that killer smile. Frankly, it blew me away. I have met many charming men before and was married to one of the most charming, therefore I tend to stand off from those who try. I am way too smart for that.
Thing is, he wasn’t even trying to charm me. Standing there in the middle of Target spilling your guts - way TMI - is not how one goes about charming another person. It was as if he could not help himself. His eyes shown so bright and blue; I was just pulled right in. When he got to the part about his pace-maker (which was implanted December 1998), I instinctively reached out to touched his heart…and I can tell you that is so NOT in my character to be that forward after knowing someone for a mere 20 mins. I could not help myself. And when I touched him I knew I would know him a very long time.
In the seven years we have known each other, four and a half of them married, we have lived a life time together; we have experienced what most couples experience after 30 or 50 years. It has been oddly wonderful and sadly perfect in many ways. My 12 year old daughter asked me today if I were still glad I married Andrew, now that he is leaving us and I was so sad. And I replied, “Oh Yes.” “Mommy…I just wish he didn’t have to go away.” That is how we all feel. We simply cannot believe he must leave us. It feels unreal, yet we see him dying in front of us…but it seems as if it were a dream sometimes.
That man has brought more laughter into my life, and more unpredictable fun, than I have ever known at any time in my life before. In spite of the illness, which started a mere eight months after we met, our time together has been the best of my life, not with standing the birth of each of my daughters. I only wish I could have learned to be witty and quick like Andrew. He always tells me he loves my full contact form of living and it just delights and inspires him, and while he finds me quite funny, I am not quick witted. I guess that was where the opposites attracted. Mostly we are similar. We are both grounded in home and family; both from large families and understand that pack mentality…although he is the middle child and I the right on target youngest. We share a love of great films, theater and music, especially chamber music. And each of us were voracious readers…he can longer sustain the attention to read, and my mind cannot be still long enough to get through a chapter, much less an entire book. I fill my time with things that can take my mind off of what is happening to him.
He decided he wanted to date me, be with only me, in March ‘02 after spending a month being my movie buddy. He was kind of dating people but not seriously…he was having fun. I would haven none of that, yet we became emotionally tied. We talked almost daily, sometimes for hours, and he got me hooked on email. He set up a whole “love is hard” movie theme for us which led to hours upon hours of discussion and analysis. That day in March we walked his dog through Phillips Academy and I shot two roles of film of him with his fancy camera. He told me the next day he knew he was going into things too quickly, but what the hell…it had to be me. He decided he wanted to marry me one day in June of ‘03 when he came outside the house and found me digging in the garden, dirty as all get out with mud smeared on my face. He would tell me this a week or two later when we were out for dinner. I laughed and told him I did not believe him. He said, “you’ll see”…and I did. He proposed to me in front of all six of our children on Christmas Eve night ‘03 just before serving us the dinner he had been working on most of the day. He placed a beautiful ring inside the left pocket of the gorgeous leather coat he gave me. After my initial shock of finding the ring and the embarrassment of the whole thing in public, he got down on one knee and asked me to spend the rest of my life with him…to be his wife and live our lives together, all eight of us. We married in the back garden of our home on 4 September ‘04 in the late afternoon, surrounded by our children, our parents and a very small handful of friends who had been with us throughout our courtship. They stood with us to show their support of our union, and everyone laughed and cried, and we felt elated. He has told me often he has never known anyone like me. I can say the same about him.
Before and after we married we spent many hours sitting in front of the fire in our home, drinking red wine and talking openly about our lives - the past before we met, the present here and now, and where life would take us in the future. We thought we would have a long future together and made many lovely plans.
We poured over cook books, where he would find exactly what he wanted to prepare for me, and for our family, and was the hit of the kitchen. He loved to work at a meal with either me (or one of the girls, usually Elinor) as his assistant and took such great pride in his gift to us of a fabulous meal. We adored decorating for Christmas and watched the lights on the tree night after night. He would get so tickled when I went all out and prepared for Halloween, buying the really terrifying music to scare the “you know what” out of the kids who came to trick or treat at our old, darkened house. Birthdays were always a time for celebrating and planning the person’s favorite meal and cake. Getting all six of the children together was not always easy, but he felt very strongly about doing it all together and so we did.
Our summers were spent sitting on the front porch, drinking wine after I had been digging, planting, weeding and tending to the garden we both loved and adored. In the center sits a sundial with Browning’s quote, “grow old along with me; the best is yet to be.” Andrew gave that to me shortly after we married. The children and I looked forward to the nights, into the fall, when Andrew would grill delicious dinners for us…steak, chicken, corn and vegetables… and we would eat out back by candle light, laughing and enjoying each other. We spent time in the summer at Balston Beach, a place sacred to the girls and me since 1998. Andrew and his children are lake folk, yet he tried to be a great sport about adopting our love of the ocean and the cape…the quiet little artistic town and the little shack buried behind the dunes where we stayed with my now 84 year old aunt. When he was there, he and Gaga would sit, reading the NY Times each morning, and save the puzzle for the afternoon at the beach…they were quite the team. Being almost allergic to the sun, Andrew would spend only late day hours at the beach with us under the umbrella. He was the official photographer, and loved our annual cookouts on the beach with hot dogs and sausages - which he was not suppose to eat! We spent the winters huddled by the fire reading, talking, and listening to music or up in our room - the sacred haven - huddled under the comforter watching movies from Netflix. One of his favorite days is Thanksgiving, when the local feaster five runs right past our home. We always gathered with our coffee to watch the runners, sometimes on the front porch, others inside the family room where the large window looks right out over the street. He adored watching the people run by with their dogs and children. He was happiest watching the first snow fall or falling asleep listening to the rain.
Andrew is skin and bones now, nearly unable to hold his glass of ice water, or utensils to eat. He can no longer walk, and some of his joints are beginning to ache. He sleeps 80% of the day and has started to get confused at times. Conversation is a great strain on him, as he knows exactly what he wants to say but finding the words has grown painfully difficult. He is the favorite among all the nurses and other families there visiting their own loved ones…when he first arrived at the hospice house in Reading, he would walk about, getting to know others and their families. His time with us is limited now and coming to an end.
This is what I want to share with you…he has taken this journey with great dignity and grace. He has stayed strong in the face of death and dying. He has loved his family and friends well, but now he is ready to go. He has been a wonderful, loving and supportive husband, and a great and darling confidant and friend. He serves as a role model to his children, and mine, on how a person should live his life with integrity and generosity. Andrew Rhodes Bourland is a lovely man. He will be sorely missed by all of us for the rest of our lives.
Hi folks, this is Roger Bourland, Andy’s older brother. I’m out spending the holidays with family, but mostly to spend some time with Andy. In that you have not heard from him for a while, I am taking the liberty of updating you on his status.
Andy is in the hospice now and happy to be there. It is a beautiful place with a wonderful staff. On Sunday, we had a birthday party for his daughter, Hannah. It was a typical Bourland party: rowdy, fun, loving, good food, and merriment. Andy was in great spirits. He had many pictures taken with the family. After a few hours his energy dwindled and he went to take a nap. The family cleaned up and left the hospice. I apologized to one of the nurses for being so noisy and she assured me that it was not a problem and was happy to have had us there for him. This week, smaller groups have gone to visit. A small group went on Sunday to watch the game. Yesterday, he needed the day to regain some energy so we left him alone to rest. Today my husband and I will go over and bring “It’s a Wonderful Life,” one of his favorite movies, and watch it with him. Tomorrow, New Years Eve, a few of us will go over to celebrate the New Year.
Several of us have urged him to do a few more posts. He seemed a little nervous about doing it “being the perfectionist that I am” and as blogging takes sustained mental energy, he fatigues easily these days. So, I’m hoping to help him in this process by proofreading his posts, or being his faithful scribe. Whatever the outcome will be, I’ll keep his readers up to date.
He was deeply, deeply moved by the warm responses you all have given him on his recent posts. Our family thanks you for your outpouring of appreciation and concern for him.
As a part of my effort to be prepared for the worst as I hope for the best, I’ve been under home hospice care for the past month and a half.
In my case, home hospice care means I have a visiting nurse coming by about 3 times a week, checking on my health status, taking all my vitals and talking to me for a while about how I’m doing. It also means that I get a weekly visit from the hospice social worker, who helps me to identify, understand and make decisions on a variety of really complex issues.
This past week, my social worker (Celeste) came by to discuss one issue that I thought was rather cut and dry, but proved to be a whole lot more complex.
… and that is, whether I would prefer to die at home or in their Hospice House.
Well, I thought that was a pretty simple issue when she brought it up, and told her that when I am in decline and dying, I would of course want to be at home, surrounded by my loved ones.
Good enough, said Celeste, but we’ll probably need to bring in a hospital bed so that you can be properly cared for. Any idea on where in the house it ought to go?
My wife and I bounced around some options and finally concluded that we could set up my hospital bed on the first floor (Celeste is concerned about me going up and down the stairs) in what is now our TV room.
But there’s a rub…
My son and 3 stepdaughters like to catch up on their TV watching on weekends, and there would be no place for them to sit, nor would I even want to be around while the stepdaughters watch those teenage situation comedies they are inexplicably drawn to. We figured a workaround for that (the kids could watch the TV in the master bedroom, since I won’t be there anyway).
But then there we realized that if you put me in a first floor room, I have no access to a shower or bath. Hmmm… OK, we’re going to have to think about that some more.
Another, rather odd issue occurred to me: if I were to die in the TV room, would the kids be creeped out or concerned that my spirit may be lurking in the room.
At about that time, my stepdaughter Elinor (15) arrived home from school, so I asked her how she would feel about the TV room were I to die in there.
Oh yes, she answered immediately, I’d be totally creeped out and wouldn’t want to go in there for at least a month.
So I wasn’t too far off the path by surmising that that would be a problem.
Do you have arrangements made to have friends or family with you during the days when Jeanne is at work? With her new job, after all, she’ll be a 45 minute drive away 9 hours per day.
Well, the only relative nearby is my daughter, Ashley (28) who works full time and would also be a good 45 minute drive away.
And all of our friends work. Most, a good distance away from here. So that’s not an option. There’s a woman (a retired nurse) who lives down the street from me and is always around, so that’s a fallback option, but we haven’t spoken with her in over a year.
Now I’m investigating the Hospice House option, as the home option (when my health starts going into the final decline) seems to be fraught with problems.
But without Celeste, and her loving courage to ask and flesh out the implications of the tough questions, I might have gone merrily along my way only to find myself in a real bind when I need help the most.
There’s a special place in heaven for people like Celeste.
Many of you who know me might have noticed that I have not been around much over the past six months. Prior to that, you may have seen me at various marketing conferences and events. There’s a reason I’ve pretty well disappeared from the scene. I’m living with a chronic illness that will take my life anywhere from a few months to a couple of years from now.
For some background…
Back in 1998, I passed out on an exercise machine at a health club, wound up spending the next week in Lahey Clinic in Burllngton, MA as they gave me one test after the other to determine, finally, that I was suffering from cardiomyopathy. What caused my cardiomyopathy was still in question, but at least they knew what it was. They prescribed some medication for me, installed a brand spankin’ new pacemaker in my chest, and sent me on my way…
Flash forward 4 years to October 27th, 2002. That morning, while doing a strenuous Tai Kwan Do workout with my girlfriend (now my wife) Jeanne and my daughter Hannah, I experience a sudden loss of all strength in my body and felt light headed and dizzy. I tried to walk it off to no avail. What I didn’t know at that moment was that I was in the process of having my first of three heart attacks that day.
Jeanne drove me down to Lahey’s emergency room and, after many hours of negotiating our way through a series of runarounds and incomprehensible delays, when my second heart attack started kicking in, they finally started to do something to help me.
That night, in order to save my life, my cardiologist, Dr. David Martin and my thoracic surgeon, Dr. Richard D’Agostino performed emergency quadruple bypass surgery. It was during that surgery that the doctors discovered the cause of my heart problems: one half of my heart was severely burned (leaving it black and leathery, very inflexible) due to 14 weeks of high intensity radiation treatments back in 1973 when I was being treated for testicular cancer.
Apparently, the burns affected me all the way from my groin to my left shoulder, which caused damage to all my organs in between. So we finally had a diagnosis for my original cardiomyopathy, it was called radiation induced cardiomyopathy.
So a treatment that saved my life back when I was 18 years old was the cause of my heart disease — which will ultimately kill me — some 30 years later.
When I came out of surgery, the doctors were very pessimistic, feeling I wouldn’t leave the hospital alive. Indeed, it took me a long time to recover, and I was never the same afterwards.
A few weeks later I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, which means my heart doesn’t pump strongly enough to pump blood to all my organs. It also results in a lot of swelling in my legs, ankles, feet, and most recently my belly (my belly looks like I’m several months pregnant — all of it is heart failure related fluid) which I can’t get rid of no matter what I do.
In the ensuing six years, I’ve been hospitalized dozens of times for a variety of heart failure related maladies. Each hospitalization has taken it’s toll: I’ve gotten progressively sicker and weaker with every hospital stay.
One of the problems that surface for advanced heart failure patients is a low Albumin count, which is known in medical circles as Hypoalbuminemia. Albumin is a protein produced by your liver which functions to convert the nutrients you take in into muscle and good things your body needs to function.
A normal Albumin count is around 5. You’re considered to have a low Albumin count at 3.2. My albumin count (since we’ve been tracking it beginning in January of 2007) has ranged from 1.4 to 1.9. Those are dangerously low levels. It’s not a sufficient level to support life. In my case, it translates into a severe level of malnutrition. Though I eat food, it doesn’t convert to the nutrients and other good things my body needs to survive. So I’m literally starving to death. If you saw me, I’m emaciated (with the exception of my aforementioned swollen belly. For that reason, I’m prone to wearing baggy pants and sweaters, so it’s not obvious to people who come by for a visit. I don’t want to freak them out.
So, coming full circle, I have two factors working against my living more than a year or two: congestive heart failure and a dangerously low level of Albumin.
Generally, if a person is suffering from terminal cancer or kidney disease, a doctor seeing a low Albumin count like mine will shorten their prognosis significantly. It means they are dying.
But up until fairly recently, there had been no research on heart failure combined with low albumin counts. I came across a research abstract on Google last night that talked about just that.
It’s pretty dense reading, but let me translate it for you.
The UCLA Cardiomyopathy Center studied a group of 1726 patients with advanced heart failure. They split them up into two groups, one which was comprised of CHF patients with normal (3.4 and above) albumin levels and one with Hypoalbuminemia (below 3.4). They tracked their one year survival rate, and the patients with normal levels of albumin had an 83% survival rate, while those with Hypoalbuminemia had a 66% survival rate. Over a period of 5 years, those with Hypoalbuminemia are 2.2 times more likely to die from heart failure than those with normal albumin levels.
So heart failure and Hypoalbuminemia are a deadly combination, which is why my medical team concluded I’ve got anywhere from several months to two years to survive.
I’ve outlived pessimistic prognostications several times over the years, and I plan to live every day as a healthy person rather than playing the role of the sick patient waiting to die. I don’t give up that easily.
Nevertheless, I’m very weak, have very little strength, can’t walk a full city block, haven’t been able to work in many months, and have great difficulty eating more than a very small portion of food at any given time without getting very full.
I’m prepared for the worst but hoping for the best.
Should my time be short, I’m at peace with that too. I’ve lived a great life, have had many wonderful blessings, have been able to touch many lives and have no lingering regrets or unfinished business.
If it’s my time to go, I go in peace.
If you happen to know someone who knows me, I hope you will feel free to send them a link to this article to update them on my health and my future.
I’d love to read any comments you want to leave, and will be happy to respond to any questions you might have.
Thanks for following this overly long blog entry…