Can a time of mourning also serve as a time of celebration?
Andrew Lawson passed away before his 28th birthday. He was born with Down syndrome, but he was defined by what he achieved and who he was, not by a disability. That was reflected in the many ways he was included in the Norwell community.
I got to know him over the years. I appreciated Andrew’s warm, engaging personality as he played basketball and volunteered at Play on the Parquet with his dad, Jim. He lived in the South Shore where I had spent a good portion of my life and career.
What I didn’t know about Andrew was the impact he had within his community. Hundreds of people attended his wake on Valentines’ day evening. There were scores of young people, as Andrew was the assistant coach at the high school. In the age of Twitter and Instagram, they waited in line for up two hours. The young people included those who were in Andrew’s high school class and some who had played on the basketball team with him, as he had been included there too. A young man ahead of us in line had played with him in 2008, and said, “he touched so many lives.”
The social inclusion reflected at the wake and funeral was something to behold. It started with a young man, his family and their commitment, but it didn’t stop there. It included the day care that accepted him, the teachers who understood that he would learn, the coaches who embraced his ability, the students who became his friends, and so many others.
The loss is still there, and the sadness with it, but Andrew’s life is one to be celebrated.
Leo V. Sarkissian