About 10 years ago when I bought a Toyota from Weiss Toyota, who was a sponsor at the time, the finance guy at Weiss recognized my name and we realized we had crossed paths decades before in Columbia, MO. We actually used to live right across the street from each other and no doubt enjoyed some adult beverages and maybe a few other intoxicants together. His name was Andrew Barton and we knew a lot of the same people.
I never saw him again until about four years ago at a concert that a friend of mine was putting on to benefit a great organization here in St. Louis called Angels Arms which does an amazing job with foster kids. He re-introduced himself and I instantly remembered him from the time I bought the car, but he looked dramatically different. He told me right off the bat that he had been diagnosed with cancer and probably didn’t have too much time left, so he quit his job and made a commitment to himself to start doing the things he loved as much as possible. What Andy loved most was fishing, so he fished, and fished…and fished some more.
Maybe just a quick correction about the fishing…he loved getting out there with a rod and reel, but in these past few years there’s maybe nothing he loved more than his new wife Bess Wilfong who ran that charity I mentioned above. Here’s what’s crazy, Bess and Andrew knew each other for decades. They were in band and orchestra together in high school, went to prom together (as friends) and both attended Mizzou. They hadn’t been in touch for years and were both married and divorced, but after Andrew posted on Facebook that he had terminal cancer Bess reached out and they reconnected. Bess remembers at one point asking Andrew “What am I doing falling in love with a man who will be dying soon?” Andrew’s response was, “When love finds a way into your life and so many opportunities are presented to you, you gotta live and be happy.” Bess and Andrew got married.
For the past few years I’ve gone on several trips to Todos Santos, Mexico with a group of people and Andrew and Bess were on those trips, so I really got a chance to know them both.
He was an inspiration because he never backed down from his promise to himself to live his life to the fullest for the remainder of his time on the planet. His philosophy was, anything can happen to anyone at any time and FEAR shouldn’t be involved in our decisions to live life.
Andrew’s birthday was this past Thursday, and he took his last breath later that day. He outlived his prognosis by almost three years. His final years serve as a reminder to me and all of us to not put off the things in life you really want to do and accomplish.