Who is Andrew Jacob?
The inspiration behind the vision
To us, Andrew was a son, a brother, and a friend; to others, a grandson, an uncle, a nephew and a cousin. However, Andrew was so much more than his position in the family tree. Andrew was very loving and very much loved. He was kind-hearted, gentle, honest, loyal, supportive, and proud of his loved ones. Andrew’s heart was made of gold and his radiant smile not only illuminated his entire face, but an entire room. When Andrew was happy, we were happy. Although often reserved and soft spoken, Andrew’s presence spoke volumes and his sarcastic humour evoked much laughter.
Andrew was always incredibly sensitive to the needs of others. He was compassionate, generous, and selfless. He volunteered his time fundraising for international charities, organizing events, socializing with seniors, as well as donating much of his own funds towards a children’s charity. Andrew never hesitated to lend a helping hand to a family member or friend, and he had a solution to any problem. He was our go-to guy–he was completely dependable, willing to conquer any task and offer helpful suggestions. Andrew genuinely cared about the well-being of others; he always inquired and was always concerned. He most often deflected attention from himself and offered full engagement toward others. He was especially attentive to his niece and nephew–he handled them very delicately, desiring their love and affection.
Andrew was unbelievably driven, wise beyond his years and well-educated. His intelligence became apparent at the early age of two when he could already spell three-letter words, and later as an older child when he taught himself to play the piano by ear. He graduated with Honours from secondary school, post-secondary college and university. He obtained an Advanced Diploma in Finance, an Honours Bachelor of Commerce Degree in Law and Business, and a Canadian Securities Certificate. He had a wide array of work experience with an extensive resume, and he aspired to work in a successful financial institution. He was an entrepreneur and businessman at heart: he excelled in everything he tried. He had many big dreams and ambitions, accomplishing so much in his short life.
Although Andrew’s heart was so abundant in love, and the well components of his mind overflowed with intellect, the unwell components of his mind were plagued by mental illness. At the age of 15, Andrew was diagnosed with depression, and he courageously battled it for over 11 years. For periods of time, he was consistent with taking his medication but as the negative side effects affected his quality of life or as he thought he was feeling better, he would stop taking it. He was extremely dedicated to his wellness and he made very healthy lifestyle changes. He also put forth as much effort as he could muster into his relationships with his loved ones and with God. Andrew fought very hard to be happy. Most of his friends and colleagues were blindsided by the news of his illness because he braved the outside world with a bright, smiling face. By the end of the day; however, he was exhausted from keeping up the brave face. As his family, we felt helpless in the frightening face of his mental illness as we watched it take control and hold him captive during the dark and turbulent times. We became dependent upon his health and happiness: it consumed us. While trying to support him, we offered everything within our means. We did everything by the book and could have checked all the items on the ‘do’ list. However, after all our efforts, Andrew’s illness proved to be much stronger than any of us. It robbed him of his full capacity to experience hope, love, acceptance and value. It magnified his feelings of worthlessness, emptiness and rejection in his day-to-day living as a gay man and as a Christian.
Andrew expressed that he did not even feel worthy of God’s love and therefore, he may have also experienced a personal struggle with his self-identity. At the age of 19, Andrew confided with us that he was gay. Instantly, a visible weight seemed to be lifted from his shoulders. We welcomed the news with loving, open arms and were extremely relieved that he could finally share such a significant aspect of his life with us. We embraced Andrew and told him that nothing would ever change our love for him. He encouraged our thoughts and questions and we sat and talked openly about his thoughts and questions. The tears shed during those moments were those from the realization of the pain and hardship he had endured and of the struggle he would continue to face within our society and within our Christian community. Andrew asked us not to share his sexual orientation with anyone as he needed more time to prepare for possible judgement and also to reinforce his own self-acceptance. It wasn’t until several years later that Andrew informed us that he was comfortable with his news being shared with family and close friends. Andrew found his niche in a big city university and with his close-knit group of friends. They always thought he was comfortable and happy with his identity. His actions at home showed otherwise. Andrew gradually became more introverted and the information he willingly shared about his life and relationships became very limited despite the encouragement from the family and our longing to know more about him.
As Andrew’s mental illness intensified, his self-esteem deteriorated; he withdrew from us even more, and the countless possibilities at his fingertips were kept from his grasp. He spiraled deeper into his dark pit with no strength left to grip the hands that were reaching for him or to clutch onto any thread of hope. Andrew’s dreams and aspirations of a bright future were stolen from him when he was defeated by pain and despair so great that he could no longer bear its weight. In May of 2013, at the young age of 26, Andrew died by suicide. The Lord called him home from his pain and suffering to his final resting place–to the eternal peace he was searching for.
As this piece of his life story illustrates, Andrew was so much more than his mental illness or his sexual orientation; he was a real person struggling with real challenges. He was our beloved son, brother and friend. He was a precious gift sent by God not only to us but to many other people whose paths he crossed. The lives of all who knew him are richer because of it.
Andrew is and will be greatly missed forever. His legacy will live on through the Andrew Jacob Memorial Foundation.