Andrew Sylvester Haggenmiller was born Sept. 6, 2013, at the Buffalo Hospital; and died Friday, July 6, 2018, at the age of 4 years and 10 months, after he bravely, and somewhat benevolently, lived with cancer for the 15 months prior. Between those dates, he lived a full, happy life that would be the envy of most 100-year-olds.
Andrew is survived by his parents, Nicholas and Victoria; and brother Henry, of Howard Lake. Just as importantly, he is survived by grandparents LeRoy and Lori Haeuser (Mequon, WI), Tom Tessar (Portage, WI) and Greggory and Susan Haggenmiller (St. Peter); his great grandparents; aunts; uncles; and cousins, that we’re blessed to note are too plentiful to list.
Andrew is further survived by hundreds of friends, medical and care providers, teachers, and well-wishers, that surrounded him until and through the end all of whom loved him and sought to make his time fun, rich, and selfishly longer. They succeeded, and we are forever grateful.
Andrew assumed many professions and vocations in his short life including firefighter, police officer, teacher, student of life, son, brother, nephew, grandson, friend, skillful negotiator, boastful performer, and most often, a farmer.
Somewhere to “the left, right, then straight” of “here,” Andrew had 11 imaginary farms. After visiting his aunt and uncle’s goat farm, we surmised, by our best assessment, these farms were primarily crop farms, and do not smell “crappy.”
He had at least one employee, Speedy. Speedy, again by our best assessment, is his imaginary 14-year-old son, who has a brother named Henry (not related), a driver’s license, and is charged with the day-to-day responsibilities of the 11 farms.
Andrew loved maps, compasses, ornate keys, to-do-lists, and instructions of all kinds. The common thread is softly beautiful. They’re all forward-facing, self-guided means of learning, discovery, curiosity, and independence.
Andrew was a prolific problem solver. When faced with a perplexing problem or task, it was not long before he would proclaim, “Wait, I have an idea . . .” and follow with an unnecessarily complex explanation or solution to an otherwise simple problem.
Whether spotting the fantastically rare, or a simple tuft of hair out of place, he would say “Hmm, how odd.” His vocabulary and word choice was inexplicably advanced.
Andrew’s enviable traits included being both practical and passionate. When kissed, he would aggressively wipe it off. Andrew would insist he was “wiping it in, not off.” After catching on to this, his poppa suggested putting extra kisses in his pocket. Andrew countered with making sure his pockets were full at all times.
In January of 2016, Andrew became a big brother to Henry Harland. From this day forward, until nearly the end, Andrew took this role seriously and considered himself a protector, caregiver, and most importantly, best friend to his little brother.
Towards the end, these roles would reverse. At a particularly vulnerable time during the throes of chemotherapy treatments, Henry witnessed his big brother being pinned to the ground by a boy during a playdate. With one hand he continued to drink his chocolate milk, and with the other he casually tore the boy off Andrew, flinging him to the ground effortlessly.
As Andrew grew weaker, Henry grew stronger emotionally and would help by giving pills, bringing toys to the bed, caressing Andrew’s hair, and ultimately asking to go to heaven with him.
Andrew began preschool Sept. 5, 2017, at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School. Andrew loved school for his compassionate teachers and playing with friends, but most of all, the structure and literal learning. Every new discovery, academically-related or otherwise, would be credited by Andrew to his teachers and school.
But don’t misunderstand. Andrew wasn’t perfect. He performed best in being faulted . . . being with disease.
Andrew approached everything with the diplomacy of a charismatic world leader, the strategy of a professional chess player, and the fury of a hurricane, while maintaining the whimsy of a 4-year-old boy. Cancer was no different.
After an excruciatingly long and difficult diagnosis, treatment began. Andrew was up for the challenge. At his strongest, he treated cancer like one of the countless adventures he would take with his mom, brother, and Mom’s Club friends during the day. At his weakest, he treated cancer like a box to check before returning to playing or something of his immediate choosing.
They say the first thing to go in cancer and the hardest to get back is your sense of humor. After regressing back into a pull-up for the first time in over three years, Andrew would frequently pose the question “Hey guys? Am I in a pull-up?” We would confirm, and he would interject quickly “Whoo.”
As the procedures and treatment became more invasive and continuous, his spirit never dissipated. He trusted his mom, dad, and medical team and would always, albeit reluctantly, take the next step, put on the next gown, or swallow the last pill.
Andrew’s final days were eventful and emotional. Unable to communicate for himself, Vicki feared that he would be afraid, and refused to sleep or stop telling him that she loved him. Despite this, he managed not once, but three times, to lift his hand and with his pointer finger extended, tap Vicki’s chest in response as she said “I love you, Andrew.”
Andrew’s final hours were wrapped in his mom’s arms, in a final acknowledgement of being Victoria’s “Little Puzzle Piece.” He was surrounded by those that loved him most while his brother, cousins and friends danced and played lightly in our front yard.
There will be a Celebration of Life Friday, July 13 from 1 to 4 p.m., followed by a service, with a concluding meal of Andrew’s favorite foods. All will take place at St. Francis Xavier School (219 19th Street NW, Buffalo MN 55313), and all friends and family are welcome.
This will not be traditional; there will be no visitation, as the physical part we loved most and later sought to “cure” has been donated to advance research.
This will not be formal. Playgrounds should be put to work; little boys should belch or fart and then laugh loudly. Tears, emotion, and stories of how Andrew impacted your life are abundantly sought. Cheese curds and pizza will be eaten.
In lieu of flowers and if resources allow, consider bringing a donation of a toy or book that will be taken to Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis. In lieu of money to our family, please donate to whatever charitable organization you choose. Bonus points if that charity happens to be The Roberts Center for Pediatric Research at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Above all else, here are a few suggestions to celebrate Andrew’s life: hug your mom, greet your neighbor with exuberance, pet a puppy, dance while singing a Beatles song in the middle of a crowded airport terminal, take detailed meeting minutes, craft a to-do-list, debate politics or ruminate on the meaning of life, play trucks or superheroes, go camping but audibly express your distaste for tents, release a trapped insect to the outdoors, insist on shutting off your car’s GPS and providing impromptu directions or just laugh all things Andrew did and took great pride in doing.