Andrew Uriel Hernandez: 2000 – 2018In Memoriam | Wed May 22, 2019 | 5:34am
A year ago, my son Andrew took his life, drowning himself off Stearns Wharf. To say that he blindsided his family, friends, teachers, and community would be an understatement, but he made a decision to end his inner pain and silent suffering. Many questions go unanswered, especially the “why” of his decision. A deep pain and hurt lingers in our hearts for our child, who truly enjoyed making other people feel acknowledged and cared for. And we have come to know that everyone who was a part of Andrew’s life gave that caring back to him. The stories, pictures, posts, videos, and tributes shared at his remembrance website help us remember his smile, his spirit, and his joy.
Andrew Uriel Hernandez was born on July 18, 2000, in Garden Grove, California. He was born with the last name Solis, but he became a Hernandez in 2006 when he joined our family through adoption, along with his older siblings, Brenda and Marco. My husband, Oscar, and I also had a birth son, Erick.
Andrew was the tallest of all of us. In fact, he was the tallest Mexican American we have ever known; he was 6’5″ tall. His goal had been to be at least 6’7″; he loved being tall. He had an amazing ability to get along with all ages; he would let little kids hang on him and play with him for hours on end. He was just as caring and patient with his older siblings as with his younger brother, Erick.
Oscar and I had decided when we were dating that we would have a child and also provide a home to a child who needed one. At that time, I had been involved in child welfare for 10 years as a social worker. Oscar and I chose to adopt a sibling group of older children, as they are harder to place. Andrew and his siblings were in foster care for five years. They had serious challenges stemming from the trauma they’d experienced and their difficulty in forming normal attachments.
Andrew was a boy who would take too much responsibility and blame himself when things went wrong, even when he didn’t deserve it. His older siblings were the opposite, and we put a lot of time, resources, and hard work into being good parents for them. Being younger, Andrew was able to make genuine attachments, especially to Erick. They were like two peas in a pod, and Andrew was able to express his loving and compassionate soul.
Andrew dabbled in all sports, including Little League, swimming, wrestling, basketball, and, of course, soccer, which was a must for all our children. But it wasn’t until his big, tall frame caught coaches’ eyes in his freshman year at Santa Barbara High School that he found his first love, football.
Andrew loved being a Don, just as I do. In the beginning, Oscar could never understand “Dons pride” or the saying “Once a Don, always a Don.” Andrew succeeded at the impossible; he made his dad proud to wear the Dons logo.
He became a starter in football at SBHS, and he received an early recruitment offer from a private college during preseason. Despite his significant learning disabilities and academic challenges, Andrew made us very proud when he decided to accept the college’s offer. He would have been the first in his birth family to attend.
However, he injured his knee during the last preseason game and sat out his senior year of football. We didn’t realize it at the time, but this could have contributed to our son’s confusion, stress, and fear of disappointing us.
He ended up taking his life on May 15, 2018. More than 400 people attended the service for the young man his peers had nicknamed the BFG, or Big Friendly Giant.
Locally, nationally, and globally, suicide rates are alarming for all age groups, but most alarming are the rates among our youth. Oscar and I made a promise to our son at his memorial service: We would do whatever we had to so that his life and death were not in vain. In openly discussing these painful feelings, we hope other young people who are hurting and suffering in silence will reach out for help.
Warning signs for suicide can include feelings of being trapped or a burden; increased use of alcohol or drugs; loss of interest in favorite activities (“nothing matters”); suicidal thoughts, plans, or actions; sudden mood changes, even for the better; giving up on oneself; taking risks; disturbed sleep; anxiety; agitation; withdrawing from friends and family; extreme self-loathing; feeling like an outsider; hopelessness; and rage.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, call the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255, or text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741.