Christmas brings back painful memories for family
Christmas brings back painful memories for family

    Christmas brings back painful memories for family


    Staff Writer

    There are no celebrations at the Moffitt home this festive season.

    "Christmas is just another day for us now," said Paulette Moffitt, whose 23-year-old son Andy was murdered only two days before Christmas last year.

    "We've lost the joy of Christmas, but we're all sticking together and doing whatever we can."

    Andy's picture is at the centre of a star on the Christmas tree in the family's north-end living-room. A snowflake in the window and another star atop another Christmas tree on the front lawn also bear his memory.

    The decorations are there, but the heart of Christmas - the fun, the laughter, the gift-giving and partying - is gone, ripped out by a senseless act of violence.

    "You can't celebrate without him," Paulette Moffitt said. "Our hearts died with him."

    Andrew Moffitt, a University of Ottawa computer engineering student, was stabbed in the heart as he tried to break up a fight at a student hangout in Ottawa. Henry Danninger, 27, also of Brockville, has been charged with second-degree murder in connection with the incident.

    The trauma of Andy's death, the disbelief and incomprehension, are still visible on the faces of his family. Paulette, her husband Rod and sons Rod Jr., 28, and Mike, 12, and Rod Jr.'s fiancee, Karen Visser, don't even know how they've coped.

    In the intervening year, they have worked hard to preserve Andy's memory with two memorial Web pages and a University of Ottawa scholarship.

    The Andrew Moffitt Memorial Scholarship Fund has proven a great success, collecting roughly $142,000. Officials at the university expect it to make $14,000 a year in interest.

    Half that amount will be reinvested, while the other $7,000 will go to deserving students who best exemplify the spirit of a young man who died while trying to be a Good Samaritan.

    The family now hopes to hand out the first such scholarship in April, 2001.

    The effort is an attempt to immortalize Andy's memory, just like the plaque bearing his picture that sits at the university alongside memorials for the 14 women murdered in the 1989 massacre at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal.

    The family is also planning a mass at an Ottawa church near the place where Andy was murdered, to be held on the anniversary of his death.

    All that work has kept the Moffitts busy and focused, but time's supposed ability to heal all wounds seems like little more than a platitude when the scars are this deep.

    "It's like it was yesterday," Paulette said. "You never get over the shock."

    Andy's death seems just as immediate to the rest of the family.

    "The feeling will be there forever," Rod said.

    The Moffitts have pulled closer together in grief, especially for the sake of Mike, for whom they put up the Christmas tree.

    The boy will spend Christmas with Visser's family in Quebec, where he may feel something like the happiness most people look forward to at this time of year.

    But the best the adults can do is put Christmas aside. And that's difficult when the lights, the music and the smiles are everywhere.

    Paulette has to face it every day working at the Sears department store, where she is constantly reminded of her lost son.

    "The Christmas music... I end up crying. I have to go to the washroom," she said.

    "It hurts the most when you see someone who looks like Andy," said Rod Jr., who often still thinks of including his late brother on his Christmas list.

    Acquaintances have even stopped wishing Rod the traditional "Merry Christmas" and "Happy New Year," reduced to silence by uncertainty.

    "A lot of people, they don't know how to talk to you," he said.

    The idea of celebrating Christmas, which most take for granted, now seems impossible to Paulette Moffitt. She can't do it this year and, right now, she doubts she'll even be able to do it 20 years from now.

    Well-meaning people try to tell the Moffitts that Andy would have wanted them to enjoy Christmas. That's something they already know.

    But knowing it makes no difference.

    "It's easy for someone to say that to you," Paulette said. "But it's words. It's nothing but words."

  • Posted: 11:00:00 AM Monday, December 20, 1999
  • Published in Section a, Page 4 of the Monday, December 20, 1999 edition of the Brockville Recorder & Times.

   Letter to the Media
   Bill C-393
   Our Angel
   Thank You
   Mike's Speech
   Memorial Speech
   Andy's Story
   Our Brother