How to Light Up a Room

Monday September 16th of 2014, I was sitting on the couch and my mom was sitting to my left. This is one of those “I’ll never forget the moment” events in my life. I got a message from my sister asking if I had heard about what happened to our cousin Andrew. With a deeply sad heart, I discovered he had passed away a few hours earlier.

My mom and I sat there and wept. To know this family is to know good people. Andrew was 21 years old and the picture of health. No reason was initially given for his death.

I attended the funeral with my younger daughter. I had nearly completed my chemotherapy in my battle against Burkitt’s Lymphoma. I was swollen from steroids and had little stamina. Thanks to my daughter driving me six hours down and back, I had the privilege of attending.


My youngest daughter, myself, and my stepmom at the funeral

His death was a mystery for a short while. After the autopsy was completed, I learned he died from a grand mal seizure. He had no history of seizures and was a healthy young man. The general assumption is that he was entering into a phase of adult seizure activity.

I had learned just 4 years prior to this event that adult onset seizure activity is a very real thing.  A grown adult in her young 20’s manifested a seizure during a lecture I was giving during one of my classes as a dialysis educator. If I had not witnessed that personally, I might have thought the idea of seizures beginning in adulthood a hard to believe concept. You can bet I’m a believer after witnessing one right in front of my eyes with a young woman who had no history of prior seizure activity.

I tell you what, when a bucket full of liquid gets kicked hard, the contents will splash over the side. Andrew’s family was given the ultimate gut kick and what has splashed out is absolutely nothing short of phenomenal. It exemplifies why I say they are such amazing people.

I am tempted to give an over view of the video and explain what happened, but that is the reason this video exists. It explains in a personal manner the life of Andrew, what happened with his passing, and the response since his death.

When I set out to make this video, I had this notion I’d throw together something simple, amateur, and cheesy. I am sufficient with making cheesy amateur videos. All you have to do is go to my youtube channel and you will see why I say that.

I went down to Charles and Nancy’s house this year and interviewed them for this video. When I began to stitch it all together, the result was stunning. It went far beyond anything I could have imagined or hoped for. I knew I was onto something super special. I wept multiple times during the making of this video. It may be amateur in nature, but the cheese factor is rather minimal. My cousins have a special ability to convey such warmth and personality and it was clearly captured in this video.

The title stumped me. I actually struggled a lot with what I was going to call it. The video was so personal to me and so beyond what I thought I could ever create, I didn’t want to settle for an average title. I went between such ideas as “A Love Story,” or “Andrew’s Story,” or more personal names like “Muddy Mudskipper” or “Smiley.” No name seemed to have that particular something I was looking for.

As I examined the Facebook posts of Andrew’s friends, one line stood out to me. A comment a friend of Andrew’s made about him, was the exact observation his mother shares in this video. They both shared how he had the ability to just “light up a room” when he entered.

I am pleased to release to you all a very personal work that turned out so much better than I could have possibly imagined, titled:

“How to Light Up a Room.”

If you are interested in donating to the Andrew Vasek Memorial Scholarship Fundraiser held each spring, please contact:

Nancy Vasek: 979-479-1271

Megan Cerceo: 979-479-0007


video link on youtube:

About Robert I Baxter

Greatest Commandment is #1. Follower of Jesus, husband, father, RN, love photography, cancer survivor of Burkitt's twice (2008 & 2014). Stem Cell transplant November 2014. Work in a neonatal ICU.
This entry was posted in Child, christian, courage, death, family, generosity, Grief, humanity, life, love, pain, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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