Drew was born on December 13th, 1963. An immeasurable blessing occurred nine months later, a day Drew would look back on as the “best day” of his life: He was adopted by Connie and Dave Morrison. Connie remembers how when they first met Drew, he instinctively reached out to his Dad, wanting to be held by this strong, gentle man. Drew was a “fat”, happy baby.
The gift of parents came with the gift of a brother, Dave, just twenty months older than Drew, an instant playmate and best friend throughout his childhood. Innately competitive, the two boys would on occasion fight. Connie came up with a brilliant conflict resolution technique: when a fight broke out, she would make the boys sit face to face on the stairs for as long as it took for the anger to dissolve and their brotherly affection to be restored. It eventually, it always did.
Diane was born two years after Drew, completing a family of which any child would be blessed to grow up in.
It was a family where the parents went out of their way to provide every opportunity for their children. Early on there were jazz and tap dance lessons – with Drew, naturally agile, teaching his whole family the movements to “It’s a Grand Old Flag.” Later there were piano lessons. Drew and Dave’s baseball and football teams were coached by their Dad.
Every Sunday the family worshipped God at the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church. Christmas Eve always included the candlelight service at the church, followed by lots of friends coming to the house. On Christmas day the family sang “Happy Birthday” to Jesus, the first gift of all, and the children reveled in the extreme generosity of Mom and Dad.
There were wonderful family vacations to places like Puerto Rico and Disney World, and overnights to New York City. The wintertime brought trips to Vermont for skiing and snowmobile. There was a Christmas in Barbados marked by the memory of Drew singing “Go Tell It on the Mountain” at the top of his lungs.
Usually as the kids of a family enter into their teen years, the trips together become less frequent: truthfully speaking, how many teenagers can bear their family’s company for the extended time and narrow confines that characterize a family trip? But not so with the Morrison family. The trips just got better and better, cultivating an extraordinary sense of togetherness.
For instance, the summer Dave turned seventeen and got his license, their Mom fearlessly packed Dave, Drew and Diane up in the van and headed off cross country, leaving Dad at home to make the money that paid for the trip. For 28 days they wandered the country side seeing America, staying in KOA campsites. Drew in particular would make sure their campsites were set up just so, with his mom’s chair comfortably in place in the shade, and the radio tuned into some good music. After making sure their Mom was safe and content, the three teenagers would set out to explore the vicinity surrounding the campground. At night Dave and Drew would rough-it out in a tent while Mom and Diane slept in the back of the van.
They didn’t see everything there was to see of America on that road trip, but they sure saw a good junk of it, including stops at the Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, Grand Canyon, Pike’s Peak, Vegas, and the Badlands of South Dakota. You can’t put a price tag on memories like these.
It was important to their Mom and Dad that Dave, Drew and Diane would learn to rely on one another and look out for one another. When there wasn’t enough money for the whole family to go; their parents would send Dave, Drew and Diane off on vacations by themselves; on a cruise for instance, waiting at shore for them to return.
The summer David was eighteen and Drew sixteen his parents sent the boys to Europe for a backpacking trip — just the two of them — where they sang “God Bless America” in a German Pub. Two years later, when Dave was twenty, Drew eighteen and Diane sixteen, the three were sent on a tour of the middle east, travelling through Jordan, Israel and Egypt. There isn’t a teenager on this planet who wouldn’t have loved to trade places with the Morrison kids on their adventures.
Drew was very gifted athletically, and during his time at Morris Hills High School he dedicated himself to his training, excelling in sports. He began starting on the varsity football team as a sophomore, and in his senior year Drew led his team to a number one ranking in Morris County. He played linebacker and was known for his tough, physical play. He was also the punter. In track and field Drew broke school records in javelin and discus. He did well in his studies, and was a favorite of teachers and classmates alike with his warm, outgoing, gregarious personality. His classmates voted him “Class Rowdy.”
When Diane entered high school she was always so proud when people would make the connection: “You’re Drew Morrison’s sister?!”
Drew graduated in 1982, and headed off to Southern Illinois University on a full scholarship for track and field. His first love, however, was football. A bit undersized to make it as a linebacker at a big time football program, Drew managed to win the starting job of punter at his school as a “walk on”, and his full scholarship was transferred to the football team. Earning the nick name “The Golden Toe Boy,” Drew set the school record for the longest punt ever. Then on national television, Drew smashed his sown record by another seventeen yards with an amazing 83 yard punt, helping his team win the Division II National Championship 1983.
Following his graduation in 1987, Drew was invited to try out for the Dallas Cowboys.
Though Drew experienced some truly great days on the football field, he would often say that the best day of his life was the day he was adopted into the Morrison family. Close on the heels of that blessed day was the one in March of 1992 in which Drew met Rebecca. It was God’s hand, Drew was certain, that brought the two of them together. Rebecca didn’t know of, nor care much about, all the accolades Drew had won as a football hero. What attracted Rebecca to Drew was the sensitivity and tenderness she recognized in his soul.
They were strongly attracted to one another from the start, but for six weeks following their first meeting the circumstances of their lives made it impossible for them to be physically in the presence of one another. Throughout this time they talked on the phone every day for hours on end, sharing with one another the depths of their souls. They read scriptures to one another and spoke of their deepest longings. And they fell deeply in love with one another. Rebecca balanced the outgoing energy of Drew with her soft-spoken, steady nature.
Rebecca remembers how when her 37th birthday rolled around in March, she was feeling down about growing older. Drew wrote a poem for Rebecca, presenting it to her in a beautiful frame. It touched Rebecca deeply. It included these lines:
A year has passed — another token of our most precious gift LIFE.
It may not seem like much. In fact…
May even get you a little down
The number one gift we take for granted.
And see what one year of your life has done for me…
Drew goes on in the poem to describe his own sense of discouragement he had known before he met Rebecca. And then he continues…
Then you stepped into my life;
a godsend only I could know and experience
You took my hand and said, “Don’t cry, I’m here for you.”
This past year you have given another the most precious gift one can give another — yourself
Rebecca, be proud and happy today of all days
Because my life is one of a thousand that you have touched.
Rebecca, know that this celebrated day
Of this one year of your life is so precious
Hold on sweetness and enjoy the rest of the 365 days
So I can look onto your eyes as my wife and be able to tell you
Rebecca had a teenage son, Louis, whom she loved deeply. Drew warmly welcomed Louis into his heart as well.
Ten months after first meeting, Drew asked Rebecca to marry him, and she happily accepted. Five months later, on June 19th, 1993 Drew and Rebecca were joined together in holy matrimony. The setting was the Mallard Inn in Panther Valley – mallards, it is said, mate for life. Drew’s best man, his brother Dave made the toast to the couple’s happiness together, wishing them “Feliz Navidad.”
Drew was an aficionado of classic rock with an incredible memory for decades-old lyrics. He carefully chose the first song to dance with his bride: “Thank You” by Led Zeppelin, which include these words:
If the sun refused to shine, I would still be loving you.
If the mountains should crumble to the sea, there would still be you and me.
Kind woman, I give you my all…
And so today, my world it smiles, your hand in mine, we walk the miles,
Thanks to you it will be done, for you to me are the only one.
Rebecca and Drew honeymooned for ten days in the warm sunshine of Aruba, after which they joined Dave on his sailboat.
Drew taught Rebecca to fish and to love the whole experience of fishing. For the first four years of their marriage they lived at Budd Lake, after which they moved to Buford, South Carolina. In both settings fishing was always very close at hand.
After four years down south, Drew and Rebecca returned home to live in Parsippany in order to be closer to their family. It was at that point that our congregation was blessed to have them become members of our church.
Having known such success early on in life in the physical realm, Drew devoted himself in his later years to deepening his spiritual life. He practiced simplicity and devoted himself to staying close to what truly matters in life. His personal motto was “simplicity and beauty”. His home was very important to him, and lovingly he took great care in setting up his home, getting the wall decorations and the placement of the furniture just so.
Drew worked in a variety of service capacities, including with senior citizens at the Morris County Nutrition Program, with little children at Little Blessings Child Care, and, along with Rebecca, as the care takers of our church. He found joy playing congas in Reconstruction, the church band. He attended our spiritual formation groups and weekend retreats, intimately sharing from his heart about the importance of his faith with his church family in ways that moved us deeply. As his brother David put it, the better you got to know Drew, the more you were impressed by the depths of his mind and soul.
Drew always cherished his time with Rebecca. He loved quiet evenings spent at home with her. He would cook dinner for Rebecca, afterwards perhaps they would dance together to music.
Drew’s family referred to them as the “Velcro kids”; always inseparable. For their tenth anniversary they took a cruise through the Western Caribbean for eight days. When Rebecca turned fifty, Drew threw her a great surprise birthday party. Afterwards, with their good friends Brian and Awilda Higgins they vacationed in Hawaii, a place Rebecca had always wanted to visit. Last July they had a wonderful time sharing in the cruise to Bermuda that Drew’s parents took the whole family on to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. (The picture on the front of our bulletin this morning was taken on that trip.)
At family gatherings, it was always Drew to whom everybody turned for the saying of the blessing. His spirituality touched the whole family. Drew went out of his way to be a part of the lives of his nephews and nieces: Dave’s children Sarah and John Drew; and Diane’s children: Robert and Morgan. Drew had a very genuine, open-hearted way of being with them, and they loved him deeply. Drew and Rebecca made a point of being there for them at their sporting events (with Drew teaching Rebecca the rules to hockey). They were there for other special events, with a particular attention given to their confirmations.
Drew lived with a great deal of physical pain. Arthritis struck his joints where old football injuries had left scars. His hands and knees throbbed, and he underwent two hip replacement surgeries. Some nights the pain would keep him awake; only Rebecca saw the full toll the pain took on Drew. In spite of the pain, Drew always did his best to take a positive outlook towards his life.
In the past couple of months there seemed to be a special poignancy to Drew’s heart, as though he sensed he wasn’t long for this earth. In the fall he loved to sit on the balcony of their apartment watching the leaves change. He took pictures of the autumn colors, and also of the clouds.
At a recent family gathering, the “Velcro Kids” are remembered playing with walkie talkies, roaming opposite ends of the house, repeating over and over to one another, “I love you, Rebecca”; “I love you, Drew.” In worship on a Sunday early in December, Drew was moved to come forward during our prayer time to share passionately from his heart regarding the profound gratitude he felt for his life, stirring all of us present deeply to appreciate our lives as well.
The Wednesday night before he died, Drew and Rebecca were present at his nephew John Drew’s hockey game, loudly wooping it up as John’s team won a rare victory. As a graduate of their same high school, John and his friends looked up to Drew for the sports legacy he embodied.
In the end, the apostle Paul says, it is only love that does not end. We are placed on this earth to learn the lessons of love. Drew knew much love in this life and he gave much love as well. In death, he has been perfected in love.