Mourning and remembering young artist and activist Andrew Henderson
Andrew Henderson was a courageous individual. The 28-year-old originally from Manitoba had lymphoblastic lymphoma, and was told in September 2015, that it was incurable. He had been on maintenance chemotherapy to extend his life but had briefly stopped the treatment. He had planned to continue the treatment soon.
Andrew was also an artist and he wanted to create a last performance art show that would also serve as his living funeral, Taking it to the Grave. As a queer person, he wanted his funeral to be fabulous, which meant a manicure bar, cozy seating, glitter, and Henderson seated inside a champagne bottle. The show received international attention before it debuted. At the living funeral, Andrew took private confessions from people and got a tattoo symbolizing their secret, which he would literally take to the grave.
The show debuted October 21. On Wednesday October 26, he passed away days after his final performance.
His story touches my heart on a personal level; I lost my younger brother not long ago to the same illness. It takes a lot of courage to decide to make an impact before you leave this earth. I also knew Andrew, not closely, but as a volunteer at an event held years ago by an organization I am very actively involved in, INSPIRE Awards. He was young and bright and excited, and it seems that at the event he made some lasting friendships. Jacqie Lucas who was also a volunteer at the same event met him that evening. I asked her to share with us what their friendship was like and what it meant to her:
“I met Andrew at the 2012 INSPIRE Awards when we were volunteering. I watched Andrew glide into the room and it was love at first site, as in all of us in the room fell in love with this perfect glamorous, glittering being. I swear if you ask any of us we would all tell you Andrew made us feel like it was a ball for us and we had been best friends for years, when in reality we were working hard setting up chairs while sweating through our best dressed attire and had only known each other for an hour or two. My roommates invited him to their upcoming wedding almost on the spot! It was just so easy to love that soul.
“Andrew loved people and cared deeply about equality, visibility and self-expression. Andrew was fabulous and genderqueer. Over the last two years after Andrew was diagnosed with T-Cell lymphoblastic lymphoma I watched Andrew grow brighter and more confident. It was like he was more comfortable in his body and queerness. Andrew became an advocate for self-expression and identification. Andrew would speak up and out about inclusion, privileged accessibility, and then he tackled death. I watched Andrew talk about the importance of finding a relationship with death. Andrew was able to teach us about expression and dying and in turn love and acceptance. Andrew was not just preparing to die, but preparing us for his death and ours.
“With Taking it to the Grave Andrew took confessions from people in a gold-filled room with glitter and warmth and got a tattoo to symbolize the secret. Last week, Andrew took those secrets to the grave surrounded by family and loved ones back home in Manitoba. The world instantly felt a little less fabulous and I had a good cry but then I remembered those secrets. That fabulous, queer human even in death did something beautiful and inspiring. Andrew took those secrets to the grave and liberated people. Glamdrew forever. We will miss him always and I wish you all could have met him; you would have loved him.”
R.I.P Andrew Henderson
Photo Credit: Caroline Brassard
About the Author
Antoine Elhashem is the owner of Inspired Media Inc (www.inspiredmediainc.com) Publisher of: theBUZZ (www.thebuzzmag.ca) PinkPlayMags (www.pinkplaymags.com) Pink Pages Directory (www.thepinkpagesdirectory.com) Local Biz (www.thelocalbizmagazine.ca)