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The Death of Andy Williams, Moon River and Me

Moon River, wider than a mile,
I'm crossing you in style some day.
Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker,
wherever you're going I'm going your way

Moon River – lyrics by Johnny Mercer, music by Henry Mancini
© 1961 Paramount Music Corporation, ASCAP

The song that made singer Andy Williams an American icon reverberated throughout the empty, cavernous lobby of the Moon River Theater in Branson, Missouri, making it seem more like a mausoleum rather than an entertainment venue.  I stood for a moment at the entrance drinking it all in.

Life-size cardboard images of Andy Williams with his familiar warm, beaming smile were at various spots in the lobby and hallways.  I pictured earlier times when tourists gathered closely around—some even hugging and kissing-- the cardboard images as other tourists snapped a picture of them with Mr. Williams’ famous image.  Two huge flat screen televisions broadcast clips complete with laughing,  applauding audiences from the classic  Andy Williams Show.  On the walls everywhere were pictures of almost every celebrity of the last thirty to forty years with Andy Williams along with plaques and awards chronicling his life of accomplishments. 

Obviously Andy Williams had lived a very successful, fulfilling life.  But that was the problem for me standing in the lobby of Andy Williams’ Moon River Theater that Wednesday evening.  Andy Williams had…past tense and completed…lived his successful life.  He would not perform or sing any more in Branson or anywhere.  I had purchased tickets in advance to attend his 75th Anniversary Show Thursday night, but Andy Williams had died at age 84 from bladder cancer the Tuesday evening prior to my drive of seven hours from Dallas, Texas to Branson, Missouri.

So there I stood the grief counselor who had taken a holiday to come to Branson in part to see one of my childhood favorites Andy Williams live in concert,  and he was dead just hours before my holiday began.  Believe me, I was saddened to hear of Mr. Williams’ death, but at the same time the irony of the situation was not lost on me.

“I am so sorry to hear of Mr. Williams’ death,” I said to the woman working in the box office.  I noticed that tears welled up in her eyes. “And I hate to bother you, but I have tickets for the show tomorrow night.  Will there still be a show?”

She assured me that there would be a full show tomorrow night and my ticket would be honored.  “It was Mr. Williams’ wish that the show continue despite his passing,” she said as a tear rolled down her cheek.  I thanked her and started to leave.  I knew that I would enjoy the show tomorrow night.  But I also knew it would not be the same without Mr. Williams.

Before I left I stopped to drink in all of the surroundings of the Andy Williams’ Moon River Theater just one more time.  Nostalgia, childhood memories of sitting around the television with family members and friends, and growing sadness enveloped me.  We all know that all of us are going to die.  We all know that we are going to say goodbye to beloved and valuable people who touch our lives.  Whether those beloved ones are with us a short or long time, they always depart this life leaving us wishing that we could enjoy their talents, their influence and their presence just one more time.

We're after the same rainbow's end,
Waiting 'round the bend,
My huckleberry friend.
Moon River and me.

In honor of Andy Williams, entertainer and “friend” to millions
1927-2012

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About the Author

Larry Barber knows grief all too well. In May 1993 his wife and two year old daughter died in a traffic accident in Arlington, Texas. As a widowed single parent he raised two surviving children, ages 9 and 12. Barber is a minister, a licensed professional counselor, and certified in Thanatology through the Association for Death Education and Counseling. He has served as a hospice bereavement coordinator, a grief counselor and support group facilitator, and as the director of GriefWorks www.grief-works.org in Dallas TX. Barber is the author of Love Never Dies: Embracing Grief with Hope and Promise available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Committed to sharing grief insights shared with him by fellow mourners, he is tireless in efforts to comfort and equip mourners.

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