OBITUARY

Robert Andrew Commisso

April 25, 1978April 13, 2021
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Robert Andrew Commisso (April 25, 1978 – April 13, 2021)

Our beloved Andrew departed after a short illness in Bethesda, Maryland.

Andrew was born in Los Alamos, New Mexico. He later moved with his family to Fairfax Virginia. Andrew spent his early school-aged years at Key Center and then, from age 13 to 22, at the Benedictine School in Ridgeley, Maryland. As an adult, he joined the L’Arche Homes for Life community in Washington, DC. Andrew is survived by his mother and step-father Roberta and Richard Theis, his father and step-mother Bob Commisso and Denise Leith, his sister and brother-in-law Sarah and Andrew Armstrong, and his niece and nephews Hannah, Ian, and Drew. He was pre-deceased by his brother David Andrew Commisso.

Andrew was blessed with two families, his biological family and his L’Arche family. Andrew enjoyed time with both families, often at the same time. With his biologic family, he loved vacationing; beach trips to Ocean City, holiday celebrations in North Carolina at his sister’s home, and annual trips to Disney World. Day to day, Andrew thrived with friendships of core members and assistants at L’Arche, where he lived since 2004. He also took retreats with his L’Arche family to many places, including the Shenandoah Mountains, Pennsylvania, North Carolina beaches and Richmond. Andrew participated in the University of Maryland’s Best Buddies program, where Andrew and UMD students would shoot hoops and walk around cam pus together. He, especially enjoyed visiting the Jim Henson statue and memorial garden. Andrew was an active parishioner at the Shine of the Sacred Heart Church where he faithfully attended Mass nearly every Sunday, making friends and sharing hugs.

As a young child, Andrew was full of life, light, and mischief. He loved to hide in department stores amidst clothing racks, to see the funny panicked looks on his parents’ faces. He liked to jump onto elevators as the doors were closing, to watch his family sprint madly to catch the doors before they closed, whisking him to an unknown floor. He loved escalators, merry go rounds, and for some reason – crying babies were hysterical to him. Even as his mobility declined, his sense of mischief and love of laughter continued, often manifesting as a random fake laugh when all was quiet – just to break the silence and bring everyone back to the moment. Andrew’s love of Sesame Street is known to all who knew Andrew. He taught us all the lessons of each Sesame Street character. Andrew showed us how to view every day as a new adventure like Elmo, how to love others like Big Bird, how to treat best friends like Bert and Ernie, and – well, if you didn’t read his book EXACTLY as he wanted – you might learn the lessons of Oscar the Grouch.

Dispensing with formalities, Andrew pulled strangers close to each other by joining their hands even if they were shy to do so themselves. Andrew was authentically committed to the human bond, delighting in the new friendships he created, and celebrating each handshake with a happy dance. Andrew was a gifted host, and his hospitality was boundless. Even a reluctant guest at dinner might find themselves pulled by Andrew’s vice-like grip into his space to share a video, or a story, or more handshakes. That same guest might later recall that dinner as one of the most meaningful moments of their life, a moment they felt truly accepted and loved for exactly who they were. So rare are those moments, yet these moments are the threads that make up the quilt of Andrew’s whole life.

Prior to his passing, he was able to communicate with countless people from his biological and L’Arche families, singing songs, reading books and sharing final smiles with the people he loved dearly and who loved him in return. His family was at his side in his final moments, singing Sesame Street songs, retelling stories of times spent together and giving him endless hugs. Andrew was not alone in death as he was never alone in life; he received all the blessings of the years of love and caring that he gave.

We can all take comfort in knowing that Andrew loved people so deeply and freely – setting a prime example of unconditional love. He welcomed each of us into his life while sharing the lessons of patience, humility, persistence, and connection.

In lieu of flowers, Andrew’s family requests donations to L’Arche-GWDC.org, where Andrew spent his adult years in community with people with and without disabilities, who loved him as a brother. Memorial services are planned for April 28th at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart in Washington DC at 10:00 am, with a short reception to follow. His remains will rest at Guaje Pines Memorial Cemetery, alongside his brother David, in Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Services

No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.

Memories

Robert Andrew Commisso

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Cucumber (a.k.a. Rachael)

April 28, 2021

"...Finally, when "strangers" were willing to respond to the call of Andrew by moving their hands into the grip of his hands, immediately, Andrew would be directing that exchange to me or toward the hands of the other assistant/community member present, uniting our hands, stranger and friend, together. A beautiful component of this interaction between all of us is that, in my opinion, Andrew seems to behold all of us as welcome and loved, that we all belong together in that exchange.
Andrew continuously initiates and encourages this union between people, perhaps "strangers," perhaps "friends," however truly, all welcome. Andrew builds community.
Andrew acknowledges others; he meets people where people are at.
After passing the illuminated prayer candle yesterday evening, a candle we use to pray with after evening meals, we returned the candle to the center of the table, and one of the assistants asked Andrew who he suggested blow out the candle. Andrew's eyes and smile widened, his gaze met mine, and he passed the candle my way... what a privilege, what a gift. Andrew is a gift to me.”

Cucumber (a.k.a Rachael)

April 28, 2021

Thank you for continuing to grow this community of people who love you and are transformed in love through your friendship, Andrew.

Reflections from several years ago:

“Yesterday, I shared time with Andrew beginning in the early hours of the morning. It was my first day to "officially" share time with Andrew, and I was absolutely thrilled...the morning and day brought so much life. Andrew brings "strangers" together. These strangers may be people that we humans pass by while walking on the sidewalk or throughout the halls of the Library of Congress, we humans, who too often do not acknowledge each other, perhaps holding back from sharing a smile, a "Hi," and/or the gaze of eyes seizing the opportunity to readily articulate, "I kindly see you as you are here before me." For Andrew, personal reservation and resistance to outwardly express his inner thoughts does not appear to be the first option. From the moment he hears me approaching him, he turns his body towards mine, his eyes widen with delight, the corners of his lips rise and his cheeks seem to reach his eyes; his smile is so bright. He holds this gaze with my eyes, with me, for many moments, two people seeing each other. He signs a hug that he actively shares with me; really, he seems to hope that I will return the hug by physically walking over to him and embracing him with the touch of a hug. He persists to sign until this embrace is completed.
When we were in the Library of Congress yesterday, from his wheelchair, Andrew persistently extended his arms towards the many people who passed by us. His hands reached for the hands of these passersby, his wide smile greeting and his attentive eyes gazing in the direction of the eyes of "strangers." The strange and sad reality is that many and most of these folks moved away from Andrew's reach..."

Michael McCoy

April 19, 2021

This is the most beautiful, accurate, and deeply True obituary I have ever read. Before becoming an assistant at L'Arche in 2016, Andrew and I were fellow parishioners at Sacred Heart. Coming to L'Arche in 2016, I gained the older brother (by 5 years) that I never had (my only sibling is a younger brother). Sharing at least 250 days with Andrew during my year at L'Arche will forever remain one of the greatest blessings of my life. While Andrew and I did not see each other anywhere near as much since 2017, he remained a brother and by God's providence we window visited in person with one another at the apartment on 3/13/21. I thank God for those few minutes and for closing that time saying I couldn't wait until the time we could get together again and be allowed a nice big hug! My heart goes out especially to you Sarah. You and I have not met in person but given my felt connection to Andrew like a sibling, I also feel a strong connection to you. Hannah, Ian, and Drew, your names were mentioned by Andrew at Euclid House perhaps more than you will ever know. I hope and pray that you will carry amazing memories and feelings felt with your uncle for the rest of your lives. I can't wait to meet all 4 of you and Andy some day. And of course, Roberta, Richard, Bob, and Denise, your son Andrew was one of the greatest gifts this world has ever seen. Thank you so much for the overwhelming amount of love you poured into him. I'm sure Andrew would not have become anywhere near the blessing he was without you as parents. My heart, mind, soul, and prayers are with you and all who loved Andrew in this time of grief. May we all be blessed with frequent moments of light and love.

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