We all place bookmarks in our life to highlight and chronicle the passage of time. While some people delineate those milestones by happiness and joy, I tend to mark mine by pain.
When I turned 40 last November, I couldn't help but think back about those defining periods in my life. In retrospect, this probably wasn't the best idea. Not only was my marriage in serious trouble at the time but I was also having one of the worst years of my life. Between life, loss, work and family, it seemed as if everything was close to unraveling apart.
To make matters worse, some of my fondest memories in life were always of you, me and Paul celebrating our birthdays together. So naturally, the sadness of missing you always hits me especially hard during that time of year. Aside from 9/11, that's when I truly miss you the most. Even in the best of times, those memories of our birthday celebrations always cast a shadow of melancholy over everything in November.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that I found myself in a pretty dark place.
During those tough times, I couldn't help but think about how you would never allow me (or any of our friends) to ever suffer in our sadness alone. Sometimes we'd sit and talk for hours late into the night. Other times, you'd make it your life's mission to put a smile on my face. Your genuine kindness and inherent generosity knew no limits. Was there anyone's face on whom you couldn't put a smile? I often think that was your greatest gift. Over the course of a lifetime, is there any greater gift one could ask from a friend?
It's still hard for me to believe that it's been eight years today since we tragically lost you. Sometimes it feels like yesterday. Other times, it feels like eons ago.
But no matter how much time passes, the pain never really goes away. It never escapes and truthfully I never want to it to. In a weird way, I think I consciously choose to embrace the pain more now because it makes me feel closer to you at a time when I feel like my memories of you are slowly starting to slip away. Sometimes it's almost as if the only thing I have to remember you by is the pain. Does that make any sense?
It's strangely disconcerting how time has changed how I miss you, Andy. For years, I used to painfully miss all the things that so tightly bound our lives together: your daily telephone calls to my office precisely at 8:00 am, the weekly dinners with you and Kyle, the serious late-night talks out at the beach, Sunday night movie club, those absurdly fun vacations all over the place, or all those long, lazy afternoons watching the Giants game and then tossing a football around in Central Park.
Somehow things have changed now. The ways that I miss you are all so different from one another. Sometimes I'll hear a new song on the radio and my first immediate thought is "Man, Andy would love this tune." Or I'll see someone on the street and my heart will jump into my throat: not because the person looked like you did eight years ago but because he looked like how I'd imagine you would look now. Then there are those momentary pangs of sadness I feel when I stop and realize that I'll never have another friend who was just like you.
I still miss you terribly, Andy, and I think about you all the time. We all do. It doesn't matter how often we all see each other these days, you'll always be the glue that will forever keep us connected. You always were. There's something very comforting in knowing that.
Speaking of "la famiglia," we don't see each other as much these days. Life, work and children have gotten in the way. But man, you would laugh your ass off if you saw us now. Shary is the lazy, old man that we always joked he would become. We went skiing in Utah this year and, at one point, he asked me and Kyle to pick up his socks. Needless to say, all three of us were sitting on the couch together at the time. Russell is still Russell. Last time I saw him, he was going on a macro-vegan-organic diet, absolving from alcohol, and hitting the gym every day. Vegas had the over/under on that at about 8 hours. Roy has become fully Persian and continues to make babies on a near-annual basis but he's still the same lovable low-talker that he always was. And your old roomie Kyle is still the fun-loving single guy that we've known for years. Since Sofia and I decided to get divorced, he's alternated between being my partner-in-crime, my surrogate spouse, and my therapist.
So yeah...basically I guess I'm saying that although things have changed, everything still remains the same.
I know I always say that I won't cry on 9/11, Andy. This year, I don't think I'm I'm even going to bother fighting the tears. Instead I'll embrace the pain of your loss and use the time to remember all the many things that I loved about you and the many ways that you affected all our lives.
You were one of the best friends a man could ever have and though our time together was tragically cut short, I consider myself lucky to have had you as a friend. For that, I will always be grateful.
I will always love you.
And I will always miss you.
Rest in peace, Andy.
Your friend Pierre