This weekend I went to a funeral for an old friend. I’ve been to funerals before, those were all for grandparents and the family members of co-workers though. Sad, a time to mourn, but expected. This was the first funeral I’ve attended for a contemporary though, and it was far, far too soon for that.
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know Andrew. Some of my very first concrete memories were at his house, with his family. Spending birthdays together, hanging out after church and countless sleepovers. We both shared a goofy sense of humor that fed and grew off our interaction. The difference, and it always was a big difference even at a young age, was that Andrew was a performer, he was conscious about creating art and that was something that drove him. He was the one who came up with the idea that we could create ‘art books’ out of our drawings by folding pieces of paper in half and stapling them down the spine. Our obsession with goofy music we listened to on his record player (like ‘On Top of Spaghetti’ or ‘Does Your Chewing Gum Lose it’s Flavor’) spurred him to record his own songs and sketches with his older brother on cassette tapes. These were precious relics of my childhood. Night after night I’d fall asleep listening to them, laughing.
When my parents moved our family away from the Foursquare church our friendship continued, but it was harder without those after church visits. We kept in touch off and on, slowly dwindling off through middle school and into the high school years. I remember when we were just entering into the teenage years and he began to struggle with anorexia. Andrew was mercilessly bullied (Yes, bullying happens in private Christian schools. Sometimes I fear it’s even worse there than in public schools) and one of his taunter’s favorite targets was his weight (and he was never, by any stretch of the imagination, overweight). That hit him hard and he veered hard into depression and extreme measures to control it. I remember walking with him to McDonalds weekend after weekend we had together to buy us food, naively thinking that that must be how you solve that sort of issue. It was the first time I was confronted with a serious issue that couldn’t be easily solved.
The hard break was probably in high school when he was at Kamiakin and I was in Running Start. He lasered in on his obvious talents in music and performance and found a group of friends that could foster that passion. I doubled down on my interest in computers and found friends with a similar drive. Not sharing a church, school, friends, or even primary interests anymore was just not enough to sustain a committed, deep friendship. There was never any hard break, or argument that ended things, it was slow, gradual erosion as we silently drifted apart into our own respective worlds.
In the years that followed after high school we both stuck to our respective courses. I got a job in a computer/information oriented field, and Andrew was involved in many musical processes. His band, Run From Cover, was one of the best known in the area. I always saw their name being touted on the signs of pubs and venues alongside performance dates. I ran into him a handful of times, usually at a venue where he was performing. But most significantly was when he worked at the coffee shop close to my office and we were unexpectedly reunited. For a while I’d see him every week or so there, we’d chat briefly and wish each other well. We’d always talk about getting together and hanging out, not now but sometime soon of course. Nothing concrete was planned or ever really scheduled, it was always an open-ended affair, set in the nebulous future.
I suppose we thought, or at least I thought, that there was no rush. We had all the time in the world and there was no reason to rush or force anything. I was busy after all, right? And so was he, with his jobs and gigs and practice… we’d get around to it when we both had just a bit more time. But that’s exactly what we didn’t have, time. I had no clue what a precious gift I was passing up by not seizing the opportunity and, at the very least, getting a handful of evenings to reconnect with my oldest friend.
It’s made me think of other times in the past decade where I’ve passed over the opportunity to spend time with old friends because I was too busy, too tired, because I’d really rather have done something else. I’ll reply later but never do. What a fool I am. What other last in a lifetime moments am I missing by not prioritizing people and those relationships? The worst thing I fear is that it doesn’t matter, the next time this chance presents itself I’ll probably have an excuse and pass it by like I always do.
When my mother sent me a link to the Tri-City Herald article about the fatal motorcycle accident, my heart raced when I saw a name I recognized, ‘Andrew Luttrell’ as my brain racked itself trying to come to grips with his death. When I had the cognizance to actually read it, I breathed a sigh of relief that he wasn’t the one killed. It didn’t cross my mind to reach out to him, it didn’t cross my mind how heavily the toll of being responsible for this accident would weigh on him, it didn’t cross my mind that he’d need help and comfort. He was fine, and I had more time. When a friend shared the article about the suicide of a “suspect” in the motorcycle accident, my mind went numb. My mind had already processed his death last week, and couldn’t really do so again so soon. It felt just as unreal. In the following days I learned how closely the perimeters of our lives had been, newer friends I had been in close and constant contact with new Andrew intimately, even better than I did. I had no clue these people knew Andrew so well but for years our lives and friendships bordered each other but never quite crossed over.
Goodbye, Andrew. I think you’d be happy to know how many times I laughed during your funeral when memories of your antics were brought up.