It’s funny you should mention a voicemail, Jonah.
Just a few weeks ago, a message popped up in bold on my Blackberry. It was an old message I had never listened to, and it was from Andrew.
He had left it just a few weeks before he died.
He had called me, but as we would always do, he had e-mailed me too. (Actually, back in the good old days, he’d IM me as he was dialing, because he knew I was looking at my computer. The IM would get me to pick up the phone.) I saw the e-mail first, knew what the call was about, and hadn’t listened until last month when it popped up.
By the way, back in those days, if he called, it was world-changing important, on his alert-scale. Most of our business, some of it world-changing even (or so we’d hope), was conducted over IM; it would be years before I wouldn’t think of him as “Bodiaz.”
And what a gift that voicemail was. It was a gift to hear his voice again. It was a gift to be reminded how loving he was.
He had forgotten to tell me he was having a little reception in D.C. It was about to begin, and, as it happens, I was about headed there; a mutual friend who had brought great joy to both our lives — who suspected Andrew might forget to ping me — had already made me commit to getting there.
Andrew’s message was a familiar one — one I am sure many others will recall as well: He felt terrible he was calling at the last minute; he’d really love to see me.
It had been too long since I had been able to talk with Andrew. We had a few too-short minutes that night. It was so often as if he knew he didn’t have enough time to get everything he wanted to accomplish accomplished. That he wouldn’t have enough time. As you might have noticed, he dreamed big.
The voicemail reminded me of so many phone calls — often at odd hours. I’d marvel at his energy and share in his passion — however temperamentally different we were! We all have our roles!
One of the most recent of those calls, though, had been when a mutual friend had suddenly lost his daughter. Andrew was devastated for him. He wanted to say and do the right things. He wanted me to make sure I did. He knew I would pray. And he knew that was important.
I’m almost at the point where I can’t remember that there was a time I didn’t know him. Jonah probably introduced us ages ago over the Internets we used to thank Al Gore for. Having been mixed up with NRO early on, we lived in a similar world, one few people understood then or wanted to live in. Our odd hours, cyber-ness, and, at the time, behind-the-scenes work made for an instant kinship.
I do remember the first time we finally met. It may have involved one of the only “party crashing” moments of my life. At the time, the weekend seemed endless. Looking back, it’s hard not to have the thought: “If only.”
When Andrew died, I was in Jerusalem. I was actually about to go to Confession, but checked my e-mail (Andrew, who rarely sat still without checking something online, would likely be amused) before settling down to pray. I didn’t get to Confession that evening, though I would spend some time in the chapel at the hotel I was staying at on my pilgrimage, once I could get myself to do anything but cry. At first I thought someone was playing a cruel Internet joke. Heaven knows it would get ugly online, and this was just about the worst of it. Well, I hoped. And then I prayed, for his family, for his eternal rest.
I did still want the headlines to stop lying, claiming he was dead.
The next morning in Jerusalem, Mass was on at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, at the Calvary altar. I was joined in the greatest prayer for him, at just about the most devastating and consoling place I could imagine.
My friend was always a fan of victory.
He would have had something clever to say if I could have sent him a text to tell him about it. But that would have paled in comparison to his gratitude.
We’ll never IM again. He’ll never stretch my ability to stay awake trying to solve all the problems of the world again. But I pray he is at peace. That’s all I ever wanted for my dear brother, and I feel confident in saying that in all his relentlessness, he had that desire too.
I loved that man and I pray his family knows that he missed them like crazy while he was tea-party rallying and all the rest. And I can’t think of a time when I was with him when we didn’t talk about them. I actually will always associate him with Grand Cayman, because we were there on a National Review cruise and he was in his glory, with his beautiful family. There was a peace there for him.
It does seem impossible not to miss him.