BUT MAYBE THE SIMPLEST
Because there is no research for this one, nothing to google, verify with others or get the other side of the story. Even opinion columns require more of that than you might think.
No, this one can come from only one place, straight from the heart, my heart, a terribly hurting, broken heart.
As my column of two weeks ago (“Crime is Punishing Us”) was hitting the streets here, several dozen police officers and detectives were swarming the small, neat adobe-style home of my son Chris, on a quiet cul-de-sac in northwest Albuquerque. His body had been found there and they were gathering evidence.
They couldn’t locate us until the next day. It was a call I had feared for decades, because he suffered from depression, and severe bouts can end in a deep black hole that reason cannot conquer, hopeless that life will get any better and willing to do anything to stop the pain.
But he didn’t take his own life. Someone else did. It is being investigated as a homicide. As awful as it may sound, since absolutely nothing can change the horrendous reality that he is gone from my sight and touch forever, I am comforted by that. If he had committed suicide it would have told us that his life had become so unbearably painful that this was the only way he thought he could relieve that pain. It would have told us that his last days
or weeks or months were agonizing suffering.
But my wife, daughter and I discovered, when we got to Albuquerque, that his life was far, far different than we had thought. For reasons that will now remain only speculation, he chose to distance himself from us the last few years, even though we still had some great visits together, mainly at Christmas. But no phone calls afterward, no letters, emails or texts were answered. Nothing, no word at all, for the last 18 months. We figured he was in another depression, perhaps a long-lasting one, always fearing it might be the last one. A longtime friend in Albuquerque, my age, who had known Chris since he was a toddler, reported that he finally was let go from his years-long job at the pizza restaurant, and that he didn’t know of any friends he could ask anymore about Chris’s well-being. There were all the ominous signs that he was in dire straits.
But that was not the case.
LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS OF FRIENDS
Chris had not allowed that old friend into his inner circle either, like us, and we found out when we got there that his community was large and loving. An extraordinary, spiritual tribe. With only a couple days’ notice, a memorial was organized by his best friend Aaron, and last Friday more than 60 people packed into a friend’s home, with many others sending sad regrets that they couldn’t be there. Some came in from Santa Fe and Socorro and one flew in from San Francisco. Aged 20s to 70s, but there were also quite a few little kids running around who adored him. (He was 48.) Art collectors and cooks, teachers and political consultants, real estate investors and organic food specialists, film producers and fine woodworkers, marijuana farmers and restaurant owners, philanthropists and spiritual healers, gay and straight, black and white and brown, schizophrenic and depressed, and a friend who lectures across the country on quantum physics. Like his choice of friends, Chris’s interests were boundless, he read voraciously, and all were in awe of the breadth and depth of his knowledge.
That evening was one of the very best events of my entire life. Nothing could turn back
the clock and give him back to us, but we did discover the Chris we never knew existed, universally loved and praised so eloquently by so many that it was like a rebirth for us. If I had been a stranger come into that room, I would’ve nominated this dude posthumously for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Nearly everyone who spoke was able to give their tribute without breaking down, focusing on a lightness and cherished spirit rather than sadness, as so many recounted stories or just told what he meant to them. Not a single person mentioned the word killing or murder, and the entire week that we were there I only had one friend of his express an angry wish that “they get the bastard who did this.”
EVERYONE AT THE MEMORIAL
Spoke about his ever-present smile and infectious, spritely spirit. They all knew he suffered from depression and they took inspiration that he could be so cheerful and reach out to others, when he often wasn’t feeling it himself. I had three different people come up to me that night and look me in the eye and say, Christopher saved my life. (I get chills just mentioning that.) Through his unceasing efforts to be there for people and support and encourage them in their darkest times.
We opted appropriately for cremation, and spread some ashes in his beloved Sandia Mountains that tower over Albuquerque. The sky was incredible at that moment, and a
full double rainbow emerged on the way back into town. On different days we were
confronted with a coyote and a roadrunner, not usually seen on the city streets. But this Christopher was a powerful shaman I was blessed with, and he will follow me in some form or another all the rest of my days.
I THOUGHT LONG AND HARD
About whether or not I should write this column. I didn’t want the rest of my life to become about having lost him. On the other hand, my friends would want to know and it is so hard to have that information leak out slowly and have to go through that process one by one and over and over. And mostly, I knew I was sure to fail in trying to represent who Chris Andrews was. But I had to try.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” — Mark Twain (a close cousin of Christopher Andrews, which is probably why he named one of his two beloved cats Huck)
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 31 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else
in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at firstname.lastname@example.org