I received a phone call 2 years ago in the middle of the night from our youth pastor. You know you’re about to hear some bad news when your phone rings that late (or early, if you’re like me and wake up at 5:15). I sleepily answered the call, and Matt proceeded to tell me that our friend was at the gym that night with his fiance, and he passed out, and had now passed on. He was 28 years old.
I first met Andrew when he had asked about how to download our church’s podcast from the website. I explained to him the ridiculous way he had to right-click the mp3 link and download the file. At that time, I remember thinking that he was a little awkward for some reason.
Fast forward a little bit, and Atlanta had a major flood in 2009 (look it up, there are some YouTube videos of it), and Andrew’s first floor apartment was flooded while he was away at work. Andrew called me that night and asked if he could stay with me for the next night or two, since I lived a couple miles away. I was hesitant at first, because I still didn’t really know Andrew, but I felt like I should help him out.
Over time, I realized that my impression that Andrew was awkward was really just my own awkwardness and insecurities. We ended up sharing rides to Bible study with each other, where we shared conversations about engagement rings, theology, soccer, eco-friendly cars, Mennonites, technology, the outdoors, video games, and many other things. What I came to learn about Andrew was that he was passionate about other people and passionate about his relationship with his Savior. He focused on others so much that it made him different from everyone. His full time job was at Good Will, where he counseled people who were getting back on their feet. He poured himself into our church’s youth group as a small group leader and mentor. He had worked at a Christian camp most if not all of his summers in college. He loved his fiancé with every cell in his body. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
It turns out he died of an enlarged heart. As his obituary so aptly stated, this was a huge irony, because everyone who knew Andrew would say that he really did have a huge heart, figuratively. John Mark McMillan wrote a song called “How He Loves”, and if you watch the back story about why he wrote it, you find out that John Mark’s friend ended up leading several people to Christ at the cost of his life. Over time, I’m confident that the song has brought thousands more people to Christ. Watch that video here:
I can’t watch that video, or even sing the song in church without at least tearing up thinking about Andrew, because it loosely describes him. During his life, it’s hard to quantify the impact he had, but he certainly made an impact on people. More notable, though, is that through his death, at least 4 or 5 more youth came to Christ. This is what I think about when I hear “How He Loves”, and why I struggle to control my emotions.
Another funny thing about that “How He Loves” song is that Nikole and I went to see the David Crowder Band, Gungor, John Mark McMillan, and Chris August last year. They all sang the song at the end of the show (David Crowder has most recently done a popular version of the song), and Michael Gungor looks a lot like Matt Miller, who lived with Andrew for the year before his death. It was a strange juxtaposition of beauty for me. Also, Matt wrote a heart-wrenching post about the night Andrew died. Matt also posted some great pictures here. One of those pictures is in their apartment just before heading out to our wedding, which always makes my soul smile. I will always remember Andrew as one of the greatest role models and friends anyone could have.
We had the honor of visiting Andrew’s grave in Harrisonburg, VA over the Christmas holidays on our way from Pennsylvania to South Carolina, thanks to Nikole getting the directions and surprising me with the idea as we left PA. We took the picture you see at the top of this post. That relatively small gravestone is so fitting, as Andrew always minimized himself and magnified others. I love you, man, and I look forward to reuniting with you.
In closing, a few things that will always remind me of Andrew:
- “button” pronounced with a hard “t”
- AC Milan jersey (or Fly Emirates)
- Honda Fit
- car wax
- Turkey Hill