Today, I lost a great friend, a guy who looked out for me like I was his little sister, and my favorite grizzly bear. His name was Andy Krueger. He was only 22 for a month when he died today of a massive heart attack that he suffered 3 days ago. I love him like crazy, miss him terribly, and I just want to write a few words in memoriam of this great friend of mine.
I knew about Andy from the very beginning of band camp. He was pretty hard to miss. He was that 6"8 guy who played the piccolo. Yes, I said piccolo. Not tuba. Piccolo. Everybody knew him not only for his commanding physical presence, but for the happiness and joy in life he radiated everywhere he went. I didn't actually talk to him until a few days into band camp when we started charting pre-game (we ran onto the field from the same tunnel), and we became friends.
Every once in awhile (at least 3 times a month), we would get lunch together. As a composer, I have some emotional, tired days. As a composer in marching band, I had a LOT more ridiculously tired days than usual. But every time I would go to band tired, dejected, sick of the horrible weather, or otherwise finding many reasons for not wanting to be there, seeing Andy ALWAYS brightened my day. He knew just how to make me smile and see the positive side of things, would call me out on my crazier moments, and was overall just a fantastic friend.
It's rare to find a person where every single memory that you share with them is a positive one, but, guess what? Every moment I was privileged to spend with Andy was not only "ok", but actually GOOD. Whenever I wanted to complain about how busy my life was, he'd listen, make some joke about me being crazy (these jokes were pretty common), we'd laugh it off, and I'd leave every one of those little conversations feeling completely satisfied without needing to "vent" all of my anger away.
There were also the short jokes. So. Many. Short. Jokes. But, at 5"1, you don't argue your stature with the guy who is 6"8. Just saying. You also may wonder why exactly I called him "my favorite grizzly bear" earlier. This all started when for some reason, I would poke Andy every time I saw him. Like a hibernating bear, you also didn't know how he'd react to this. Sometimes, he'd just poke you back. Sometimes, he'd ignore you. Sometimes, he'd tickle you until your sides hurt. Or, occasionally, he might chase you down, pick you up, throw you over his shoulder and carry you a good distance across campus so you could get stared at by a lot of strangers. Not, like, I'd KNOW about that or anything, I mean, it isn't like it ever happened to me... *cough*
I have one very specific favorite memory that I'd like to share, which will probably cheer you guys up.
The Cornhusker Marching Band traveled with the football team to Orlando, Florida over New Year's. During that time, we marched in a parade. Before the parade, we had a couple hours of down time, hanging out in our uniforms. I was meandering around, talking to people, when, I saw a couple of taller guys (all 6 feet tall and above) running at Andy and chest-bumping him.
Ok, so, I realize I'm one of the shortest people in the whole band, but, for some reason, instead of amusement at these antics, I felt a rather unexpected emotion... Jealousy. Yup. That's right. I decided that I was going to chest bump Andy.
When I offered the challenge, his eyes bugged out a bit and he went, "Caitlin, you have to be kidding me. I'll squish you."
I replied, "No way, dude. I got it. Come at me, bro!" (I also pounded my chest in a very "come at me bro" way, which, let's be honest, was probably just funny and wasn't doing much to intimidate anyone.)
So... The first time, I ran at him and he stood still. I managed to fly about 4 feet back, but I still landed on my feet. Idiot that I am, I felt cheated, so, I told Andy that he had to run at me like he did at the other guys. Andy reluctantly agreed... And I ended up flying pretty high in the air, I would say that my feet were about 3-4 feet above the ground, easily. But, because Andy was always looking out for me, he caught me before I could fall flat on my butt and injure my tailbone before the parade. Because, even though I was being ridiculous, he not only put up with my antics, he saved me from injuring myself by them. We also did this while we were in Universal Studios, out of uniform, but, that time wasn't as completely silly as the first two times. Well, ok, it was still completely silly, but stupid things always seem to look stupider and funnier in a marching band uniform. There IS however, a video of the third chest bump on Facebook, if you'd like a chuckle.
I'm getting off topic. The point is, that's who Andy WAS. A really silly, awesome, hilarious guy who always made you happy, and in the end, you knew would always be there for you. No questions asked. He was wonderful. And every memory I have with him is wonderful. And I'll cherish every single moment I got to spend with him this year. In the short time I knew him, he made an impact on me that'll last forever, unlike a possible bruise from the chest-bumping that went away relatively quickly.
I feel like I'm not saying enough, not nearly enough to honor him, because there are just too many great things to honor and remember about Andy Krueger. But, I'm doing my damnedest to let all of you know, even those of you who didn't know Andy very well or at all, that the world lost one of the best human beings I've ever had the honor to call my friend.
Andy, this last part is just for you.
You were such a good friend to me. Your life and passing has taught me to cherish every moment even more, work harder, choose to have a positive attitude always, and to love. Not like I've been loving, but to love the world and everyone in it with every fiber of my being, and when I get hurt, to take it all in stride. The most important thing you taught me is this: Never lose sight of all the beauty that is in the world and its people. For God's sake, this is the best lesson ever as a composer, and as a person. If I can remember this simple thing, I'll have you to thank for truly unlimited inspiration.
Heaven got really lucky today, they get to keep one of the biggest, best, most beautiful souls of anyone I've ever known.
God, take Andy Krueger into your arms. He deserves nothing less. And, go ahead and give him a huge bear hug, so he can know what it feels like to be small for a little while. I'm sure it'll be pretty disorienting for him.
With all my love,
P.S. A big thank you to Michael Harper, Kyle Sass, Alex Lucier, and Jared Gamble for cheering me up and letting me cry and holding me and loving me and letting me know that I have some of the most amazing friends anyone could ever have. I love you guys, even though I know you hate mushy sentimental crap. :)
R.I.P. Andy Krueger. 2/20/2012