Sunday, June 2, 2013

Here is a version of my remarks at Affys memorial. It's not exactly what I said, I didn't have much written down. Instead this is culled from my memory of what I said, or wanted to say. But I wanted to share it with you in case you wanted to have it.

Photo of George Bertelstein by Jessica Rose

Standing here now reminds me of the last time I stood before many of you in the woods and spoke. That was at Affy and Katy’s wedding.

Unlike George, I have an almost complete in ability to speak in any way other than off the cuff. So I hope you’ll forgive me if the transitions and relevance of my comments don’t totally flow in a way that makes sense. But that’s what having a conversation with Affy was like. He’d make three or four logical leaps in his mind that he wouldn’t share and then he’d give you the conclusion, and it was up to you to try to put it all together and figure out how he got there.

Afran Abraham. Abraham is fitting. Affy was a father, not just to Leo and Sophie, but in a way he was the father of our mirth. From the time we met him it felt like any gathering of people was just that, a group of people in a room, until Affy got there, and then it was really a party. It’s like, when he got there everyone could totally relax and have fun. Like air had been pumped into the room. Affy was fun in a completely unselfconscious way. He could dance like no one was watching while also totally hoping everyone was watching. He was like a miniature Bacchus, our personal God of carefree enjoyment.

I’ve been trying to figure out why this has hit me so hard, why I’ve felt so unstable the last week and a half.  We’ve lost people before, I’m sure we all have. But this was different. When we were in our teens and twenties we knew some of us weren’t going to make it out. That was who we were, it was how we lived. When we made it into our thirties I thought we were safe. That the danger had passed and we wouldn’t have to do this again for another thirty years. The reason I’ve been so unstable is because I’ve lost one of my pillars. I’ve lost one of the people who made me who I am. Affy was one of the few people who have ever made me feel totally accepted, totally comfortable. He did that for a lot of people. He treated everyone like they were his best friend. He made me feel so comfortable I would do things for him that I probably wouldn’t do for anyone else.

I’d like to tell a story about that, if you’ll indulge me. This was back when we were both working at Togo’s, and living at Affy’s parents’ house. I was renting a room in the attic. Some of the old Togo’s crew is here today. So we lived on the north side of campus, and worked across campus on Telegraph. Togo’s had a very simple dress code, pants and a white polo shirt. I had just been promoted to low level shift manager, and it was my job to enforce the dress code. So one day Affy shows up. Late. And he’s wearing the most ridiculous pair of acid-wash, cut off, jean shorts you’ve ever seen. And that’s not the worst part. He’s also wearing, and if you will, please close your eyes and try to picture this shirt. It’s a purple t-shirt, and says, “LOVE” spelled out in glittery, rainbow puff paint dots that look like tiny Hershey’s Kisses. And I’m like, “Affy, you can’t work in that outfit.” But I also know that he’s going to have to walk all the way back across campus and all the way back, and he’s already late. So I grit my teeth, and I take one for the team. “The team” being Affy.

“OK Affy. We’re going to trade clothes.” So we go to the office and trade clothes. Now, Affy was slightly larger than me, so now not only am I wearing this Tobias Funke outfit, but it’s huge on me. Have you ever seen someone in baggy cutoffs? So now I have to walk back across campus in this outfit. And it’s the first really nice week of spring, and the college girls are out in their it’s-finally-spring-and-I-can-get-some-sun outfits. So there’s just beautiful girls all around looking hot in their spring garb, girls I want to date because I’m eighteen, and I’m wearing Affy’s acid wash Daisy Duke nightmare outfit. So what do I do?

I strut.

Because I know that’s how Affy wore it over there.

I strut, because if you’re going to wear the man’s clothes, you have to sport the man’s confidence.

I think many of us are searching for answers, and I don’t know if there are any answers to be had. Something that has helped me, that has gone through my mind often these past days, is a prayer we say each week in church. We say this prayer to God, but I think it works just as well for Affy, or for each other. I’d like to share it with you, and though I know that we have many different faiths and beliefs, I hope there’s something we can take from this.

We confess that we have sinned against you
In thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone
We have not loved you with our whole heart,
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry, and we humbly repent.

The message I take from this that we have to commit to loving each other. I think that when we look at the regret in our life, it’s the things left undone that we regret the most. So I urge you to take the time to reach out to the people you love. Do it small ways. Let them know you care, that you’re thinking of them, that you love them. We are a community, and it’s only by loving each other with our whole hearts that we will be able to survive.

Thank you.