The world is a different place from when we last spoke just over a week ago. We were both in Denver, trying to connect. You had such a busy schedule though, as always, I'm sure. In case you're wondering, we did get that cinnamon roll biscuit from Denver Biscuit Company. With bacon, I might add. You're right, it was awesome. Thanks for that.
And 6 weeks ago, in Iceland, we were on top of the world. I mean that in two ways. Sure, we felt scared at times--we got stuck in the snow, we crept along winding, narrow, 0 visibility highways, and we sometimes wondered when we were going to have our next real, substantial meal. We even teased you for being especially scared even though, deep down, we were masking our own fears for safety.
Despite all that, we were miles high off of life. I mean that in many ways. "Man, I still can't get over that view last night," you said the morning after the Northern Lights. "I'm still laughing off of that mirror thing," you said days after that hilarious night. "I still can't believe we're really here. WE'RE HERE. Look at this place!" you'd narrate about the trip so far. "I still can't believe that we ran into those guys... of all the people to run in to!" You were incredulous throughout the trip. Your contagious enthusiasm and awe of the mysteries of life forced me to stop thinking about the stresses of work, thousands of miles away, to stop worrying about the details of our trip, to stop daydreaming ahead to my trip the following summer, and to really take stock of what lay before us in Iceland.
When we were scared, you actually rolled down your window and said "let's get rid of that negativity". We cracked up, but it reminded us to stay positive and stay hopeful. When I asked you about your about photography business, you told me stories of almost giving up, and then deciding to give it your all. I remarked on how difficult it must be to be self-employed because you don't have set hours--you're always working. You corrected me--you said that you love what you do so much that you feel like you're never working. You humbly shared with me how you've had to raise your prices to photograph because you were so in demand. You seemed to always literally be up in the air, traveling to all corners of the world, on assignment. One morning, you woke up and said "guys, we have to go back to that waterfall. I had a dream of an epic shot." And we did go back. And you did get that shot. You told me about how doubtful your parents were at first about your choice to become a photographer. "How do they feel now?" I asked. "Proud."
Our little Iceland family all kind of came up with the idea together to come back to Iceland summer 2016 for mine and Brian's wedding. You, Mr. Idea Machine, were overflowing with suggestions for Brian and I for the wedding invitations, the website, giveaways, thank you cards, and on and on. Brian and I were so excited to have you be our photographer for our wedding. I was a little bit hesitant about being able to afford you--after all, it's your business, you're in high demand, and we definitely know what you're worth. Regardless, we were determined to make it work. We had nothing else figured out about the wedding except that 1) our Iceland family would be reunited once more where it all began and 2) you would be our photographer.
Andrew, six weeks ago, we were invincible. We spent our first night in a creepy converted schoolhouse. We zigzagged and backtracked steep, muddy roads. We stopped in the middle of abandoned highways to take "middle of the road" pictures. We sang--a lot. We made friends with strangers. We made friends with cops. We hiked a glacier. We walked behind waterfalls. We got drunk purely off the view of the Northern Lights. We conquered what felt like another planet. You photographed indescribable landscapes and precious moments.
We all were supposed to go back, Andrew. I don't understand. You're so talented. You'd achieved so much. We'd gone through mountains. Why? Life is not supposed to end like this. We're supposed to be invincible. We felt so invincible.
You said that the way that you sell your work to potential customers is by reminding them that almost nothing in life lasts, but photographs are forever. Now, friends say that your legacy is in your photos, Andrew, and that you'll live on in that way. I believe them. But still. What the fuck. You're not supposed to live on in that way, at least not yet. You're supposed to live. I don't understand.
I'm so thankful that I got to know you so quickly and so deeply if even for only a brief moment. You gave me so much to think about in our conversations on those 12+ hour car rides. There's no reason that you had to leave us so soon and so suddenly. I still can't wrap my head around why God would do this, if there is a God. I never will. No reason will ever be good enough to justify your death. I miss you, Andrew, but not in the way that I've ever felt before. I've moved around a lot and have said my fair share of goodbyes, but this is different. This 'I miss you' means 'I can't believe I'm never, ever going to talk to you again'.
So, I guess that's it, Andrew. They say "rest in paradise", but I think that wherever you are now, if you are somewhere, you're not sitting around. You're doing something epic and enjoying it to the fullest. Speaking of paradise, man, I hope we see you somehow next year at ours.
See you out there, man.
Photo credit to the late Mark Andrew Gonzales.