Bryan's childhood friend, Andy (you may be Andrew to other people, but you'll always be Andy to us) gave a beautiful eulogy at the service yesterday. He's allowing me to post it here. Nathan asked me afterward, "Mommy, did everyone know that he was talking to us kids?" Only a true friend could make Bryan's kids feel like the eulogy was given for them alone.
My Oldest, Longest Lasting, Best Friend
June 16, 1968 – June 29, 2012
July 2, 2012
Aimee asked if I would think about giving Bryan’s eulogy, and I told her that I didn’t have to think twice about it; I’m honored. And I would like to tell you kids [Bryan’s and Aimee’s children] some stories about your Dad when he was about your age …
I’ve always thought of Bryan as my oldest, longest lasting, best friend. I’ve known him since the first grade – since Mrs. Link’s class at Coker Elementary, when he called me up after school. I was in my bedroom, playing with my Matchbox cars, when my Mom came in and said, “You have a phone call.” I’d never had a phone call before. Bryan gave me my first phone call, calling from two doors down and across the street, asking my Mom, “Can Andy come over and play?” He was an assertive little first grader, and when I saw the huge swimming pool in his backyard, he became my instant best friend!
We were inseparable during those early years – me, Bryan, Jennifer, and some other kids in our gang – all playing Marco Polo ’til we were prunes; then sun tanning on his diving board – talking about what we wanted to be when we grew-up, while watching the lazy summer clouds drift by. I told Bryan that I wanted to be an architect when I grew-up, and he said, “You just want to be an architect because Mr. Brady on the Brady Bunch is an architect.” The things kids say … The truth is that I liked Mr. Brady’s red convertible, and I thought if I was an architect, I could drive a cool car.
Bryan actually taught me how to swim! “All you have to do,” he said, “is hold your breath, pinch your nose, go under, stick out your other hand, and start kicking your feet like crazy.” It worked! No more floaties ever again!
After swimming, we’d go inside and watch TV. Famished, we’d devour pickles, our favorite. Double- and triple-dipping them in the mustard jar, an acquired taste that Bryan introduced me to, and something that I don’t think his Mom appreciated! All our pickle debris left floating in her mustard … The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeanie, the Brady Bunch – these reruns were all our shows, and of course, Bryan’s favorite, Lost in Space!
I used to try to debate him on the merits of Lost in Space vs. Star Trek vs. Battlestar Galactica vs. Star Wars, when it later came out, but he’d have none of that … Anyone who knows Bryan, knows there’s no winning a debate with him. Lost in Space it was, and we reenacted scenes from Lost in Space, developed our own sequels to the show, turned his playhouse into the Jupiter 2, and created our own robot from a metal trash can with some old dryer duct tubing for the arms.
Even as a kid, Bryan was already on his way to being a techie type – he rigged up an old cassette recorder to the TV, so we could record all those shows (no doubt, in violation of copyright laws), and when the knob on the cassette recorder broke, he found a pair of pliers to use; nothing would hold him back. Back before the days of cable TV, and when were a little bit older, we’d climb this tree in front of his parent’s bedroom to get up on the roof of his house so that we could turn the TV antenna just the right way when the weather was just right to just barely pick up the Kerrville station. Then Bryan’s poor Dad would come home and not be able to watch the local news! “Hey, what’s wrong with the TV?!”
Spending the night at Bryan’s house was always a blast! We’d stay up until midnight to watch the TV stations sign-off with the Star Spangled Banner, the end of the broadcast day, something they don’t do anymore … And then there were our bikes! We rode them all over Hill Country Village and Hollywood Park, back when there used to be a bunch of trails before it got so developed. We’d cut through the trails to Highway 281, which used to just be a four-lane highway with some barbed wire on both sides back then, if you can believe it. We’d cross the highway and park our bikes outside the Pizza Hut, which is still there, on the northbound side between Brook Hollow and Thousand Oaks. That Pizza Hut used to have a PacMan video game and later Ms. PacMan, and we loved them both! Running up our Coca Cola tab, we’d stay there all day, in the air condition, playing PacMan and Ms. PacMan. Those were wonderful summers, and I’ve hardly scratched the surface, keeping it G-rated, but Bryan gave me a beautiful childhood and lifelong friendship, for which I will always be grateful.
* * *
As the years went on and we got older, we went our separate ways some. I got involved in Scouting High Adventure stuff; Bryan transferred to MacArthur High School, and I stayed at Churchill, but ours was that type of friendship that, even if we hadn’t seen each other for a while, we could still get back together and pick up like it was just yesterday.
I was absolutely honored to be there when Bryan and Aimee got married, and one of my fondest memories of Bryan is actually a time not too long ago … He and I met at Specht’s Store in Bulverde, about five years ago … Sitting out on the back porch of that place, listening to the rain, we had a real honest heart-to-heart about our lives, about some of our hopes and fears, about his older brother Mike and that fateful day back in 1981, and about how our lives had gone separate and similar ways since childhood. It’s probably one of the closest times I’ve ever felt to Bryan.
I used to think that I went off in pursuit of my career, and Bryan stayed home to be a Dad, but that’s actually not quite true, for Bryan did have a career – a very successful career, with his own software and consulting firm and he had a beautiful family, while overcoming his own set of hardships and challenges; things weren’t always easy for Bryan, but he wasn’t one to let obstacles get in his way, and one only has to spend five minutes in the company of his kids to see how loving and kind and beautiful they are to each other.
Nathan, Megan, Evan, Justin, Carsten, Steffen, and Austin – I want you all to know that you’re Dad was a very good man and he loved each of you more than you might be able to understand at this point in your young lives, but you were each on his mind as he started to get sick. One of the last things he said to me, when I saw him in the hospital a few weeks ago, was about you kids – he called you each a miracle. You are his seven miracles …
It’s really not fair that he died much too young. And I don’t know why some things like this happen. I’d like to think that it’s all part of some bigger plan, and some day, we’ll all understand – some day we’ll see how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together, but that will take time. Right now, we only have one piece of the puzzle, and it’s hard to see what bigger picture it might be a part of. But in time, maybe we’ll get another piece of the puzzle, then another, and then another, and maybe it will start to make sense; at least that is my hope …
What I do know is that Bryan was a man of faith. When I saw him in the hospital a few weeks ago, the first question he asked me was, “So, how’s your faith going?” I was thinking, “Wait a minute, I’m supposed to be ministering to you, and you’re ministering to me, what’s wrong with this picture?” But that’s the way he was … Underneath all his friendly banter, dry wit, and attempts to engage me in political and theological debates, was a genuine concern for my welfare and the welfare of others. And though we might occasionally quibble over the latest Presidential controversies, when it came to the stuff that really mattered most – life, love, family, the existence of God, we agreed.
* * *
In his book, Kayak Morning: Reflections on Love, Grief, and Small Boats, Roger Rosenblatt writes that you have to “transform your grief” (2012, p. 20) into something positive, something productive, and Bryan’s death has already given me pause to examine my own life and what’s important to me. He’s reminded me not to wait too long to do the things I really want to do. I know it may sound cliché, but you can’t keep saying, “Well, maybe someday” or “next year,” for someday or next year may not come. If you want to do it, whatever it is, then you need to do it now; don’t wait too long.
Bryan actually accomplished quite a lot in his short life with his business, his family, and his commitment to his faith, and he didn’t always have it so easy. God only knows how much more he might’ve achieved, had he just had more time. I think his advice to us might be to get our priorities in order – put God first, and with God first, I’ve found that all the other little details I often worry about have a way of working themselves out, as we begin to know a new freedom.
I’d like to close with a prayer …
Most gracious God, Ruler of the Universe, I thank you for my best friend, Bryan, for the beautiful childhood he gave me and for all the ways he touched our lives – shaped us and helped us become who we are today – for the values and commitments he left us, and for the ways he will remain in our hearts and in our memories. I especially pray for his family during this time – for Aimee and his beautiful children, may they be healthy and safe, and may they know wonderful childhoods as Bryan and I shared; in Christ’s name, I pray, amen.
Andrew D. Reichert