on love, death and the other various colors of life

A written tribute to my friend Andrew Kuebrich. He died in a bike accident on Wednesday, January 25, 2012, in the middle of the day. He was biking from Taipei, Taiwan, to Kending (the Southern tip of the island) on his Chinese New Year Vacation. He was hit and run over by a van on the road near Pingdong, which was not very far from Kending, his goal destination. An artery in his leg was punctured, as well as other parts of his body being bruised and fractured, causing him to pass out and lose an excessive amount of blood. Andrew was dead before he reached the hospital. 

Family, friends and loved ones around the world are remembering this young man and celebrating the life he lived to the fullest. This is for him. 

When my Grandma passed away in Cebu this last summer, I was sad. I held my cousins as they cried and documented their tears. My own face burst into tears when I first laid eyes on her body in the coffin. Yet at the same time, her time had come. We all more or less expected it, even if we weren’t saying it. 

Last night was the first night since Wednesday I didn’t start hyperventilating and cry myself to sleep with music playing in my ears or watch a movie or write or read something late into the night. Because Wednesday afternoon, I didn’t expect to find out that my friend Andrew died in a bike accident in the middle of his Chinese New Year bike trip around the island of Taiwan. 
Andrew Kuebrich entered my life in the fall of 2011. He became a natural part of the Aroma community in Ximen Ding and was one of those people I invited to everything. He was a super fun guy, so there was never any objection to having him around. 
I’ll never forget how conversational he was. One of the first things that struck me about him was the lack of a communication barrier between him and other people. It was no wonder he felt so comfortable in the international crowd, not to mention he did the same thing I did by moving overseas to teach English right away after college. It didn’t matter how much Chinese he spoke or how much English the other party spoke; he made conversation, he made a connection, and he made everyone smile. 
Me and Andrew on the train back to Taipei after the Taroko Marathon
It was impossible not so smile after you talked to this guy. 
And I’m not talking a cheesy, play-some-inspirational-music, hallmark smile, either. Andrew was authentic. He said what he meant and meant what he said. I’ll never forget the countless times he helped me understood the deeper meaning of life just a little bit more because of what he said. It wasn’t even what he was trying to do. That’s simply what happens: people who know how to live life naturally inspire others. And that’s what Andrew Kuebrich was, a natural inspiration

I’ll never forget one conversation I had with him. We were talking about running. Andrew was a runner. He just ran. It was like breathing for him. He was a distance runner and actually had plans to start training for speed. He signed up for all these local races. He was telling me how he got into running. It had something to do with living on the country roads of Illinois, so he started running. And kept running. I’ll never forget what he said. “It became the thing I was good at. And everybody wants to be good at something. My thing was running.” 

Andrew joined us for a few of our post-worship service debrief meetings. After the routine discussion of the pros and cons of the night, Andrew shared a prayer request for one of his students. This student’s father had just passed away and Andrew had a really strong desire to reach out to this kid and just love him and be there for him. So we prayed for Andrew and his student. Someone even took a picture of it. 

Praying for Andrew after the worship service one Sunday night. He was part of the family.

I’ve spent hours since Wednesday poring over the facebook posts that have been showing up on Andrew’s wall since the family began notifying friends and loved ones. I’ve put up my own words and pictures, as well. There are friends all over the world mourning this loss. Words, pictures, and videos have been singing the memory of Andrew Kuebrich. It’s incredible. 
Andrew was my age. Two years out of college. Living the life of adventure overseas. His first year out of college was actually spent in Hong Kong. Then he moved to Taiwan and shortly after that we met him. And now we miss him. The whole community feels the loss of his smile, his humor, his authentic and friendly personality. 
And now he’s with his Maker, in the Place where he will never stop smiling. 

One of the last things Andrew looked at on this earth
Of course, it’s all been rather difficult to deal with emotionally. I feel like I’ve been keeping it all in during the day and then letting it all out when I’m alone in bed at night. Unlike my grandma, who I needed to travel by airplane to see the three times I visited her while I’ve been here in Taiwan, Andrew, in the five months I knew him, was a part of the daily fabric of my life. I saw him at least once, if not twice, a week, invited him to everything, and thought of him often, as I do with all the people who have become a part of the Aroma community, a part of our lives.

Andrew was just getting started on his Taiwan bucket list when he died. This bike trip around Taiwan was on there. So was going to a farm and doing some Taiwanese farming. In fact, that’s what my last conversation with him was about. He was never finished living or having adventures, and that’s what he did, up to the very last moment. That morning of the day he died, he had posted pictures on his facebook, keeping everyone visually updated on his trip. That picture of the ocean is one of them.

Pastor Jeff from Oasis, the church we used to attend up in Tian Mu, reminded us tonight that “Andrew’s life was not cut short. It was completed.” 

Naturally enough, some of my favorite moments in the last five months included Andrew. He was always there, not trying to be noticed by anyone but being noticed by everyone for his relaxing sense of humor, friendly smile, and all-around approachability. So I’m going to conclude this tribute with a visual compilation of some of my favorite moments in the last five months, with captions.

A group of new friends and old friends hanging out after church one Sunday. It was a beautiful afternoon of people. 
This was a moment captured on a perfect day. It started on the beach and then evolved into riding bikes along the coast.  After this perfect day, Andrew sent me a message thanking me for putting it together. 

Andrew was there for the Aroma Church’s one year anniversary. We ate pizza!

I followed Thanksgiving with a Holiday Dessert & Movie Night at my apartment. Andrew was there, smile and all. I’ll never forget what he told me: “Victoria, I must say, I was both surprised and pleased to see the spread on the table.” Whether he knew it or not, this guy knew how to make someone’s day without fail. 

This also happened on that perfect beach day. The best part was Andrew’s prelude for the photo shoot: “Take a picture of me so it looks like I’m making an amazing dive to catch the frisbee!”

Rest in peace, Andrew. I will never forget you. In your memory, I will strive to pay your positivity forward. You truly changed the world, friend.  

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