If it is true (according to Ephesians 4:25) that “we are all members of one body”, then when one of us is hurting, it makes sense that all of us feel pain. It is unfortunate that some people are so good at covering up the pain that even those close to them don’t feel it. Last month a bright light in our world extinguished itself. In trying to comfort myself, I am writing this and hoping it will comfort some of the many that loved her.
I didn’t want to like Andrea Beerman. She was a member of the Core Council at the Center for Spiritual Living in Kansas City and a regular presider during our Sunday service. She appeared to be a little too perfect with her slender body, beautiful smile, poise and eloquence on stage, and thriving career. She was a real easy target for envy and jealousy. So I did what I often do when I don’t understand someone and want to move past it. I invited her to lunch and she agreed to meet me.
Her choice of restaurants endeared her to me. It was a cozy, neighborhood joint run by a couple of friends of her and her husband. It is important to me, as it was to her to support local businesses. We sat down after the usual lunch rush and had a chance to relax and savor our food and spend time getting to know each other. After a couple of hours together, I still did not like Andrea, I LOVED her.
Underneath the “perfect” exterior was a woman that had been heartbroken by the break up of her first marriage and judged by others because of her amazing metabolism. She told me, “I know people think I eat and then go in the bathroom to throw up, but it’s just not true. I was blessed with a great metabolism handed down by my folks and I exercise.” Oh and she is 30 something, which helps too, but she never looked her age. She had beautiful skin and a youthful demeanor. That too had the potential to hold her back.
Andrea had to fight to establish her dental practice because people told her she was too young to have her own business, but she had faith in herself and did it anyway. She did what any wise woman would do, she surrounded herself with people who could see her greatness and support her in her efforts. I never heard her say a bad word about anyone. She would just smile and ignore the comments about her “skinny” body and “overly cheerful:” disposition. From that day forward, I would not tolerate any snide remarks from anyone about her. Instinctively I wanted to protect her. Somewhere deep down I must have known how fragile she really was.
In the process of our conversation, I asked her why in the world she wanted to become a dentist. A pretty and intelligent girl like her could do anything she set her mind to. What was it that made her want to have her fingers in other people’s mouths every day? She laughed and said ever since she was a little girl she knew she wanted to be a dentist. When she played with her dolls, she would pretend to fix their teeth. I said, “Oh, so you were like Hermey the elf on Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer?” She was thoughtful for a moment and then smiled that big, beautiful Andrea smile and said “Yes, I guess so!”
After that we spent a bit of time together over lunches and at church. We kept saying, “Let’s get together again sometime soon.” But that was not to be.
Andrea was a cheerleader for me. She often presided at our Sunday services, and once read an article I wrote on stage, giving me full credit. She gave me a beautiful birthday card this year and made sure she texted me a “Happy Birthday” wish on the day! She cheered me on with my new ministry efforts, and wrote “I am so glad to be on this journey with you”.
I invited Andrea to be a guest co-host on our radio show, and she was, in her usual style, VERY prepared. We had great fun that day interviewing the amazing young man, Chris Yamas. At the end of the show Chris told Andrea that she had a “beautiful smile”, and she did. Andrea was beautiful, inside and out!
Last month, my dear friend could not take the pain of this world any longer. Without reaching out to any of the wonderful support system she had established for herself, Andrea killed herself, leaving us to wonder what could have been so awful that she couldn’t lean on one of us to help her through it.
Of course there is gossip and speculation about her life and the “why’s” and “should have’s” but I won’t listen to it. In my heart I am still protective of her. All I need to know is Andrea is now at peace with whatever demons chased her in her short life. The lesson for us left behind, is that we never know what is going on in someone’s world. It is so easy to be envious of someone who seems to have it all, but perfectionism has its price.
Andrea left us a legacy of love and kindness. She was an amazing woman and her presence here will be greatly missed by so many of us that loved her. Everyone she touched has been changed by her life and death. Her brilliance stays with us even though her physical body is gone. I noticed at church that we are treating each other with more kindness and consideration, and being mindful to really keep in touch, not just mouth the words. We may not have told her while she was here, but hopefully she now knows how valuable her life is to us!
According to Wikipedia: In the original Star Wars film, “the Force” is described by Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi as an energy field created by all living things, that surrounds and penetrates living beings and binds the galaxy together. When there is pain or suffering inflicted on any of us, it creates a “disturbance in the Force”. Andrea’s death has created quite a disturbance in the Force and left a big hole in my heart.
According to Oprah Winfrey: “We are all role models for each other and you never know the moment that you impact somebody or touch somebody.”
Be gentle with each other because you never know what someone is dealing with privately. And tell those you love how you feel about them NOW! Words left unspoken are heartbreaking when there are no more opportunities in this lifetime.
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