I got a call this morning from my friend Phil. Right away I could tell from the tone of his voice that all was not well. “Are you sitting down?” he asked. Such a question is only going to proceed bad news. Then he continued. “German Andy died last night.”

Andy Knight‘German Andy’ actually wasn’t German at all, in fact he was every bit as English and Phil and myself. He earned that nickname on account of the fact that several years ago he met a German girl, moved to Germany, then married and made a family with her.

Back when he lived in the UK we used to be close friends. He went to school not far from where I lived at the time so he would often drop in for lunch instructing me to “Put the kettle on lad.” He made us laugh because he always asked so many questions as if he was on a never ending quest for knowledge. But unlike most people his age, he didn’t care for controversy or gossip and instead steered clear of any unfolding dramas. In many ways that set him aside from others in the large group that we socialized in.

One such example of his unruffled approach to life was when, back in 1994, we were out driving in my beat up old Fiat 126, a tiny car that had a habit of losing it’s wheels. Ordinarily I would know when the wheel was about to fall off because the steering would start to vibrate. At that point I would stop the car and either myself or my passenger would jump out to tighten up the wheel nuts. However, on one occasion after a drive out to the beach, we were heading back when Andy calmly asked, “Hey, isn’t that your wheel?” Sure enough, as I began to exit a roundabout one of the wheels had come off the car and Andy spotted it as it made its escape.

Since those times we drifted apart as people often do. He moved to Germany, married Petra, and started a family.  In short, life happened.

Andy KnightSo when Phil and Kerry-anne were planning their wedding Phil sent Andy an invitation expecting to receive a polite response explaining that he wouldn’t be able to come. However, much to our surprise, Andy accepted the invitation.

It wasn’t long after that when he got back in touch with me via this blog. He expressed some regret at how we had drifted apart, but I told him that I believe great friendships are rarely lost, they just get a little dusty sometimes. After that it didn’t take long to shake off the dust and soon be laughing again like old friends do.

When he came over for the wedding we spent some time with one another and on the morning of his final day here we arranged to have me pick him up from his grandmothers house. As he walked down her pathway dragging what looked like Europe’s biggest suitcase, he began laughing at the fact that it was going to be near impossible to pack it into my 2 seater MG. “Do you think you’ll ever have a normal car?” he sarcastically asked as we both pushed and squeezed it into the trunk.

From there we went on a drive following the routes we had done so many times in the past. We recounted some of the funny stories that we shared and the incidents that somehow always seemed to involve either cars or girls, and occasionally both.

We drove around Birkenhead Park, then to the old church and Henry’s old house where many a late night was had. I took him by the plot where Ed’s house once stood. The large victorian home where I had once lived, and where I met Andy for the first time, was demolished a couple of years back and in it’s place there are two new houses, a stark reminder that life moves on.

We also stopped by his old house and parked outside for a few moments while he quietly took a the mental journey back in time. I think he was putting his life in context as he looked out at that old familiar house. I’d not known Andy to be a sentimental guy, but he had an almost wistful tone as he said quietly to himself more than me, “That tree used to be smaller.” – Such things often remind us how quickly time is passing. Of course I don’t know, but maybe that’s what Andy was thinking.

That evening Phil and I drove Andy to the airport. We talked about visiting him in Stuttgart once the whirlwind of his new baby had subsided. Andy had talked so highly of Stuttgart while he was with us that we wanted to see if it really was as good as he made it sound. Maybe it is, but I think maybe what made Stuttgart so great for Andy is the fact that there he had family, a wife who loved him, and two small children who called him Papa.

Andy was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis some years ago. His outlook was good, he told me himself that doctors said he had at least 20 years left to enjoy. But doctors don’t make promises they can’t keep, and sometimes life has other plans. Andy died last night as a result of health complications caused by the MS.

So in the coming days I imagine that we will indeed go to Stuttgart to see Andy, only this trip is not the one we planned in the car. But even though we’ll be traveling with heavy hearts, I find a great deal of comfort in the fact that we all got to spend time together this summer in such happy and relaxed circumstances. While we didn’t realize that was the last time we would see Andy, I’m not unhappy with thinking about that as the time we got to reconnect with our old friend before we have to say goodbye forever.

Auf Wiedersehen Andy.

Andy Knight