TO THE EDITOR:
Andrew Crabtree was everywhere.
You might have seen him as a cast member in LAB! productions, a member of St. Anthony Hall, or part of UNC’s improv team, CHIPS.
Even if you didn’t know his name, perhaps you knew him as the man who began college with no hair and ended his first semester with a handsome beard and coiffure. The next year, you might have spotted a man with completely white hair. After a certain amount of treatment, it started growing in that way.
But few people at UNC knew him as the man with cancer, and that’s how Andrew wanted it.
I hope his cancer will be the smallest part of his legacy, but I know that how Andrew chose to live with it will be something I remember forever.
In April of 2011, he sent me a Facebook message asking if I’d like to be his roommate. We weren’t as close as we’d been in middle school, though I knew he’d recently been diagnosed with cancer.
He would undergo chemotherapy and surgery during the summer, he said, but he’d be back to normal in no time. I only learned the day before he passed that he’d always known his cancer would likely be terminal.
I had always assumed he would get better. Even when he took the spring semester of our first year off, Andrew framed his month-long trips to Germany as preventative. We spent more time talking on Facebook about Germany’s politics and its strange penchant for competitive dog obstacle courses than his two major lung surgeries.
During our sophomore year, I spent nearly every weeknight at the Daily Tar Heel offices or in the library. By the time I’d come back, Andrew would usually be asleep. Other times I’d be too caught up in my own problems to notice his.
Part of me wishes that Andrew had been more forthcoming about his prognosis so I could have spent my time with him more kindly.
But regret is a reflex at times like these, and I’m beginning to realize that his greatest gift to me was the permission to watch him go without feeling any. He didn’t want his life to be filtered through the platitudes and pity provoked by his condition. I know now that Andrew would rather I stay late at the paper or the library than have me come home early because he was dying. He was determined to be a friend who had to deal with my ups and downs like anyone else.
Though Andrew recognized that cancer would inevitably affect his life and relationships, he never let it define them. I like to think that cancer changed him so little because he already lived so fully.
Andrew would cringe when I called him brave, but space constraints mean it’ll have to do the trick. Sorry, bud. Andrew was brave. Andrew was kind. Andrew was brilliant and Andrew was hilarious. Andrew was and will forever be my friend and hero.
He is still everywhere for me.
Global studies and journalism ’15
This letter is adapted from the eulogy given at Andrew’s funeral service.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.