Last December, the Aleheads lost one of our own when our dear friend Magnus was taken from us suddenly and tragically.
Today would have been his 33rd birthday.
We all deal with grief differently. One method that helped me cope with the loss of Magnus was to write about my friend a bit on this website. Since it was a hobby that the two of us shared, it seemed fitting to keep his memory alive by trying to incorporate him into the daily narrative of Aleheads. I wrote up a mythical Top Ten list of his favorite beers. I did an analysis of his “Beer Judging” sheet from a tasting event he went to on the day he left us. And many of us tried to mention him or tell little stories about him in seemingly unrelated posts.
As often happens, those little “Magnus mentions” got a bit sporadic after the first few months. Recently, they’ve been all but non-existent. Newcomers to the site would be forgiven if they didn’t even know who Magnus was. They say time heals all wounds, but sometimes you wish those wounds would stay a little fresher and hurt awhile longer. Memories fade…and I hate that it’s happening to my memories of Magnus.
When we lose loved ones, we know that a time will eventually come when we go hours…and then days…perhaps even weeks without thinking of them. I’m not at the latter stage yet, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that there have been some days when I didn’t think of Magnus. He and I lived hundreds of miles apart and most of our communication was over e-mail or on the phone. Since he wasn’t a daily physical presence in my life, those constant, inescapable thoughts that haunted me in the weeks after his passing have faded. The hurt has mostly healed and a sad, but undeniable acceptance has taken its place. Frankly, it sucks.
Magnus isn’t the kind of person whose memory should be able to fade. He was wholly decent, impossibly generous, funny, kind, and courageous. He was a devoted, insanely loyal friend. He should be a shining beacon…forever burning in our hearts and minds. But…that’s just not the way it works. If it did, we’d all be paralyzed by the loved ones we’ve lost over time. Humanity couldn’t survive if we dwelled on tragedy forever. So, like everyone else, I’ve had to live with the thoughts of my friend slowly dwindling as time, inexorably, marches on.
But today is Magnus’s birthday, and I’m not going to let this anniversary pass without dedicating the day to my friend. Memories may fade. We may move on with our lives. But July 15th will ALWAYS be Magnus’s birthday…and as long as Aleheads continues trucking along, it will be St. Magnus Day. I’d like to open up the comments section for people to tell stories, quotes, or anecdotes about the man (only if you want to, of course). Or, if you didn’t know him, tell your own stories of a departed loved one…or, hell…talk about your favorite Scotch Ale (Magnus loved Scotch Ales). It doesn’t really matter. I just want people thinking about him again, even if it’s just for today. I’ll get the ball rolling with one of my favorite Magnus stories…
In the summer of 2005, I was eagerly awaiting my impending bachelor party. There were over 30 attendees set to join me in New Orleans for a weekend filled with beer, shots, oysters, and beer. I had never been to New Orleans before and I had gone so far as to organize a special menu at the French Quarter stalwart Antoine’s. It was going to be an epic weekend. But three days before we were all scheduled to arrive, Katrina hit.
At first, I was filled with self-pity that the weekend I had spent so much time planning had to be cancelled. Then, as the ramifications of the storm became apparent, I stopped caring about the bachelor party entirely. People were dying. Homes were being destroyed. One of the great American cities was collapsing before our eyes.
Wifey was in Vegas for her bachelorette party that weekend (she wisely chose a location in the typically flood-free Nevada desert) and I was set to be home alone in our DC condo. Rather than while away the hours watching the devastating news on television, I decided to hop on a train and visit Magnus. He was free, of course, considering that he had also planned on drinking ironically named Hurricanes on Bourbon Street with me that weekend.
Now, a friend being there for you when a bachelor party, or birthday, or blind date, or job interview goes awry isn’t exactly going above and beyond the call of duty. I’d like to believe that most of my friends would have been available if I had called and said, “Well…guess I’m not doing anything this weekend, mind if I come visit you?” Magnus cleared his calendar and spent the weekend taking me out to dinner and drinking entirely inappropriate amounts of beer with me. That was just standard operating procedure with him. But here’s what sets Magnus apart…
The second evening I was in town, Magnus planned a big dinner at the Gotham Bar and Grill…one of the great New York restaurants. This, in itself, was pretty cool. It’s a hard enough restaurant to get a reservation in, let alone at the last possible minute. To make it even more challenging, Magnus had somehow wrangled up a group of close to 20 people.
And this wasn’t just some friends from Manhattan. He had gotten in touch with my friends from Massachusetts, Connecticut…even California. With the bachelor party cancelled, he had contacted our friends and had them fly to New York instead. And they did. Because he asked them to.
It reminded me of the classic Simpsons episode where Homer calls his neighbors because Ned Flanders is in trouble. When the neighbors hear that Homer is calling, they plan on hanging up without listening to his entreaties. But as soon as he says that Ned is in trouble, they leap into action immediately. My gut instinct is that if I had called my friends and told them I needed them, the response would have been, “Umm…but there’s a really good episode of The Wire on right now. It’s the one where someone gets shot.” But when Magnus called, they just showed up. When he asked you for something, you did it. Because he was the kind of person who would take a bullet for you without bothering to ask why someone was shooting at you in the first place.
And so I arrived at Gotham, and saw a giant circular table filled with friends from all over the country. They had come because Magnus decided that his friend deserved a fun weekend. So he took care of making it happen just like he had done so many times before and would do so many times again. And sure, later in the year I planned a smaller party weekend in South Beach just because I like having fun. Guess who the first person to book their flight was?
There are thousands of stories like that about Magnus. I hope that by writing them down…by continuing to tell them, we can keep his memory from ever truly fading. He’ll always be in our hearts, but I want him to always be in our thoughts as well. Maybe that’s an impossibility, but there’s no harm in trying. He deserves that. Maybe the pain has subsided and the heartache has faded, but I still miss him as much as ever.
Happy birthday, Magnus. Here’s to you…