Shopping Cart

In Memory of My Soul Sister, Andi

Posted by Keri Bertolino on

January 17, 2007 started like any other day. I stopped at Starbucks on my way to work and, while waiting for my order, I checked my email. I was happy to see one had just come in from my best friend Andi, who had been in Iraq for the past few months working for the National Democratic Institute (NDI).
That morning’s email had the same easy-breezy tone of all the rest. But I knew that even if she was scared, she would never let it be known. Most of her emails glossed over her life in Baghdad, focusing more on what was going on here in Boston or pondering her post-Baghdad life (“the West Bank is calling me”). Andi didn’t like being the center of attention, even among her best friends. She always tried to shine the light on those around her, which is why every one of her friends will tell you how special she always made them feel.
I met Andi six and half years earlier on my first day of work at a PR firm outside of Boston. She was assigned to be my office buddy, checking in on me to ensure my first week was a success. I remember our first encounter so clearly. We were total opposites - she was blonde-haired, blue eyed and a conservative (and proud) Ohioan who used words like “tennis shoes” for sneakers and “pop” for soda. She was confident and poised, and could talk sports around any man I knew (especially if it was about the Cleveland Indians). Despite our different upbringings, we became fast friends, roommates and, as she often said, sisters. She referred to us as The Odd Couple - like Felix and Oscar, constantly reminding me how, “we’re the same, but just a little different, Ker.”
When I got to work on January 17, I went about my day, but in the back of my mind, I knew I had to respond to Andi’s email before heading home. A care package for her sat on my desk. In the email I sent her on January 16, I promised I’d mail it the next day. Email Andi, go to Post Office…
It wasn’t long into my day, however, that I got the most devastating news of my life. Andi had been killed when leaving a meeting in Yarmouk, a neighborhood of Baghdad. I didn’t believe it. In fact, I vehemently denied it to my old boss, the bearer of the news, telling him I just got an email from her that morning. There was no way this was happening. But by the time I drove the 45 minutes to my parents’ house, the Associated Press had confirmed that this nightmare was true. As the days and weeks went on, the world learned that her death was a carefully orchestrated attack by more than 30 Iraqi terrorists, targeting an American woman promoting peace in their country.
I have spent the last 10 years trying to make sense of what happened that day. I wish I could tell you that I have. All I can do is look for ways to honor her memory whenever possible.
When I started Moonlight + Sage, I thought this would be a good way to give back to all the young women who embody Andi's fierce spirit and determination to make a difference in this world. Her father agreed. He reminded me how spiritual Andi was, and how much she would love what I am doing. After her death, I was given her angel cards as something to remember her by. At the time, I had no idea what to do with them. But here I am, 10 years later with a company that revolves around everything that she loved so much. The Universe works in funny ways, doesn’t it?
The new Moonlight + Sage Lepidolite crystal candle was designed for Andi. Proceeds from the sale of this candle will be donated to The Andi Foundation, which was founded in her memory to help women fulfill their education and career dreams. The Andi Foundation also provides support to The Andi Leadership Institute for Young Women (ALI), an organization founded by Andi’s dear friend, Jaime Horn. ALI is working with the next generation of young, female peacebuilders, equipping them with the necessary conflict resolution and leadership skills during their formative years.

My hope is that when you light this candle, you think of all the wonderful people in this world whose only mission is to make it a better place for everyone, and that the thought alone brings a little peace to your heart and serenity to your day.

You are missed, my friend.

Older Post Newer Post

1 comment

  • Kaitlin Pollara on

    KB, This is beautiful, I wish I had the opportunity to meet Andi. Blessed to have you as a dear friend…and so was Andi.

    Love you…keep on spreading the love.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published