May 26th, 2008
01:06 PM ET

I lost my love in Baghdad

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/05/26/vert.book.baghdad.jpg caption="Michael Hastings is the author of 'I Lost My Love in Baghdad.'" width=292 height=320]

Michael Hastings
Author, "I Lost My Love in Baghdad"

How do you live after tragedy? I'd never really considered the question myself until the months following January 17, 2007. On that day, the woman I loved more than I could ever capture in words was killed in Baghdad. Her name was Andi Parhamovich; she was an American civilian working in Iraq for an NGO that was trying to help the people of Iraq set-up a working democracy. She was 28, beautiful, spiritual, brilliant, born and raised in Ohio. Her killers, insurgents who claimed links to Al-Qaeda, have never been brought to justice.

I couldn't believe it happened(I say "it"—I don't even like writing the words to describe the incident, another word I don't like, which may seem odd considering I spent most of the last year writing about "it")—even though I was there covering the war myself as a correspondent for Newsweek. To this day, I can't believe what happened, really. We had planned to spend our lives together; we loved each other, love each other, and suddenly she's gone.

The temptation to join her is and was very strong—end the pain, switch places, I wish it had been me. I didn't, though. I can report to you that I am still alive, still waking up, still going to sleep. How can that be? How can I—and we as humans, because if we share one thing in common as a race it's tragedy—keep going? Is there a limit to our willingness to suffer? I don't know; I do know I'm not the first to ask those questions. But I can tell you what I did–I tried to make sense of "it." I wrote to cope, to rationalize, to curse the world, to bring attention to the war and the tens of thousands of others who've died there and whose families will never get the suffering from their loss to stop. I wrote to make sure no one would ever forget my Andi.

Everyone who loved Andi has tried to find their own ways to remember. Her family(Vicki, Andre, Marci, Cory, Chris, Joe, Abby, Kayla) and friends set up a foundation in her honor, The Andi Foundation. (theandifoundation.org) It's essentially a scholarship fund to help young women pursue their educational and career goals in politics and the media, fields Andi worked in and was fascinated by. A significant portion of the proceeds from I Lost My Love in Baghdad are also going to the foundation.

Of course, we could start a thousand foundations and I could write a thousand books, and it would never be enough. It is, though, something. And when "it" is unbearable and unreal and painful and unjust and unfair, sometimes we have to live with something.

Filed under: Memorial Day
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Sue in Florida

    Michael. my sincere condolences in the loss of your soul mate
    and special love, Andi. Reading just this much of what you have
    written touched me deeply. I will purchase your book immediately.
    Writing is a good way to deal with grief. Admitting it and how hard
    it still is will help you to heal. I know you may not want to now and
    that is so understandable. You will always have her in your heart
    and her spirit to help you make it through. I hurt for your loss
    because of your immense love for one another. In a world where
    people do not appreciate and cherish their blessings, it can be hard
    to understand why yours was taken. Stay strong, be good to yourself
    and be just as you are now.

    May 27, 2008 at 12:53 am |
  2. Alex Varga

    Freedom has such an incredible expense. So many good Americans have given the ultimate of themselves. The right words are so hard to come by to express not only the thanks, but to try to ease the pains of those left behind. No matter the conflict, the losses seem so wasteful. But for me, I know in my heart, that our Heavenly Father has a special place for each of these lost heros. Just knowing He cares makes the grief easier to bear, though it will never stop. Perhaps that grief helps us not forgot and even overcomes the inner anger when we ask, why did it have to be him or her. I honor not only the lost ones, but also their loved ones left behind. Know each one is not forgotten and especially remembered each and every Memorial Day! God Bless to all!

    May 26, 2008 at 8:23 pm |
  3. Annie Kate

    Saying you have my condolences on your loss seems so inadequate but you do have my condolences. I lost my finance in Vietnam years ago and it is still hard to think about that day. I try to remember the days we had together and the fun and the love we shared. It helps but I would still give anything for just 5 minutes more.

    Blessings be Michael.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    May 26, 2008 at 7:27 pm |
  4. Judi Smith

    I can only deal with our wonderful armed forces deaths the very same way I deal with a childs death – God wanted and needed them in heaven so they left us for a greater cause. Sincerely and with many prayers for the family and freinds left behind, Judi Smith from Warren, Michigan

    May 26, 2008 at 6:23 pm |
  5. CaseyJPS - California

    Michael touched on something I never thought of as a feeling someone else would have (it just didn't dawn on me). The desire to join a loved one upon their death. For me, it was a surprising moment of clarity and it was very calming. Shortly after his death, I remember turning out the light one night and saying out loud, after patting the bed, "I'll be with you soon." It wasn't about suicide, but I just don't know how to explain it in terms anyone else can understand. Thank you, Michael.

    May 26, 2008 at 6:03 pm |
  6. Betty Ann, Nacogdoches,TX

    I lost my cousin in Iraq. His life was just beginning at 19 years old.
    At first my family thought we could find something right or just about his death.
    After years of our country in this war, our pain is only multiplied by the fact that our administration put us in a war that had only one purpose and that was to pad political pockets. In their greed, they made us the enemies of the world.
    It is really difficult to swallow that my loved on died for that.
    The pain just never stops.
    I don't want to be around when karma strikes President Bush and VP Cheney, HELL NO!
    My heart and respect goes out to all those who have lost brave loved ones for our country.
    God Bless them all.

    May 26, 2008 at 2:18 pm |