Some of the happiest moments of my life were spent with Levend Beriker, my partner, my friend, my kindred spirit. Many of our moments come back like snapshots from another era:
- Standing at the railing of an outdoor bar after work, overlooking the Bosphorus, the lights from the Asian side dancing on its waters;
- Dining at a sidewalk table on the Upper West Side, talking about clients and kids and, in our single days, the women walking by;
- His smiling face as he walked toward me on a Mediterranean beach, announcing that he did a bungee jump that, just an hour earlier, he said would be nuts to even contemplate, and which he promptly talked me into;
- Having a beer with my parent’s on their Maryland deck when we were each visiting the D.C. area; my mom, a French-Moroccan Jew who maintained her home as a mini-U.N., loved that I had a Turkish partner, and such a fine one, at that.
It occurs to me that these particular snapshots are now twenty-year-old memories. In that period, we were single fathers of two young children (each) being raised on separate continents. Levend once suggested that we should rent a sailboat with crew and provisions for a five-day cruise with friends and family. I laughed that we could toast each other like Murphy and Ackroyd at the end of Trading Places: “Looking good!” It became our favorite toast whenever we celebrated new clients.
Then there is the snapshot memory of us meeting at the airport in Prague where we had decided, just days before, to converge and take in the sights. In one of those overpriced cafes on the Old Town Square, Levend told me he had met someone special. The impending denouement of his bachelor days no doubt prompted me to get more serious about the women I was meeting, or risk being left behind. So it is probably no coincidence that less than three months hence, I too would meet my future wife.
Next came his simple, gorgeous wedding in Victoria to Shannon, the love of his life. This memory seems more like a short film than a snapshot, me and my girl soaking in the Victorian charm of those magical days. A couple of years later, our reconstituted families were playing and dining together in Istanbul and in Kemer, the wooded community where Levend and Shannon lived.
And here is a literal snapshot of Levend, joining me and Stephan on a boat for an impromptu meeting on Lake Lucerne. I can’t recall the confluence of fortune that led us to this particular place. Levend seemed preternaturally prone to serendipity in his life, and, among his great gifts, taught me to embrace it in mine.
Levend and Shannon eventually moved to their little paradise in Victoria. With both of us in North America, we expected to see more of each other. But that didn’t happen. Levend’s transition from Turkey to the West Coast, and from our brand of client consulting to his new frontier of SAAS development, went a little slower than hoped, forcing him to divide his time between Canada and Turkey, making our personal (as well as business) interactions even scarcer.
After my wife and I bought our ranch in Texas, and began dividing our time between New York and Dallas, all my conversations with Levend were via phone and e-mail, always ending with “Let me know when you’re in New York” or “When are you coming to Victoria/Dallas?” For reasons best understood by working people who haven’t yet lost a best friend, we assumed that we would have a very long time to realize many such visits, even as the years slipped by.
One night last year, when Theresa and I were at a rooftop bar in New York, the surroundings inevitably had me thinking about Levend. So I dialed him up on FaceTime to tell him that I was missing him. I panned the phone across a scene of young professionals milling around with drinks, a scene that we had once so often inhabited. Levend nodded and smiled, then panned his phone to show an even more familiar sight–a plane full of passengers.
To the very end, I was actively working to get Levend meetings with Dallas banks to sell his new service, and of course to have an excuse for him to visit us at the ranch. I know he would have loved it, as we would have loved having him. We could have sat on our back porch beneath a big Texas sky, surrounded by woods, a small waterfall spilling into our pool, raising our glasses and saying “Looking good!”
I will miss him terribly.