A Letter To The Friend I Never Got To Say Goodbye To

A Letter To The Friend I Never Got To Say Goodbye To

I will take your memory with me wherever I go.
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Dear Justin,

I'm sorry this took so long, but I wanted to make sure I obtained the platform that both of us could be heard on before I even considered writing this. For so long you ran through my mind because I felt I never properly got to say goodbye to you, but now what better way would there be than to let everyone know how much you meant to those around you, and for anyone else feeling the same way to know that it's going to be OK.

Throughout our lives, you were always teaching me lessons on the block. Among the big kids, we always tried to fit in. We played basketball, football, man-hunt, and boxes on the Brooklyn sidewalks of Washington Avenue between DeKalb and Willoughby for years. We were the little ones of the group, as we always tried our best to fit in with those who were years older than us. Bumps, bruises, cuts, and scars on our bodies were the gifts that the block that raised us, left on our bodies as memories that we would hold dear for years to come. I know you remember just as much as I do being laughed at, and enjoying the summer days because we had nothing to worry about as kids. You were one of my best childhood friends, whether it was inside playing Xbox, or outside creating mischief, no adventure was too big for us to embark on.

July 2017 was a period that helped me grow much more than I thought it would. One of those reasons was because of your passing. I remember seeing you two days prior, and everything being well. Of course, with time we didn't talk as much as we should've, but we both knew what the deal was. Whatever you needed I was there and vice versa; it was always just good to see that youth we grew up with was alive and thriving. The news soon came and sent disbelief throughout the building we grew up in, and the hearts of those who raised us. You know it doesn't really hit you at first; one day you're making sure everything is good with each other and the next you realize that was the last time I'd see you. We got together, made a vigil, and parted ways as we tried to retain our best and most important memories with you.

These memories, these events, helped me grow in ways you may have never realized. For a while, I forgot what it was like to lose someone so close to you to senseless acts of violence, not that I wanted to remember, but it reminds you sometimes of the things you fight for on a daily basis. Prior to losing you, I lost my cousin in the same fashion. By a gun and the hand of someone who can only be defined as a coward. This reminds you that as a black male, or black individual in general, life can be very short. One thing I never expected at age twenty was to lose someone who I called my friend for pretty much my whole life. You never expect to see something like this. You expect to grow, watch each other succeed and be there at the end of the day to say "I got you, no matter what." But sadly, that isn't the reality youth like you and I get to see because of the world around us.

I watched your mom shed tears like I've never seen, and hope to never see again in my lifetime. Every time I see her, I know that there's a piece of you that she carries everywhere, and every time we speak, I know that I'm speaking to you too. If I could tell her one thing, it would be thank you. Thank you for playing a pivotal role in my childhood, and thank you for letting me grow up with your son, as all the memories we made are memories I'll cherish for years to come.

For months I continued to battle with myself on how I should remember you, and why I couldn't get over the fact that you were no longer going to be here with us. Every day I credit you for my successes and growth as a young adult. I wore your memorial shirt underneath my button-up and tie to my interview for Hunter College, and I credit a big part of my acceptance to you being with me throughout the whole process. Wherever I go I keep your "In Memory" card in my wallet, and your spirit in my heart.

During your vigil, while your mom was speaking, she talked about how she wanted the youth there to succeed and carry on a legacy that you didn't get to. Out of emotion, I yelled and said that we would, and we would carry you in our hearts and on our backs. It was that promise that I will never forget, and it's that promise that I will hold true in every walk of life that I embark on. For you, I will continue my fight against gun violence, continue to fight for the empowerment of Black youth, and continue to become the social worker/psychologist I know I can be. You are my inspiration because you help set the blueprints for my life.

The 1000+ words in this article only capture a glimpse of the adventures and tales we would leave behind in our journey to adulthood. For anyone who reads this, I want this article to be immortalized so all know not only how much you meant to those around you, but so they also know that it's OK to mourn. Everyone is different, and losing a friend is hard, therefore no one should judge how one deals with the loss of a friend. Let your story be a message to those who need it. Remember to put down the weapons, and enjoy the moments you'll always remember with your loved ones.

Justin, I love you, and I will take your memory with me wherever I go.

Cover Image Credit: Kory Longsworth

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To The Grandmothers Who Made Us The Women We Are Today

Sincerely, the loving granddaughters.
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The relationship between a grandmother and her granddaughter is something so uniquely special and something to be treasured forever.

Your grandma loves you like you are her own daughter and adores you no matter what. She is the first person you run to when you have a problem with your parents and she never fails to grace you with the most comforting advice.

She may be guilty of spoiling you rotten but still makes sure to stress the importance of being thankful and kind.

Your grandma has most likely lived through every obstacle that you are experiencing now as a young adult and always knows just exactly what to say.

She grew up in another generation where things were probably much harder for young women than they are today.

She is a walking example of perseverance, strength, and grace who you aim to be like someday.

Your grandma teaches you the lessons she had to learn the hard way because she does not want you to make the same mistakes she did when she was growing up.

Her hugs never fail to warm your heart, her smile never fails to make you smile, and her laugh never fails to brighten your day.

She inspires you to be the best version of yourself that you can be.

You only hope that one day you can be the mother and grandmother she was to you.

A piece of girl’s heart will forever belong to her grandma that no one could ever replace.

She is the matriarch of your family and is the glue that holds you all together.

Grandmothers play such an important role in helping their granddaughters to grow into strong, intelligent, kind women.

She teaches you how to love and how to forgive.

Without the unconditional love of your grandma, you would not be the woman you are today.

To all of the grandmothers out there, thank you for being you.

Sincerely,

the loving granddaughters

Cover Image Credit: Carlie Konuch

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An Open Letter To the friend Who left us too soon

"True friendship is like sound health; the value of it is seldom known until it is lost."

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It's been two years...two years without you. These past two years have felt like I've been living in slow motion. I'm not going to lie and say that everyone's okay. It was a hard thing to go through, and it left us all scarred. At first, I didn't know if those who were left behind would be okay. You left us way too soon, and you had so much more life left to live.

Everyone was crying, even those who we didn't talk to. I think they felt bad for us, they couldn't possibly imagine the pain we were feeling. The teachers even moved the seats around, so we weren't staring at your chair. The hardest thing to go through was the announcement our principal gave that Monday. Teachers told us stories of how they dealt with the pain of losing a friend way back when, and of how they handled the loss of former students. None of it seemed real. The teachers had us draw pictures, sign boards, and anything else they could think of to distract our minds for the fifty-five minute class periods.

It was unexpected. It was almost as if we were all in a state of shock and confusion. I am not going to lie and say that we were the best group of friends or the best support system because we looked out for ourselves more than we did each other. It was hard to go through, and at times it's still hard. It takes time to heal, and boy did it take some time. Because of you, our friend group grew so close together, during those first few weeks. We learned how to lean on each other. We learned how important it is to have people who care. We learned how much it mattered to tell people that you love them. We learned how to let go and let God. We learned the importance of friendship.

However, we all coped with the loss differently.

It was almost as if we were constantly merging in and out of each other's lives.

We were angry, upset, confused, and at a loss for words.

You never truly know the impact someone has on your life until they are gone. I understand that God wouldn't have put us through this loss if we couldn't have handled it. It was your time to go home, and that was just something we all had to accept.

With time, it became easier. We learned to adjust to the new life we were forced to live. Eventually, it was our time to walk across that field and accept our diplomas. It was so weird to not have you there, this should have been a big day for all of us. They had a chair sitting out, just for you, decorated in red-and-black tiger tails and flowers.

I will never forget how much fun you made English, or how much you made me laugh when I was mad. Sometimes, I see a blue butterfly that reminds me of you, and it reminds me that you're in a better place. I'm happy that you are safe now. I'm happy that you are happy now. I'm happy that you are up there with God and some of your family, that you haven't seen in a while, now. You made such a huge impact on my life and so many others in our town, and I will always be grateful to you for that. I can't wait to see you someday in heaven.

Cover Image Credit:

Madison Skinner

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