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 My Best Friend Who Taught Me What True Friendship Is, I Can't Thank You Enough

"To the person who will love you endlessly, love her with kindness and understanding."
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Dear Best Friend,

You have been a part of my life for quite some time now. You have seen my good, bad, and ugly sides and have stuck by my side through it all. I don't know if I could ever find the words to truly thank you for everything your friendship has given me, but I am definitely going to try.

Our lives have taken some twist and turn these past few years, but we have stayed strong through it all.

Thank you for judging me just the right amount.

Throughout our friendship, I have made some very questionable decisions. A lot of people would say "thanks for never judging me", but I feel like everyone needs a best friend who's going to tell them how it is; to tell them when they are about to make a bad decision or how to avoid something worse from happening. You have always told me how it is (even when I don't always want to hear it), but I know that I can come to you whenever I need someone to set me straight.

You're always down to do nothing with me.

I think that you are the one person that I can call up to hang out and do absolutely nothing with and have a good time. From the nights sitting in and playing card games to ordering Chinese food and watching an entire Netflix series while I dance around with the cat: I know that we could do anything, and nothing together and it would be fun.

But also, you're always down to get lit with me.

I swear one day we will be two old moms at a bar drinking vodka crans and laughing about the stupid shit our husbands and children do. You're always down to go out and have a good time. Even if everyone else we're with is miserable, we find a way to laugh at ourselves.

You are one of the few constant things in my life.

I've lost a lot of friends in my life, but you have stayed by my side through everything. I can't remember the last time we actually fought about anything, but even when we do we can't stay mad at each other for more than a day. I know we will be in each other's lives until we literally keel over.

I want you yo know that you're the strongest person I know.

You've dealt with things that not many people go through ever in their life. You have always been so mature, and you handle everything with grace. You inspire me every day with your goals and successes and I am so proud of you and all of your accomplishments.

Above all else, you deserve the world.

It's so easy to get caught up in your own mind and think that you deserve the things that happen to you, but please know that the only thing you deserve is happiness. Please settle for nothing short of that. It may take a bit to find your happiness, but I will be there every step of the way. You're a remarkable human being, and I want nothing but the best for you.

To the person who will hold your heart someday, please do not break it. To the person who may wrong you, you will regret it forever. To the person who will love you endlessly, love her with kindness and understanding.

You, my best friend, future bridesmaid, godmother of my children, the person to bail me out of jail, the one who lets me cry on their couch for twelve hours,

I love you.

I will cherish our friendship forever. Thank you for being you.

Love always,

Your best friend.

Cover Image Credit: Adriana Ranieri

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To The Friends Who Became My Family

Most of us didn't know each other but we felt this energy and connection that would connect us for life
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I've always felt like an outsider no matter where I've gone. Almost like I would never find my place in this world. The moment that I thought I'd found it, my world turned upside down, at the time I thought I'd never bounce back. I was so very wrong.

A few months later after going down that road, I was introduced to this amazing group of people who had come from so many different places and recently formed together. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason, and when it comes to this moment in my life I know that it's true. These people have brought so much opportunity and positivity into my life. They've given me the drive to be this amazing person. I never knew where I belonged, I felt like a misfit toy, or the puzzle in the 100-piece box that doesn't fit, no matter which way you move it.

They made me feel like I could belong anywhere, with anyone.

They've given this new view of life that I've been lacking. A lot has to do with my own level of confidence, and they've truly helped build that.

After meeting them the world began to make sense again. I was able to find my way for the first time in years. I wouldn't be the person I am today without having them in my life. They've made me realize that in college I'm the guys' girl, and I love having all my guy friends. I would be completely lost without them. I was able to see all the good in the world that I was unable to see before. I know always see the most positive outlook on everything.

Now that I see the world in a new light, it seems that the world has seen me for who I truly am.

After coming together with these people I've met so many amazing people who I never thought I would meet in my life or be friends with. I've never been luckier in my life than the moment that they all walked into it. I felt like they saved me from a dark hole, and I have no idea how to thank them, other than writing an article to show my gratitude.

This one is for y'all, so thank you.

Thank you for being there when I need it, for having my back no matter what, and for pushing me. I didn't think that I could do or be half the person I am, but because of you, I am. I am myself for the first time in life, and I have no shame about who that is.

I miss you guys and wouldn't be able to survive college without you. I know that when we all venture away from each other and no longer live together we will make sure that once a year we come together. We try for once a month and have done such a good job at that, but when life gets busy I know that once a year will be enough because it will seem like no time has ever been spent apart.

To those reading this, if you find a group that makes you feel this way or even just a few people, don't ever let them go. Make the time to see each other and don't lose touch.

Life gets hard, but it without your people makes it so much harder.

I love my team, I love my squad. The moment that we first all "prayed" together I felt slightly ridiculous but then I realized that we all come from different places, and different backgrounds, but at that moment, we came together. Most of us didn't know each other but we felt this energy and connection that would connect us for life.

So here is what I want to say to you "I've always felt like an outsider, and I've had friends, a lot. I've even had friends that I love and couldn't live without, but you guys have become my family, you have become these people that I couldn't imagine living without. In such a short time you've become amazing human beings who I've seen grow and prosper throughout these friendships that each and every one of us has made. I wouldn't change the world for the moment we have, and the memories we all make.

You guys are my family, and I can't thank you enough for saving me because you truly have.

Cover Image Credit: Maddison Boys

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