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Speaking Out: An ode to a cherished friend

By  Kathleena Henricus, Youth Speak News
  • October 20, 2021

Three weeks ago, the world lost one of the kindest, most thoughtful, intelligent, adventurous people to walk the planet — and I lost a friend.

When you get that kind of news, the kind you never think you’ll get, the first thing you do is sit for a moment and think about all the lasts you had with them. Over the summer, we celebrated prom and graduation as a friend group because COVID-19 denied us our school celebration. We took the quintessential pictures that you’re supposed to look back on for a lifetime. Only one of us didn’t get a lifetime.

I called my dearest friends to inform them of the tragic news. I caused them pain. It was the worst thing I’ve ever had to do.

The hardest part was, and is, the separation. As first-year university students, we are all over the province and the friend we lost was on the other side of the country. We cried over Facetime, we grieved with our college friends who lived next door, but we couldn’t be there for each other in the way we had always been: by each other’s side, wrapped in each other’s embrace.

There is never a point where you want to hold those you love more closely than when you lose one, and being over 100 km away from home made that impossible and heartbreaking in more ways than one. This is the way millions of families have had to grieve over the past 19 months. COVID has taken away that form of solace for a (hopefully) brief though significant time.

Last week we reunited with thanks owed wholly to our parents who made significant road trips to our schools and back home in the middle of the work week. I spent many hours late into the night with my closest friends and schoolmates who I never really thought I’d see again.

We visited our old high school to see our teachers and seek comfort in those who knew him in the same way we did. We stood in the places he spent so much time with us, and we cried together, comforting each other as best we could.

We had our memorial in a park where we shared some of our best memories with him. We laughed, cried and told stories in a candlelight vigil, just as it got dark. By the time everyone spoke, it was pitch black.

That was how much he was loved and is loved. And that wasn’t even everyone who wanted to be there.

This loss has made me question a lot of things in my life. It’s made me think of Heaven more constantly than ever before, as I find myself wondering what he’s doing. It brings me some margin of comfort knowing how good of a man he was. He was destined for somewhere good.

It’s made me think of all the losses the world has suffered over the past two years. How do we find any good in what’s left? And how do we come together, and be better for those we lost, be more compassionate and loving and caring in the time we still have that they didn’t get to have?

I think the answer is just taking things one day at a time.

The greatest thing I learned from him was what I saw in him that last time. He loved what he loved unabashedly. He explored this world with such zeal for everything it had to offer. He always lived life to the fullest.

As we go on each passing day, I aspire to be more like him in this manner. I desire to live my life to the fullest because every day lived to fruition is how we get to celebrate him, and I strive to honour him every day.

You were and are the best of us. We love you, and we will never forget you.

(Henricus, 18, is a first-year student at Western University in London, Ont.)

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