Something happened last week.
WARNING: This is not a happy post. This post is coming from a place of heartbreak and loss and pain.
One of my friends from high school died at the age of 22 in a way that was very sudden, unexpected, and tragic.
This is not something that I have experienced before. One day my friend was there, and the next day he was not. It’s been really hard to wrap my brain around.
The first few days after I just cried. I sat in my bedroom and locked the door and thought about him harder than I think I’ve ever thought about anyone.
My friend, he was like sunshine. He was one of those people where you couldn’t leave a conversation with him without feeling a little bit better about the world. He had the brightest smile, and warmest heart of anyone I’ve ever known. He would always give so much, and then keep giving and giving without expecting anything in return. He was kind, gentle, and just generally comparable to sunshine at all times.
He was one of those people that you just wanted to be around all the time. There are not many people quite like him, and his death was not only a loss to his friends and family, but to the world. The world is less bright without his smile inhabiting it.
And it’s just not fair.
In all the time that I spent grieving over the loss of my friend, I had time to reflect on my own life. It’s unfortunate that the only time we really remember that life is short is when someone else’s life is taken far too soon. But life is so precious.
A few days after he died, I searched my old computer and scrapbooks for pictures of us. I searched and searched but I couldn’t find a single photo left. One thing that I remember from all of our time together is how often we tried to take a photo together, and how we ended up deleting all of them because they weren’t “good ones.” Now, I’m left wishing we hadn’t. Sometimes the blurry or candid photos turn out to actually be the “good” ones.
While I couldn’t find any photos of us, I was able to find a few letters and holiday cards. It felt like I was finding gold. They are warm and heartfelt, and they describe in detail how important I was to him and how much our friendship truly meant. When I reread them, I was able to remember the nights I received them so clearly. They contain nothing but happy memories and I am so grateful that I held onto them for so long because these are the things I have left. These are the things that help me remember what a truly special person he was.
Because of this, I sat down and started to write. I wrote down all of our happiest memories together in the journal next to my bed. I wrote until our entire story was written down from the very start. While some of the specifics are a little fuzzy now, the way he made me feel all of those years are forever stuck in my brain.
The moments where I start to forget the things that were once important to me made me remember why it is so important to write. To document. To print pictures and write letters and let people know how you’re feeling at any given moment. To keep everything that makes you feel, even if it feels overwhelming at the time.
Thinking about death is really scary. It’s not something that I like to do. But I think it’s really important because thinking about death also means thinking about life and trying to appreciate the things that make you feel warm, and to keep them around for as long as you possibly can.
What I’m taking from this terrible situation is that life needs to be lived. It deserves to be lived. Things need to be documented, memories deserve to be remembered. Friends need to be hugged tightly and hugged often.
A few words could never sum up the wonderful, wonderful person that the world lost last week, but I wanted to have a small part in keeping his memory alive, even if it’s only for myself.
So my friend is gone, and it’s not okay and everything hurts. And everything is going to hurt for a long time. But I am choosing to appreciate the moments I have. The moments I had with my friend. The moments I will have in the future.
The short time that I had with my friend is something that I will never forget and I am so thankful for every single moment.
RIP Timothy White
1993 – 2016