I’ve learned to accept life and therefore I have to also accept death. When we lose a loved one people often say “sorry for your loss”. But they never ask if we’re doing alright, they never asked me when my friend left. I had never experienced the loss of a close friend before my friend’s untimely death. My friend’s death hit harder than anything else ever. My only wish now is that you could visit and tell me about the afterlife. But that’s impossible and all I can say is, fly my friend.
Once in our lifetime, we all meet people with whom we share more than just mere friendship, they become family. I met my friend, Johnny, late in my teen years while in high school. He was what I’d call a perfect example of a hustler. We both worked as casual labourers on a construction site in the neighbourhood. I was fifteen and he was seventeen at the time. This was probably illegal because were both minors but then, nobody seemed to care about our ages provided they got people to do the heavy lifting.
I’ve always been small and mishandled especially where energy is required but this stranger looked out for me. He did the heavy lifting while I did most of the light work and cooking for the others. Well, I gave him a bigger share during lunch and we called it even. It was a mutually inclusive relationship. We had a mutual understanding. We only worked for two weeks and my holiday was over and I had to report back to high school while he continued. I had made a new friend and this was a good thing considering my introverted nature.
I loved high school because as a senior at the time I could ask one or two juniors to do my bidding. At least I got to experience having some power and control over someone. One week after reporting back to school, I spotted a familiar face at the admission block. I wasn’t sure where I recognized him from so I just stared as I tried to recall. He walked towards me and said, “Hello old friend”. I recognized his voice and began catching up.
A few minutes later he asked for directions to his class which was beside mine. We had another shot at our friendship and since I was popular in these high school streets, I had a chance to look out for him and return the favour. But I later learned that he was a people person and could talk himself out of any situation therefore didn’t need much saving. In the coming months and the remaining 2 years of high school, we pretty much did everything together. We studied together and I later introduced him to hockey. I loved hockey but I was never very good at it. While I was struggling to make the school team, he easily earned a place.
He was a smart kid that one, probably a genius. A few weeks and he had caught up with me performing exemplary in sciences and mathematics. Another few weeks later and he was better than me in hockey thus replacing me in the school team. He was unstoppable and that made my high school experience worthwhile. each day was an adventure as we engaged in healthy competition. Where he beat me in extra-curricular activities I beat him in academics and the cycle continued for the next two years.
We studied and trained together all through high school. As part of the school’s reward system for the best-performing students, several vacation trips were arranged. We could not afford to travel on our own so this was an opportunity to travel around the country. We got to see a glimpse of the world and the luxury it could offer if we worked hard. These trips did not just motivate us but also got our minds off the school’s monotonous environment. This allowed us to be in better spirits as we sat for our final exam a few weeks later.
After the trip came our final high school examination. We were ready for this test and we did our best. My friend and I shared a dream to join the best universities in the country. This was after we interacted with university students during one of the trips and envied their life. After completing our exams, we went home to await our results in a few weeks.
We kept in touch often calling, texting, and hanging out when possible. We were enjoying life as it was and made the best out of all opportunities we had. This carefree feeling changed gradually to anxiety as the result release date came closer. We looked forward to the moment because we were confident we had done our best. But sadly, my friend would not live enough to celebrate his exemplary performance. On the twenty-fourth of December, the year 2014, one month after completing our final exam, my friend left to be with his make.
He had collapsed on his way home to never awake. I could not come to terms with his death and couldn’t understand how a young and active young man could collapse and die. We had succeeded in the hockey tryouts and played for the school team for more than two years which entailed rigorous training. Well, he played while I was benched most of the time but that’s not the point. We had worked as casual labourers for a few weeks during our occasional breaks with ease which demanded a lot of energy. But his heart had chosen to give up on him while climbing a hill home. The same hill he had climbed thousands of times through his lifetime.
I had suffered a few heartbreaks from time to time after being dumped by two girlfriends by the age of 17 (don’t judge) but my friend’s demise hit the hardest. Always the big brother I had never had who looked out for me and always had my back. He had taught me the meaning of values such as royalty, respect, morality and responsibility that have guided my life since then. He had left me on Christmas eve and this redefined the meaning of Christmas for me. Instead of just celebrating the birth of Christ, I also celebrate the life of my friend, Johnny, who left us too soon. But that year, I did not celebrate Christmas.
You see, I don’t have many friends. After he left, I tried texting his number like I used to but he didn’t text back like he used to. I tried calling but it was disconnected. Probably I was hoping this was a bad dream that I could wake from. I was bitter and angry for several weeks. Soon, I acknowledged that I had to move and at least achieve everything we had sworn to achieve as we grew older. Deep down, I wouldn’t want to forget you my friend so each time I celebrate Christmas I celebrate you.
But every once in a while, I remember you and become bitter for a while often resulting in asking God why he took you that soon. We had so many plans. We shared so many dreams of a better future. Our mutual love for agriculture and how we sought to actualize our ideas as soon as we could to make the world a better place. Each Christmas is filled with so many mixed feelings. But since it’s meant to be a time for celebration, I celebrate the short life you had and the huge impact you had on everyone who knew you.
I imagine what we would have accomplished together had we the chance. And most importantly I wish I could share my greatest and worst moments with you. I wish you were around when I became a first-time dad and I’d tell you how unprepared I was. Then I’d ask you to be my son’s godfather during his baptism and so on. How I’d wish to share some business ideas and innovative ideas with you and we’d work on them together. I know you’d have a silly joke for every serious situation. And added those coy laughs to ease the tense environment I always when serious about everything. That was my friend.
But as they say, life is for the living so I have to continue living regardless. I work hard each day because I have to be the version of myself or else I’ll be letting my friend down. But I feel that it is not enough, I hope that one day I will do something on your behalf to make sure you will never be forgotten. Whether I do something big or something small in a big way, I must do this.
Continue watching over us, my friend. Until the next time we meet, Adios.