For Caleb.

Happy 21st Birthday to my best friend, Caleb. A soul that the world lost too way soon.

October 12, 1999 – February 9, 2017

Dear Caleb,

Today is a day that I wish you were here for. Turning 21 is a big accomplishment in itself, but I can only imagine how much you would have accomplished by this age. I sit and ponder where you would be, what you would be doing, and how many lives you would be making better. I always like to think you would be in Charleston with me. You always loved this city for its art, scenery, and history. I’m sure if you chose the College, you would have gotten a full-ride. I can picture it now: the financial aid board throwing money onto the stage as you’re getting a standing ovation for your final high school performance.

I always wonder what your opinion would be on the current state of the world. You were here for the last presidential cycle, but I’m sure you would have never imagined how much America would have gone downhill since then. I do know that you would be a key social justice warrior, on the front lines, trying to actually make America a better place for everyone. You always made sure those around you were okay, physically and mentally. Even though you were barely 5’5", you felt like my protector at times. I knew if I had a problem, big or small, physical or imaginary, you were always in my corner helping me fight my battles. I wish I could have done the same for you.

The last time I saw you always replays in my head. I knew something was off, but I didn’t push it. You seemed to be in a rush, so I figured I would just ask you later that day. If I had stopped you for ten seconds, I always think: Could I have been your fighter? Would I have saved you like you always saved me? You used to say I was an overthinker and got too wrapped up in the what-ifs in life. So when I find myself consumed in these thoughts, I stop and breathe. That’s probably one of the best pieces of advice you had given me.

While you were only 17 when you left the world, you have left a lasting impact on everyone you knew. As for myself, I know I would not be who I am today without our friendship. You taught me to never worry about anyone’s opinions, always be myself, don’t be afraid to take risks, hummus and pretzels do suffice as a meal replacement, cars cannot hop curbs, and always know that I am successful, no matter how much I feel like I am failing. So to celebrate your 21st birthday, just know that tonight I will be watching Hamilton with a charcuterie board and red wine in hand. Happy birthday, Caleb. I am forever grateful to have been blessed by your presence, and you’re in my heart forever. Say hi to my nana for me.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call 800-273-8255 or visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.

It’s okay to seek help. It’s harder living life without you.