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As we get older, we gain the ability to go to more places and do more things. When we turn 18, we finally free ourselves from the shackles of our overprotective parents. When we turn 21, we finally can drink (legally). Yet, I never thought that one of the things I’d do at the age of 19 is go to a friend’s funeral.

During winter break, I went back home to Miami and enjoyed a few escapades with my best friends. Late at night I woke up to a text that my friend Roberto had passed away in a car accident involving a drunk driver. It happened on the street behind my own house, and I had no idea. If I’m being completely honest, I paid no attention to the text and went to bed. After hours of thinking, I started to realize what it actually meant: Roberto had died.

Roberto and I were never really close friends, but I had known him since sixth grade. At that time, I was a nerdy, flower glasses-wearing girl, and he was the new, kind of cute kid. It’s weird how I still remember the first time we met during Mr. Pedigo’s art class. I was dreading being sat next to him and would hate how, in every class, he never failed to show me his “abs.” He would make me laugh and was my first official friend in middle-school. After the long periods of being silent and alone, I looked forward to sitting next to my art buddy. When the quarter was up, his seat changed, and a part of me was sad at the fact that I wouldn’t be able to talk to him.

When I told my other friends that I was writing about him, they told me I wasn’t a close-enough friend of his. It’s true, I wasn’t, but the point of this article isn’t telling a sob-story. Roberto wasn’t my close friend, but he was a kind person.

I went to his church service not to accompany my friend who wanted to go, but to actually see if it was true. I’ve been to funerals before, and the last one was my uncle’s. I swore to myself I would never go through something like that again. I still went and was stunned to see how many people showed up. I never knew how many people Roberto had touched. After seeing the casket carried in, I finally understood that he was gone.

At the service, the priest assured us that “Roberto’s life wasn’t a short one but a powerful one.” When we went to the same high school, he’d always say a simple ‘hello’ or a ‘hi, Dianelda.’  That meant the world. Life can be crappy and awful, but a small smile and a nod can turn it around.

It’s weird to write about someone I barely thought about, but he made an impact on my life that I will carry with me for a long time. His death taught me to appreciate those silly moments we shared but most importantly, his life taught me to treat people with kindness above all else.

Dianelda Pulido is a second-year Women's Studies major and Political Science major at the University of Florida. She thoroughly enjoys writing, storytelling, and takes pleasure in speaking on behalf of those who have stories to share. Her hobbies include writing, reading, painting, and above all else getting people politically active. 
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