Shavon: Still present, still missed

Illustration by Kawall Hanomanjie and Hector Lopez

Illustration by Kawall Hanomanjie and Hector Lopez

Safa Mostafa, Staff Reporter

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Illustration by Kawall Hanomanjie and Hector Lopez

They say death opens your eyes and wakes you up to life. That’s how I felt after Shavon Hill-Williams left us a year ago. You realize who’s there for you. Then you realize who was never there for you.

Immediately after her death, I knew it was going to be worse than a breakup or a heartbreak. Slowly but surely, I lost myself and I came into sophomore year weaker than a newborn. After losing every single person that said, “I’ll always be there for you,” I was broken. First, it was my oldest sister moving to another country to create a life with her newlywed husband. Second, Shavon’s absence changed everyone. It made a majority of my previous friends become the person they promised they weren’t. I take part of the blame for causing some of them to flee, but I’m noticing it’s rare to see anyone else own up to their actions.

Having them leave made me think, “What would Shavon do?” Truth be told, no one knows. But I believe she wouldn’t have given in and left me too. I remember I went on a field trip with her, and she was having a problem with one of her closest friends, and at the end she decided not to be her friend anymore. I asked, “what do you plan on doing if someone says something to her?” She replied, ”I’m still gonna be there for her. She’s not my friend, but she’s still my sister.”

When I first came to the school, it was hard trying to find myself when everyone around me was pretending to be someone different. Junior Dominique Ling and sophomore Ingrid Villanueva helped me with that. Tia Sawyer, mentor of the Young Women’s Leadership Academy, helped with that as well. She keeps Shavon in mind at the program and isn’t afraid to bring her up.

I remember reading a letter I had written at her funeral. I was the most anxious I’ve ever been in my life. I had Ingrid by my side, and I didn’t do well speaking in front of my deceased friend’s family and the whole school. It was the best a 15-year-old could do after losing one of her friends. Once the service was over, I handed the letter to her parents.

My final words to Shavon were “thank you.” I had to thank her for walking into my life and making a difference with her music, community service and making everyone learn one thing: love.

The summer after the funeral, I was depressed. Not as depressed as when I got to school, but I was sad enough to isolate myself. I would sit alone at breakfast and lunch to eat and listen to music. Then Henry Snyder High School sophomore Ariana Pagan reached out to me. We started talking at work and became friends. One day, she told me about Shavon.

In seventh grade when she went to school with Shavon, they had a derogatory, awkward ending and never got a chance to speak to each other and make up. I could spend the rest of my life explaining that it wasn’t her fault and that Shavon still loves her, but I know that nothing that I can say or do will take away her feeling of regret. It came to me as a shock that somewhere in the midst of my worst time ever I could find someone who knew a little bit of what I was going through.

I invited Ariana to Shavon’s Sweet Sixteen cookout at Lincoln Park, organized by Dominique. Shavon’s mother, Sharlet Williams, became emotional as she thanked everyone for coming and Dominique for putting the event together. We blew out the candles on the strawberry-flavored birthday cake with “Baby-Girl’s” face on it. But I couldn’t cry anymore; I could only feel the same pain in my heart from a year ago. We later released 16 purple balloons into the air. All that could run through my mind as I released my balloon was “thank you.”

Thank you, Shavon, for teaching me five things that I didn’t realize before you left. I need to treat my health like a $50 limited edition makeup palette. Second, art is carried out in how you perform anything. Her art was everything from singing to taking care of random strangers. Third, there’s an outlet for your depression. Hers was being involved in school and talking to her friends. The school was her happy place; her friends were her family. Fourth, it’s never wrong to call your friend and have a shoulder to cry on. The code to sisterhood at the YWLA is you never spill your sister’s secrets. You confide in them, cry it out and never leave without a warm hug. Finally, forgiveness. Whether it’s your best friend who is dating your ex or your father who just walked into your life, forgive them because if they don’t wake up tomorrow, you will feel guilt. That doesn’t mean you have to let everyone that did you wrong back into your life, but a simple text saying, I forgive you, never hurt anyone. You always hear the phrase, “it gets better.” Most of the time we don’t believe it because we don’t see the lessons that come out of the pain. Now that I see the good lessons that came out of her death, I can say it’ll get better.

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Shavon: Still present, still missed