When we were told he was being switched to home-school after sustaining a multitude of serious side-effects as a result of his sport related injuries, we didn’t think much of it. As long as he was going to graduate alongside of us, we didn’t care how he got his education as long as he was there at graduation in 2014. Mendy’s injuries and pain he was going through just made everything else in middle school seem petty; who cares if you didn’t sit next to your best friend when Mendy had double vision obstructing his?
I consider myself lucky; I really do. The middle school I attended was small enough that everyone knew everyone thus making our entire grade level band together to make things as easy as we could for Mendy. We bought him a yearbook at the end of each year he missed; filled to the brim with signatures, we sent him cards and cookie baskets, but more importantly, we made sure we continuously reached out to him like he did to all of us.
As we all graduated middle school, his name shone brightly on the rooster with an honors mark beside of it. The first time I saw guys in football and basketball jerseys in high-school, I couldn’t help but to feel a little jealous over why they got to wear it but Mendy didn’t—it didn’t seem right to me.
Well life continued to seem unfair as a friend messaged me: “I’m not going to get into all the bullshit, but did you hear about Mendy?” My only response was a raspy air cackle with confused, staggered tears. After believing I’d see him a graduation in two years for so long, I couldn’t make sense of his death—not even at his wake. If anything, the wake made me just believe that I was in some sort of horrible nightmare where the final, fully conscious conversation I had with him resonated through my head—his final words that are a precise to who he was, a gentle giant loved by all.
Every time I entered a church or cathedral in Europe, primarily the Catholic ones in Ireland, I couldn’t help but to feel obligated to light a candle in his honor. It was almost as if that every time I lit a candle for him, I accepted his death a little bit more. He was gone, but it eased my mind to know even though he never made it to his Irish homeland, at least his memories did.
As July 11th turned to July 12th, Mendy’s death finally hit me after five denial filled months. When I looked to the Carolina clear night sky, one star shined brighter than the rest as I felt a presence wash over me as it waltzed its way across the sky. I think Mendy knew he was going to die as he was who his hubris was; a guy too genuine for the world we live in. His death sealed the fate of our final conversation; there’s no need to worry about Mendy as he’s fine, but what about yourself?
“I remember your shaggy hair
with eyes smiling underneath
and your wrists that kept a steady pulse
whether on the field or to a beat.
Thank you for your laughter…
we’ll miss that silly grin
and the mind that played ping-pong
like a game of life we’ll never win.
Thank you for your friendship
in anything that was lived or played
as you always found a way
to make our day.”