I'm being tested and at this very moment, I feel extremely defeated.
I lost my bestfriend on February 4, 2023. It was tragic from the minute I heard that he was in the hospital up until his very last breath. There was so much more I wanted to say, so much more I wanted for him in this lifetime and yet, it was cut short. I am finding my way in complete darkness, complete sorrow, unsure how I am supposed to find light moving forward.
I didn't want this post to be yet again about the process of grieving. I learned that grieving never really goes away and a piece of your heart gets taken away - pulled by the person you lost. So I want to write about my friendship with Jey. All the good and the ugly, the highs and the lows. So buckle in. This one is for you, Jey.
Queue in: Memory Lane - Haley Joelle
Jey and I met in 2006 on a greyhound bus en route to Toronto for our annual filipino basketball tournament. A bunch of kids trying to occupy their time as we hit the long road ahead. Our parents separated into their groups and so did the kids. He and his best friend, Cash, sat behind me and my cousin, Roxanne. It took hours before boredom kicked in and suddenly when there was nothing else left do to, pulling pranks and meeting other kids on the bus took on all of our attention. It started when Cash started tapping my shoulder while I was in a melodramatic conversation with Roxanne. I would look back and Cash would immediately look at Jey, and they would both say "Not me!". They spent hours pulling this prank which likely irritated me at the time but also encouraged me to jump out of my comfort zone to strike up a conversation with them. We laughed a lot that trip, we learned a little about each other, and instantly became friends.
The trip came and went. Instantaneously, I started to look forward to Sunday Basketball. We would notice each other more quickly, hang out by the stairs, play hide in seek in the school, and spend all Sunday together. Sundays turned into weekends when our parents all became friends and as easy as that, we were family. Jey growing up was always relatively quiet compared to the rest of us. He always wore his hat at a 120 degree angle with his bangs still showing from the front. He wore baggy sweaters with skinny blue jeans. His style never really changed other than the sideways hat.
By the time I turned 18, I had to find someone to be my debut parter and instantly knew it was going to be Jey. We weren't the best of friends yet but he had a killer smile and he was taller than me, and honestly, that's all I needed! We spent a lot of time with each other preparing for my debut which I believe helped our friendship blossom. Although, I was likely in complete stress and not the easiest girl to get along with, I swear that was when our friendship grew stronger, our conversations were more in depth, and our loyality continued for years.
Jey started to open up. He always tried to act like the cool guy with little to say. But I got to see another side of him that not many people got to see. Behind his masked impersonal persona, he was actually a genuine, kind, and pretty nerdy guy. He loved watching anime, talked a lot about HunterxHunter with Ronnie. He could spend hours talking about sports that I had no care of. He always motivated us to reach higher goals; especially with Ron - He always said he was going to be the next big fashion guy in Canada. He always rooted for us and encouraged R to keep going while he was trying to pass Fashion School. Jey also loved to sing to lyrics which sooner intrigued his love for music. One day, he said, "I started to DJ, what do you think of the name: DJey?" and I laughed at him thinking it was somewhat clever yet extremely geeky. When I realized he was being serious, I told him to run with it. Within months, he started to get some gigs. One of which was one of the most popular clubs in Winnipeg. The thought of us knowing the DJ and still within the years of always wanting to go out clubbing was such an exhilirating experience and I honestly just felt so proud. You get to cut the line, tell the bouncers "I know the DJ", get in and get free drinks. It was amazing and over the top - But so much fun.
It wasn't always great times and memorable moments. We had our fair share of arguments, fights, and a good number of times that I've physically pushed him for being too overprotective. It was like he always had a eye on me and he would literally get mad at R for it. If someone got to close while we were out, he made it known to them to back off. If I had too much to drink and I was all over the place, he'd always be there behind me if I'd flop or fall over. I didn't realize it back then. I'd yell at him and tell him that I'm ok and we're all just trying to have fun, and he'd get so upset with me. I could vividly remember us in a dark hall with the music blasting, Jey yelling on top of all the sound flaring his hands with frustration. We fought and yelled at each other a lot, but after every argument, after every uncontrolled and foggy night, I'd get a knock at my door. He'd stand there, look at me, and say "I know you're mad - I'm mad too. Want to get breakfast?"... I loved him so much for that.
When our friend group had split up. He made it known that he picked my side. It was almost like he knew I needed to hear that because at the time, no one wanted to admit it although there very much was a wall being built between both groups. I had gone through deep depression trying to understand the virtue of friendship and having lost majority of them all at once, I was unsure how to continue. Jey truly made that easier for me. He was always there for me - Always present, always available when I needed him - At anytime or place, if I shot him a text to say I was in desperate need of a drink and a lengthy talk, he would drop everything and just be there. Soon after, he was introduced to my family - my cousins.
It was easy for him to just connect with everyone the way that he did. His understanding of friendship, better yet - family was constant and known. He also had so much love for sports and music, and within that, always up for a good time. And then I moved to Calgary.
I want to say that this move completely tested our friendship. He would jokingly take videos of him telling me to come back and that life isn't going to be the same. And it sure as hell wasn't. I learned so much when R and I moved. The friendship we had with Jey stayed constant. I just didn't realize the struggles Jey was going through and what had come up the minute we moved back. We moved back to Winnipeg in 2018. It was in 2019 where Jey started to spiral down. He wasn't the same, our friendship was fragile, and we spent a lot of time apart. He no longer was sending those texts to see what I was up too, he stopped calling, he stopped being present. Jey was battling his own demons and had to step away from the burden that many of us may have been putting on him.
Jey grew into this happy-go-lucky guy and no one expected the truth behind it all. I sure as hell didn't. Should I have tried harder? Should I have continued making that effort to text him even if I would never get a response back? Should I have just gone over to his house and ask if he wanted to go for breakfast? I am regretful. I am beyond the capacity to understand. I lost last year without him and I selfishly took it upon myself to focus on other things. And seeing now that I have to settle into lifetime without him - I am regretfully defeated and completely torn.
From Sunday basketball, camping trips, backyard parties, 15-minute naps, sleepovers, binge watching shows, long drives, music blasting, partying, hyping each other up, game nights, family parties, constant moving, and all the annoying arguments in between - You were and are my best friend and I'd like to think that I was yours.
Your closest friends were able to celebrate your life the night of your burial. The beautiful things everyone got to say, all the memories we talked about, all the alcohol we consumed (for you), and all the tears wept with the thought of having to continue this life without you. I just hope you know how loved you were and that within this lifetime; I'm immensely grateful that I had the chance to be part of your life. You were all of my favorite memories, Jey. I miss you so much.
Speeches from Your Friends
This was written on October 17, 2021:
The one I used to know. Who I wish I knew now, with all of your 'flaws', your entirety, you who you have become.
I wish you knew.
Knew what you missed
I wish you've seen.
Seen what we see in you
We miss you. We adore you. But I know you don't yourself. I can't understand how you're feeling, what you have had to go through, what this illness is truly doing to you. But I want to know. I want to be there. I want you to be open.
I wish you knew
Knew all the things you had missed out on
I wish you've seen.
Seen how many times I've tried to press send
I hope you're talking to someone. Someone you can trust. I hope you can find peace within yourself, to love yourself to its full extent, regardless of the scars, the hurt, the mask behind everything.
I want you to be free.
I want you to know.
We're here. We're moving on day by day.
Without you with us.
Without you here.