LOSING A FRIEND can be so hard. You keep remembering those good times you’ve had together. You just want everything back, especially your friend.

A year ago, I lost a friend. He was someone who was easy to talk to and someone who listened when you would talk about your problems. Clayton was someone who liked to tell jokes and make people laugh. That’s what I loved most about him.

Clayton was one of my best friends. He liked people calling him C.C. I would sit and have coffee with him at the restaurant. I remember that last time I ate there with him. My son was with us and he was eating fries with ketchup. He accidentally touched Clayton on the shoulder of his T-shirt. Clayton asked me if ketchup stained. I didn’t really know, so I said that maybe it would. He said it was his favourite T-shirt. He was wearing that “Revive Our Spirit” T-shirt. So I promised him that I would buy him another one. He asked me what kind I’d buy, and I told him a USA kind. He said, “Great! ” and he was so happy that he even thanked my son for that stain—which proved he was the forgiving kind. We laughed together.

I didn’t think that a few weeks later I’d lose this one good friend. ‘ He died because of alcohol—even though he didn’t drink often. I truly believe that we, teenagers, were warned what alcohol can

do to us. I wish every teenager would think twice before drinking. It can ruin your future, your relationships, and most of all, your life. Alcohol can take your friend or someone else you love. Just think about how it can hurt you and others. Stop drinking before it’s too late.

The last time I saw Clayton alive was the night before he was missing. He came to my house because I needed measurements for the wedding of Mr. and Mrs. Malcolm Atsynia. Clayton was supposed to be one of the ushers at the wedding. I remember while I was taking his measurements, I kept laughing at all the jokes he made. After I finished taking his measurements, he said he had to go because he was going to drink that night. I didn’t think that would be the last time I would be with him or the last time I would laugh at his jokes. I wish I could go back in time. I would have told him not to drink. I would have done anything not to lose one good friend who made me laugh all the time.

I never stop thinking about him—even that time I went shopping for the wedding of Jacqueline and Malcolm. When I saw those USA T-shirts, I just had to keep my promise I made to my friend Clayton. So I bought those T-shirts. When I got back and unpacked my bag, I took out those T-shirts and I started to cry. I just couldn’t believe he was really gone I sat there a long time and thought about what I was going to do with those shirts. So I put them back into the bag. One month later I took them out again and said to myself that I had to give them away. So I thought I had to give them to someone who was almost like him, someone who had made me laugh the way Clayton made me laugh, someone I loved as much as I loved Clayton as a good friend. So I finally gave them to someone. Giving those T-shirts away was almost like letting go a friend—which was hard for me to do.

Clayton, wherever you are, I just want you to know that you were a good friend. Through the years of ourfriendship you never let me down. Most of the time you’d always made me laugh. When you were gone, it was I ike you took that laughter away. And in my memory you’ll always be a real good friend.

Clayton loved to hunt. He killed a goose that had a verse on it that said, “Be not afraid, only believe. Mark 5:36.” It’s going to be sad not seeing him at the camp when it’s springtime. I’m going to miss seeing him with all those geese he would kill. Who’s going to come to our teepee and make us laugh or make jokes with my father? I can still see him with that friendly smile on his face when my father would say something funny. I loved sharing these feelings I had for my friend C.C.

Rest in peace, my friend.

Clayton Roy Cheezo died by drowning a the age of 21 on July 13, 7 993. He had just graduated from high school in June. We will all remember him and those wonderful times we had with him. I know his parents really loved him because I had seen them together and there was a lot of laughter in their home. I’m glad I was there to witness it because they were all happy.

I would like to dedicate this essay to the friends of Clayton who are still involved with alcohol.

From Betty Stewart, Wemindji