A friend leaves lasting memories


Christie Pemberton

Anivea Johnson celebrates Kylee Pemberton’s sweet 16 birthday in April 2020. Johnson passed away in February 2021.

When I met Anivea “Niv” Johnson, I was a freshman in high school. I was looking for any reason to be friends with anyone I possibly could. I thought I had the world in my hands. I thought I had lived. 

Niv was kind of special to let me keep thinking these things– up to a healthy point. She let me be a kid as long as I could. She always let me be me. She valued the simple, innocent kid I was. She didn’t force me to grow up. 

She did not mock me for being young. She even told me I was like her little sister often enough to make me smile. Then, when the worst thing in my life (at that time) happened, she was there.

She was always there.

When it felt like I had nothing, or no one. She was always there.

I felt like the world had fallen apart around me, but that’s nothing compared to how it feels without Niv. I thought all death would be the same.

I would find out and I’d be sad for a month or two. Maybe less. Then, I’d talk it out and move on. This is nothing like that. They try to tell you it’s like that. I’ll tell you it’s not. It can’t be.

 Death is unpredictable. It’s cruel and sudden. You don’t “move on.” You can never totally move on. All you can do is remember.

It’s crazy how, after someone is gone, an entire four-year connection can be brought down to a mere sentence. A moment we shared could define our friendship forever. As if a small phrase could embody the hole I feel inside of me. 

Niv meant a lot of things to a lot of people, including me. She meant peace, she meant love, she meant business, and she meant the kind of good trouble I’ll remember for the rest of my life. The kind of trouble where my mom says, “What were you thinking?” and I just laugh because I know I wasn’t.

I remember we once talked about what we would do without each other. I said I’d die. Simply pass away. I said I’d hurt, but I also said I’d remember. I’ll always remember. 

Well, you can probably assume I’m fortunately not dead. However, I am hurt. I am so beyond any hurt I’ve ever felt. 

I’m trying to remember. I’m trying to make everyone remember, but they’d rather push my head underwater and sweep the pain under the rug. I won’t let them.

We all have to remember no matter how hard. 

She told me that day,  “When I die, I’m going to be up riding them clouds.” 

She would have never known how much peace that sentence would hold in my heart today. I look up and I see her, painting the sky with the colors of the wind. I see the sunset and I hear her voice, I hear her laugh. I see the sunset and then suddenly she’s here again. 

She’s with me again. She’s here again. Happy, and laughing at me for being so desperately sad without her. Then I cry like a baby, knowing it’s not real. But, with every sunset, with every memory, she lives on in my heart. 

As long as she lives, I know it’s going to be okay, someday.

I’ll remember her, I’ll speak of her. The kindness she had. The love she shared. Who she was, and more importantly who she wanted to be. 

She wanted to be heard, seen, loved, and so much more. She demanded that. She had dreams, she had friends, a family, a life. However, now she is only a memory.

On the nights where I can’t sleep, I lay awake looking up in the clouds she’s riding, thinking of her.

I beg of you to remember her. 

Remember her laugh, her smile, her heart. Remember who she wanted to be.

Keep her memory alive.

She deserved that.