Missing a friend on graduation day

College graduation usually inspires feelings of fear and excitement, but for many people, important ceremonies can also often evoke feelings of grief and loss. They remind us of people who aren’t here to share these moments with us.

Three years ago I lost a friend to a freak drug related accident.

Just 19 years old, Shelley Goldsmith was a Jefferson Scholar at the University of Virginia when she took MDMA (more commonly known as Molly) at DC’s EchoStage and died of a heatstroke.

If anyone from my high school was going to graduate from college on time, with honors, and with a job or Fulbright Scholarship already lined up, it would’ve been her.

She was the kind of person who excelled at everything she did. Captain of her tennis team, student government president, straight A student, a professional model, prolific fundraiser, and leader of several school clubs, Shelley was truly exceptional.

But Shelley’s success was not limited to her academic and extracurricular pursuits. She’s best known by her friends and family for her kind heart, generous spirit, and mischievous (yet innocent) sense of humor.

As I got to know Shelley, I found it was a powerful inner courage which drove her in all aspects of her life.

Be it her struggle with anorexia, moving to New York City for the summer all on her own at 17, writing an op-ed in the school newspaper about the need for a Gay-Straight Alliance, or the time we walked in to the high school together to vote for the first time (when she denied a Republican candidate a handshake at the door), Shelley powered herself through.

Anger and sadness describe how I feel about Shelley’s passing. Not only was it tragic her life was cut so short, but so cruel and inexplicable.

I hope to take some of Shelley’s courage with me as I enter the “real world.” I hope I can make her proud.