Throwing Shade

My best friend is the strongest person I’ve known. She’s burying her sister today.

Justin Mitchell and DeRae Graham in happier times.
Justin Mitchell and DeRae Graham in happier times.

Last week, I sat with my best friend and helped her choose appetizers, finalize a playlist on Spotify and decide what she would wear Wednesday.

It wasn’t for an after-work function or a party she was hosting. My best friend, DeRae Graham, was planning her little sister’s funeral.

Dusti died May 10, four days after her twentieth birthday, and four days before Mother’s Day. Dusti and DeRae’s mother died near Thanksgiving 2013. Both their fathers also have passed away.

It’s always so easy to think about how hard it is getting that phone call and rushing to a friend during their time of need, but it’s even harder being that person to have to make the call.

DeRae didn’t have time to grieve. When our best friend Kayla and I got to her last Wednesday afternoon, she was already calling family members, friends and relatives and figuring out funeral arrangements.

She was planning the week ahead and thinking about when to do the services. She was thinking about what would be convenient for everyone else. She had no time to think about herself.

This week, she chose a playlist that would honor Dusti. She finalized the obituary to made sure it fit her sister’s spirit. She chose Dusti’s urn just as she had chosen her mother’s nearly four years ago.

I’ve never had to bury a parent or a sibling, but by Wednesday night DeRae will have had to do both. And as friends and family come to remember Dusti on Wednesday, I know DeRae will be stronger than me. Because she’s always been the strong one, even when she doesn’t realize it.

When we think about strong role models, I find we often choose those who are most obvious. But there are those people near us who are stronger than we could ever imagine. The people who don’t have parents to ask for help when money gets tight. People who must bury their mother before they graduate high school or college. The ones who help raise their brothers or sisters because nobody else is around. The ones who constantly have to think about others before they think about themselves.

When I hold DeRae’s hand Wednesday, she won’t know that I need it more than she does — but I do.

If you’re someone who prays, please pray for my best friend and her family. If you don’t pray, please send positive vibes our way.

Justin Mitchell: 228-604-0705, @JustinMitchell_