By Jack VanAssche, Editor-in-Chief

It was on this day a year ago that I was frantically typing at my desk, rushing to get my final article filed before the print deadline that was fast approaching.

The type of stress that makes the world seem so loud even in dead silence was ringing through my ears as I attributed some of my last quotes.

When my phone rang, I ignored it as long as I could. But the two-minute reminder annoyed me too much to let it go on.

My life changed when I flipped that phone over. It hasn’t been the same since.

It was a text from my longtime girlfriend. “Crying in Meijer,” she said.

Her closest cousin, a baby-faced 19-year-old, had been murdered that morning.

There aren’t words to take away that kind of pain. A 19-year-old myself, I had never known anyone to experience anything so traumatic.

He was kind to her despite the cruelty of most other kids growing up. He loved her and supported her for who she was and saw her as a whole person.

And now he was gone.

All I knew to do was to be there for her. I tried to do the little things to make her days slightly more bearable. I cooked, cleaned and distracted her as much as I possibly could from dwelling on it.

We made it through the services, albeit changed forever.

I kept questioning myself the entire time. Had I done enough? What else could I do? Would anything I do make this unimaginable situation any less terrible?

I didn’t find an answer until a week later.

My grandpa, who lived next door to me for my entire life, passed away surrounded by my family. He was 70 years old.

It was expected, but the effect it had on me was not.

I figured that, since I had seen it coming, I would be more prepared to deal with the loss–no matter how big.

I was wrong.

But my girlfriend was by my side that entire week, bravely accompanying me to the same funeral home that she had to be at a week earlier.

Being there for me was everything that I needed.

Some close friends never reached out, few offered condolences, none showed up to the services.

“I didn’t know what to say,” they would tell me months later. But that’s hardly an excuse.

Growing up puts us in some situations that not all of us were prepared for. Even I didn’t know what I was supposed to do for my friend in a time of tragedy.

From experience, there is absolutely no greater thing you can do for a struggling friend than to be there for them.