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Hey Deola,

It has been 12 years you left. In a way, this letter feels a decade plus two years late because I have never written to you before.

It is not because I can’t write, I mean, you and Yeside knew that before anyone else in the world (after my mom and Lara Okunade of course). You knew that since 1998, back in our class housed by the PTA Building in JSS1.

However, it just never occurred to me to do this and, for years, I preferred remembering, tweeting or posting on Facebook (when I was still constant there) than putting down words.

Because, wetin I wan talk? Took me years to come to terms with your death.

Last year, I just mentioned to someone sitting by my side that it was your death anniversary and then, moved on with my day. Sometimes, I wonder what you’d have been like if you won the battle against Ovarian cancer. You were so beautiful at 16 and you had the most amazing voice I had ever heard and still have heard, in my life. I remember that day in JSS3 when after school was over, me, you and Yeside started to sing BCOS theme song and the remaining boys in class were awed (forget we weren’t talking to them and we acted like they didn’t clap, Divas that we were lol).

Your voice was power and so was your impeccable dress sense. I can still remember what you wore for the last Out Of Uniforms’ Day you ever came to in SS2. You slayed in your red top and blue “hipsters”. And shall we not talk about your amazing curves at even 15? God knows you’d have been one of the hottest people out there right now; slim with beautiful curves.

And you were confident too. I have to say that your strength didn’t lie only on the outside, it was deeply rooted on the inside too. You stood up for what you believed in back in 1998-2004 ISI when bullying people like us reigned supreme.

Plus your heart, goodness, your heart… Deola, can you remember when my father couldn’t pay my fees on time and I almost didn’t write my exams? You gave me an extra clearance card and said, “use it. Don’t be afraid, they won’t know”. Jeez, you were like 13! I was shaking but you knew it was all going to be alright. How?

See why it’s so hard to forget you?

I can still remember the pair of earrings you were wearing the very first day I set eyes on you. They were bright pink. I had been sitting in class, my first day in secondary school, and then you came in late and was told to sit by my side. You were my first sitting mate and even though I was nervous about whoever sat by my side (and I had been counting down to go look for Lara), you offered a warm smile when I spoke to you first.

You were a beautiful soul, Adeola! They will never know no matter how deep the words run, they will never get it no matter how vivid the pictures I paint are! They have to know you to understand the pain we all felt when you left while we were in SS3.

They have to know you to know this feeling!

Deola, when they said you were sick, I was sitting in front of Café, my first thoughts being you’d come through. Because you always came through of course. So it felt like a no brainer.

I didn’t call you for a while because it was just malaria, right? And malaria was something we’d all had in school. Malaria was something that passed.

But when you didn’t come back and they said it was more serious, I called your number. Your brother picked, he said he’d tell you.

I knew that day something was wrong. It was not normal.

So when you got admitted to UCH through most of our SS3, I knew I had to come see you. We hadn’t been close since you went to Sciences with Lolade and I went to Arts with Yeside and Kanyinsola in SS1 but you were still my friend. That girl in the bright pink earrings who offered her friendship when she didn’t have to.

When I told my mom I was going to see you one of those days she came to pick me from School, she asked what ward you were in. She had been working with an NGO with some Doctor in UCH and so I told her so she could direct me to you.

She told me. But she didn’t tell me the Doctor had been worried you wouldn’t make it.

So I came to see you with our other friends, excitedly. Sharing gists about school and refusing to ask when you’d leave or why you were at the Hospital.

I didn’t want to know.

I just wanted you to be fine. Days before I heard the news of your death, I dreamt you were fine. Your swollen stomach was back to the flat one we envied and your health was back to normal.

However, when I returned from Covenant University, where Yeside and I had gone to write our entrance exam, I got a call that you were dead.

You had died the day after I had that dream. I told my mother and couldn’t sleep that night.

I didn’t cry. Why would I have? Were you dead? It was 17 days to your 17th birthday, why would you have been dead? We were young, yes, people died, but it wasn’t supposed to happen to us when we were young girls. So why would you have been dead?

But you were. You’d left.

Then on Monday, June 7 2004, we gathered at the Chapel of Resurrection in UI. All I had to hear were the verses of the song; On Christ The Solid Rock I stand, and then the waterworks wouldn’t stop.

I cried for you, Deola. Yeside, Lolade, Kikiope and I cried while we held each other outside the church. You were gone for real.

But you were such a strong Christian and the very last day I saw you at UCH, you shared a Tract.

So the words that caused me to cry should have given me strength;

My hope is built on nothing else, than Jesus Christ our righteousness…

On Christ the solid rock I stand.

But where I wan locate the strength? Don’t blame me for crying, Adeola Adeniji, you have always been the strong one.

Continue to rest well, friend. I will always remember you. #HeavenCouldntWaitForYou