Sh'Kur I had just been at a Hillary Clinton for President fundraiser in Rock Hill and my phone rang; my mother was calling. I answered it abruptly, assuming she was just checking in on me. Her voice was choked with tears. "Sh’Kur, your sister has died," my mother said slowly. "Rae’von has died."

What do you say when your mother calls to tell you that your little sister has died? My best friend, who came into this world 366 days, 1 year and 1 day behind me, had now preceded me in death.

My sister's tragic death is a chapter of my life I try to close, but as Dr. Anne Burkholder told me, you get through death but never truly over it. Grief, particularly the kind that comes tragically, never fades. You can ignore it, bury it, sublimate it, deny it, or bash it. You can busy yourself with work, but whenever you stop, it comes right back. And each time, the pain feels brand new.

But there was no time to grieve! My mother had the worst time of us all, her own unspeakable anguish. Then there was my two younger brothers’ pain to think about and, of course, the funeral. I was determined to lay my best friend and my only sister to rest as if she were the Queen of England: hundreds of people dressed in her favorite color of red, a horse drawn carriage to bring remains to her life celebration, dozens of clergy members, and a full floral spray of red roses. But among those people were my fellow classmates from Candler. People who had known me just short of three months had traveled hundreds of miles to join my family and me in celebrating my sister’s life.

I sat in the pulpit dressed in my clergy robe pondering my eulogy, as the church clerk read the letters of sympathy from denominations, churches, and organizations. The first letter to be read was from the Candler School of Theology. Not just my school, but my friends.

These friends picked me up when I was breaking down, these friends filled my household with groceries that lasted me for months on end, and these friends remained with me through it all. My professors didn't just extend deadlines but embraced me, held my hand, and listened to my story. I am thankful to have been a part of such an institution that has become a family – I wouldn’t be where I am without you guys.

Dean Ellen Purdum and her thoughtful words of encouragement sustained me. Lisa Parker’s smile and constant checking in. Brandon Maxwell's empathy and listening ear. Whitney Bailey's presence. Linda Stephan's sweet smile and embrace. Stephen Burrows’ joyful spirit. I have made it through year one and I am looking forward to the next two. I'm so happy to say that Candler is not just my school, but my family.