Each year, seniors at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School deliver a speech to their peers on a topic of their choosing in the Newhall Auditorium. Often equal parts clever and moving, emotional and personal, each speech offers a glimpse into the lives, experiences, struggles, and triumphs of SSM seniors.
Throughout the 2018-19 school year, we will share these speeches with the SSM community and hope that you enjoy the humor, wisdom, and powerful reflections conveyed by our senior students.
This speech is dedicated to Julian Alexander Merlino, a great friend that I will always be grateful for.
In the summer of 2015, I met Julian at a movie on the beach of my hometown in Fontana, Wisconsin on beautiful Lake Geneva. Julian came up to me and my group of friends and introduced himself, and we instantly all took a liking to him. Within days, we “locals” were meeting all of Julian’s friends from Chicago, and we spent the next two summers together.
Julian was the link between all of the Illinois kids that would summer up at the lake and all the local Lake Geneva kids. We called ourselves the LG FAMILY. We all shared this love of the lake as well as everything else Wisconsin has to offer. But most of all, we really just enjoyed each other’s company.
For the first two summers, we spent countless hours on Lake Geneva making memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life. One of our favorite things to do was sunrise surf. We would get up at 5:30 a.m. to catch spectacular sunrises over the lake and surf for hours.
Whether it was the summer or winter, Lake Geneva seemed to be Julian’s Happy Place. Over Christmas break last year, Julian and I took to the ski slopes of Alpine Valley. Little did I know, it would be the last time I would ever see or hear from my friend again.
On December 30th, 2017, I received a phone call that my friend Julian had taken his own life. I cried out in pain, disbelief, and sadness. The majority of us did not know that Julian had been suffering from depression.
I can describe Julian for you - he had a smile that would light up a room. He was a very strong young man. He was one of the most caring persons I had ever met; he cared for others before himself. He was happy but lost. I could say more about Julian, but what I cannot do is tell you how much inner pain, anguish and hurt he had.
Blessings come in all shapes and sizes. I am telling you this story because I have come to the realization that Julian was a blessing to me, all be it too short, and that I will cherish him and miss him for the rest of my life. I have to believe and trust in God that we met and became fast friends for a reason, and that Julian is now in a better place..
On the back of his memorial card was his favorite song - “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”
The lyrics of this song reinforces the idea that help is always out there for you.
The song goes -
“My love is alive
Way down in my heart
Although we are miles apart
If you ever need a helping hand
I’ll be there on the double
Just as fast as I can
Don’t you know that there
Ain’t no mountain high enough
Ain’t no valley low enough
Ain’t no river wide enough
To keep me from getting to you”
Julian: I love you, I miss you, and God Bless you!