dear celine, this is how you made me feel

celine

This is Celine. She was one of my best friends, and on Monday I found out that she died in a car accident. I can’t quite believe I’m writing about her in the past tense. I’m having an extremely difficult time believing that she is gone. It all seems surreal and incomprehensible and just plain wrong. Her brother Cameron was in the car with her, and he is in critical condition — please send your prayers and love to him and their entire family. ❤

Celine was one of the most vibrant, joyful, loving and beautiful people I’ve ever known, and I want to tell you about her.

me and celine

She was the first friend I made in college, on move-in day in the dorms. Her dorm room was kitty-corner from mine. My parents had left and I was sitting on my new dorm-room bed, feeling a little bit sad and scared and alone in my new life, when Celine came in with a box of popsicles and asked if I wanted one. We started talking, and I learned she grew up in L.A. and had a younger brother around the same age as mine. I felt comfortable with her right away — she had a genuine smile and a contagious laugh, and she was so expressive you wanted to keep swapping stories with her forever. That day, she looked so sophisticated in a newsboy cap and colorful sunglasses, and I remember thinking, “This girl is waaaay too cool to want to be friends with me. I’ll just ride this wave as long as it lasts!” Later, once I realized she actually *did* want to be my friend, for reals, I told her about my first impression. 🙂 We would joke about that throughout our friendship.

me and celine milkshakes

It is probably not an exaggeration to say I spent as much time in Celine’s dorm room that first year as I did in my own. We ended up living together throughout college, and all of us shared so much more than just an apartment. Those girls were my second family. We shared meals and clothes and shoes and makeup; we celebrated holidays together; we threw the most fun themed parties of my life; we whiled away hours and hours discussing everything from crushes to politics to High School Musical, sharing stories from our pasts and daydreams for our future; and oh, boy we laughed. We laughed so, so much. I feel incredibly grateful that I found such special people to share college with.

roomie party

all the ladies soph year

Celine was a true original; a bright light; fearless and colorful and brave. She was goofy and funny and FUN. Celine’s authenticity brought people together in the best way. She taught me to be proud of the silly parts of myself; that I can be a serious and determined person yet also retain a childlike enthusiasm about the world. She taught me that often it’s the little things — the jotted notes, the inside jokes, the impromptu dance parties — that are really the big things. And she taught me that life isn’t just about being productive and “accomplishing” things and checking items off my daily to-do list. Sometimes — actually, most of the time — the most important thing to do today is to enjoy it, to have fun, to make ridiculous and beautiful and spontaneous memories with the people you love.

goofy roomie photo

Celine loved fashion, and she was such a talented designer. Our senior year, she sewed a whole ensemble of clothing for a fashion show benefit to combat malaria. I like to remember her sewing away on our living room floor as we all watched DVDs of The Office and did homework. I’ve never thought of myself as very fashionable, but she helped me feel confident in myself. She was always delighted to help pick out an outfit for a date, or a special event, or simply an ordinary Monday. We had many fashion shows in our apartment. Celine could pull off any outfit with pizazz. I think of her wearing an American flag sweater and colorful socks, and looking perfectly chic and perfectly her.

She *made* that dress!!

She *made* that dress!!

Yet along with her wonderfully zany side, Celine also had a quieter side. She was a terrific listener. She never judged. She made you feel safe and supported. Freshman year of college, when I broke up with my first real boyfriend, I remember fleeing to her room, sobbing, and she hugged me as I cried. Another time, when I was feeling down on myself because “no boys were ever going to like me EVER” she played me this song, “Somebody’s Baby” by Phantom Planet, saying it made her think of me because I was “so awesome that guys probably just assume you’re already taken.” I still smile and think of her when I hear that song.

Celine saw the very best in me, even when I didn’t see it in myself.

me and celine

Junior year, Celine and Holly studied abroad in Paris at the same time I studied abroad in England, and they came to visit me one weekend.

in london

Then I visited them for a week during my spring break. That week in Paris remains one of the happiest, best weeks of my life.

me holly celine in paris

Celine loved France — she was proud of her French-Canadian heritage and spoke fluent French — and she especially loved Paris. In college, she talked frequently about her dreams of moving to Paris and going to fashion school. And after we graduated, that is exactly what she did. She studied at the Parsons Paris School of Art & Design and ended up working for the Paris College of Art, a job that took her all around the world. I can’t begin to express how proud I was of her. So many people talk about their dreams, but never do anything to make them real. Celine was actually living her dream. She made it happen.

me and celine in Paris

I was lucky to get to visit Celine in Paris once, a few years ago. It was exciting to get a taste of her life there. She was a terrific tour guide, excited to show the city she loved to the people she loved. One thing I always admired about Celine was that she was always herself, and our friendship remained a comforting touchstone even as so many other things about our lives changed. In a cafe in Paris, we giggled together the same way we had in our apartment living room in Los Angeles.

holly surprise party

Even though the miles and time zones between us made our communication less frequent, I always knew Celine loved me, and I hope she knew I loved her. She was there for me for the big things. Like when I broke up with my fiance, she Skyped with me for two hours, even though it was incredibly late Paris time and she had to work in the morning. She laughed and talked with me about random old memories until I felt better.

me and celine xmas

And those times that we *were* able to see each other, we picked up right where we left off. Celine came to visit me soon after I moved to the Bay Area, and we pretty much talk-talk-talked for three days straight. It felt like we were living together again. That visit was such a gift.

20131025_154036

The last time I saw her was in late May, right before my birthday. She was in San Francisco with a couple friends from France, and the two of us met up for brunch. I had a cold, and I remember wondering whether I should cancel; I didn’t want to spread my germs to Celine, or to anyone else my path would cross on my commute into the city. But we were able to see each other so rarely that I thought, “Screw the germs, I’m going!” And my God, I’m so grateful I did. We had a lovely visit, chatting in the sunshine over hot coffee and tea and scones, and before we hugged goodbye in the Bart station I remembered to snap a photo, this one:

me and celine bart station

We’d emailed some since then, and in the last email she sent me, Celine asked if I could resend her the link where I post my short stories online, because she wanted “some reading from my favorite writer!!” She was always so supportive of my writing, and in the wake of her passing I feel a renewed commitment to pursue my dreams with zeal and determination, in her honor.

Celine only graced this world for 26 years, yet she touched SO many people’s lives with the bright light of her spirit. Quite simply, she made others feel seen, and heard, and happy, and loved.

how you made them feel

Our friend Jess put it so well in these words to Celine: “It’s hard to explain how much fun we had and how much living the rest of us are going to have to do to make up for your absence.”

college football game

Holly did too: “Love knows no tense.”

me hol celine

Dear Celine, I miss you. I love you. I will forever be grateful for the spectacular gift of being your friend.

celine dogpile

grad caps and gowns

me and celine goofy

me and celine halloween

56 thoughts on “dear celine, this is how you made me feel

  1. Dallas, my heart breaks for you, for Celine’s family, for her friends, for all the lives she touched and for all those that will never have the gift of knowing her. This was a beautiful tribute to her. I wish you comfort and peace as you try to come to grips with what can only be described as a glowing life cut far too short. I think you already recognize that the best thing you can do to honor her life is to follow your dreams as she followed hers. Hugs from Chicago.

  2. Dallas, I certainly didn’t expect to read this! I’m so sorry for the loss of your dear friend. This is wonderful tribute to her and your friendship. Prayers for her family and brother during this time. Thank you for your words about about your friendship with her. She sounds like she was and angel here on earth and will be forever now with you. Big hugs. -Julie

  3. Dally, I am so sorry for you,for Celine’s family, and for everyone who loved her and who she loved. Thank you for sharing this; you wrote absolutely beautiful words about her and the amazing person she was.

  4. My heart goes out for your friend’s family and you, Dallas. It’s heartbreaking to lose such a lively person; may God give strength and peace to endure all this. Thank you for sharing the special bond you two had. Much love and hugs to you all.

  5. Dallas, I don’t think we ever met but I’m a friend of Céline’s here in Paris. Jessica Whitemore is my friend from highschool and she introduced me to Céline 5 years ago. Thank you for writing this- I think it perfectly describes Céline and how she made me feel, too. I feel a real struggle with using the past tense as well, but I really like what your friend, Holly said. Love knows no tense.

    • Chelsea, I feel like we’ve met because I’ve heard so much about you! Thank you for taking the time to comment. I’ve been comforted by knowing how many people loved her and how very many lives she touched. Thinking of you ❤

  6. Dear Dallas,

    I am so saddened by this news. My heart goes out to you, to Holly, and to Celine’s family. She was such a ray of sunshine in every life she touched. Thank you for capturing her spirit here. She was fortunate to have such a great friend in you.

    Love always,
    Stephanie/Nala

  7. Beautiful tribute – thank you so much for these words. High school Céline was just as you described college Céline 🙂

  8. Thank you, Dallas,for writing such a beautiful tribute to Céline. You are a beautiful writer. I could not have said it better myself. I am heartbroken as well. We will get stronger with time but we will never stop missing her. I am just so thankful I was a part of her life. Lots of love to you, Allison.

    • Allison, I have been thinking of you. One of the last times I saw Celine, she told me all about when she went to visit you during your time in the Peace Corps. It sounds like you two had a truly amazing visit, and I could tell she was soooo happy she was able to visit you in Africa. If you are ever in the Bay Area please let me know, I would really love to see you. ❤

  9. Thank you that is a very nice to ute and accurate description of a lovely young women. All who new her are sad at losing her. I am thankful that I was able to know her.

  10. Oh Dallas…I am so sorry to hear about what happened to Celine…I’m sure she knew that you loved her, too – friends like this are some of the greatest treasures of life – it’s easy to feel the grief you’re bearing at this time, and I’m very sorry…I’ll absolutely be praying for her brother and her family ❤

  11. Dallas,
    I am so sorry for your loss. My thoughts are with you and I’m sending lots of love your way. Your writing, as usual, is beautiful! xo

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  16. This was just beautiful! Celine’s Mother, Jacquie posted this on her FB page. I have known her for about 5 years and Celine was her pride and joy. My heart breaks for her and for you, in losing such a dear friend. I too am glad that you went to see her in May even though you were sick. Cherish the memories always ♥

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