Aela Smith remembers her friend and cousin, Aeramis Kolke, as a young girl who was obsessed with cookies, would chase bunnies and hide behind her smile.
Fourteen-year-old Aela organized and led a memorial for Aeramis, who committed suicide one year ago as a 12-year-old.
About 20 people, both friends of the late girl and some adults, gathered at Churchill Park Tuesday afternoon to remember their friend and reflect on how she passed. A banner was hanging on a fence with a photo of Aeramis making a peace sign.
Aela read from a prepared speech she had written, breaking into tears as she recollected some of her memories, like spending an entire together at the leisure centre.
She said that bullying played a large role in Aeramis’s death, and that was one reason she wanted to hold a public memorial on the first anniversary of her passing.
“I felt like a lot of people still don’t understand how bad it is. To have this one year as a memorial, it’s kind of an awareness (of how she died) and to honour Aeramis Kolke. I miss you everyday.”
Pink Shirt Day was recognized with a march in downtown Estevan on April 4, and is an initiative to raise awareness about bullying, with the ultimate goal of empowering youth to stand up to bullies.
Aela said talking with another person about problems is a necessary way to get some of the weight off one’s shoulders.
“We have to share what we’ve done and open up. To be true with ourselves is to let out our demons about things,” she added. “After one year it’s been pretty rough. There have been lots of ups and downs, and a lot of people have been upset. Getting together and talking about it can make us emotional but it can also bring us up as well, and to kind of realize that (suicide) is very real, and we can all learn from it.”
She admits to having been on both sides of bullying before and said victims of bullying can learn something from the way Aeramis died. She said victims could be “on the edge” and nobody would know. It’s something everyone needs to think about before attacking someone else, she said.
Many who attended the memorial wore pink as well, and pink wristbands were handed out to those present. Some wore pink shirts with Aeramis’s photo on the front.
“I just want people to know her as a girl who stood up to bullying,” said Aela. “She never gave up on anybody, and she always put her friends first.”
She said the tragedy of Aeramis’s death is that she was left “broken” and “shattered.”
“Grieving together has brought us up and put us back together. This is why we’re here now, to grieve her loss. The world will change and become a better place if we take that step forward in life and helping out the people who get bullied everyday.”
She said anybody can make a difference in this respect, urging people to stand up if they see something and put a stop to poor treatment of others.
A few others spoke up during the memorial and shared stories of how they remember the young girl.
“In honour of Aeramis it is our job to take a stand, show people who we really are and what we’re capable of and stop bullying,” said Aela.