At Boys’ Latin, the mandatory senior speech is a long-held tradition that each student develops, prepares, and delivers to the entire upper school. Some are funny; many are reflective. Then there was DJ Willoughby’s speech, a searing poem-slash-personal note to the mother of his best friend and former Boys’ Latin classmate, Zakary Aaron Osiris DeGross, who died from cancer at the tender age of 14.
DJ’s speech, which seemed to tumble out from somewhere deep down inside of him, profoundly affected the entire student body. “It was such a powerful speech delivery that shook the entire school,” recalled Gina Molling, Boys’ Latin Theater Artistic and Managing director. “There was not a dry eye in the house.” With DJ’s permission, we re-print his speech below. EH
This is a poetic letter addressed to the Ms. Leslie DeGross. In loving memory of my fellow classmate, friend, and brother, Zak DeGross. It is entitled, “I Can Only Imagine.”
How do you live when you lose the person you can’t imagine living without? I can only imagine that your days are plagued with doubt and disbelief? I can only imagine that each day falls down aimlessly like an autumn leaf? I can only imagine that your days are cold even in July heat? I can only imagine that grief sucks the life out of you slowly and unknowingly, like a leach? I can only imagine that death grips your stomach so tightly that you can barely speak. I can only imagine that the road to recovery is narrow and sleek. I can only imagine that your eyes are heavy because the closest thing to death is sleep. I can only imagine that your night air is saturated with noises and voices, of which you hear every peep. I can only imagine that when you see my face, time collapses on space. I can only imagine that you see flashes and split second images of his future that was limitless. I can only imagine that my eyes are painstaking reminders. School rings on fingers are splinters in your heart. Everything I am and will be reminds you of everything he could have been and should have been. Read More →