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My Friend Teeja. My Guardian Angel.

In Nya’s Own Words

In Florida, I was born a day after the school year cut off that basically set me back a year in my studies. So, when I was in daycare, I was very interested in the VPK (Voluntary PreKindergarden) class because I was bored with what I was doing, and I wanted to do what the other kids my age were doing so I persuaded my way into the class. My VPK teacher recognized this and gave my parents paperwork to get me into a more advanced program. I transferred to the new school in my second year of VPK. A more advanced curriculum made me very excited to go and a new school meant new friends! I had always been a very optimistic person. I thought everyone I met was going to be my best friend.

When I got to my new school, that’s when I met Teeja Johnson. She was the coolest person I had ever seen. She was also wearing the same fluffy lamb jacket I owned. I immediately ran over to say hello. “Hello, my name is Nya Chambless, I love your jacket; I’ve got the same one. That must mean we were meant to meet!” I sat down with her and after giving me a small smile, we started to talk. We talked the rest of the day while we were there. Within a few hours we were best friends. From then on, we did everything together. We even had a couple of theatre classes together. However, I noticed the other kids never wanted to hang out with us. They wouldn’t talk to Teeja or come near her. I didn’t understand why at first. Teeja was so amazing I couldn’t understand why they would do this to her. But then I found out; Teeja had cancer and that made her different than the others.

Teeja missed a lot of school because of being sick, but her mother said that she fought every day to come be with me and I was thankful for every day I could spend with her. Her family even let us have an at-home play date together and we were over the moon excited! Sadly, Teeja passed away soon after our first playdate. I was so sure I could make her better if I could have only been with her.

After she died, I was told, by the principal, I couldn’t tell anyone at school, that the children wouldn’t understand. Also, I couldn’t see her family because they were hurting so much. But I was also hurt and confused. For a year, I even talked to Teeja in my room, talking and having fun.

One day, Teeja’s family reached out to us. It had been a little over a year since Teeja’s funeral and they hadn’t reached out to us since she had passed. My mom told me they wanted to see me, and I was surprised, but confused. I thought I had done something wrong at the time and that was why they didn’t want to see me.

We went to their house, and they greeted me with hugs and smiles. They sat me down and said that they saw her in me and that was very painful for them because we were so close, and I meant so much to Teeja. They then took me to a fairy garden they had created as a memorial for Teeja and let me spend time alone with her. They had started healing and being with me was going to help with that process.

After that meeting, I became a big “sister” to her little sister Bryn who I spent a lot of time with since. And every time I went over to their house, I sat in front of her fairy memorial and talked with her. I would tell her about my experiences, how much I missed her, and how her sister was. I would tell her how I was keeping our dream alive by acting in theatre and film.

I would see Teeja’s family many times throughout the years until this past year when they decided to move to Georgia, but we keep in touch.

Over the time, even though Teeja is not physically with me, I know she is still with me and that has made me grow and heal.

I still act and make short films myself and I have additionally adapted our story into a script that is about our friendship, about our time together and I hope to be able to make this story into a film that I can then use to help others heal, to help children understand that just because someone looks different, doesn’t mean that they aren’t just as wonderful as anyone else. In fact, they have a superpower, one of strength and resilience but they also are vulnerable and need someone that sees them as they are and are worthy of friendship and love. I was Teeja’s friend, and she became my guardian angel. A friendship lost too soon but forever lasting.

Nya Chambless

Avatar photoNya Chambless has been an actor since the age of 4, appearing in several indie and college films, a television pilot, commercials, and theatre productions working with Players, Florida Studio Theatre, and Westcoast Black Theatre. Additionally, Nya has directed 2 short films, her second, Just Believe winning 11 international film festival student awards and placing high in several others.

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