“Whether you know it or not, there are people you haven’t even met yet that are gonna need you here,” senior Diego Huston said.

NAU student Alexander “Xan” Leon’s death was reported Oct. 27. As family, friends and loved ones continue to grieve, they also celebrate his remarkable life. Xan was known for his caring personality, entertaining accents and witty humor, all of which contributed to his incredible friendships.

Huston and Leon began their journey years ago, back when Xan was in high school. The pair quickly grew closer and by the time Xan attended NAU, their friendship was flourishing. Huston said that for the last two years, he and Xan were inseparable.

As the NAU community mourns the loss of a valued character, Huston wants everyone to cherish and preserve Xan’s unique disposition.

“I’ve never met someone who’s enabled me to be more of myself,” Huston said. “Around Xan, there was an open space that allowed me to show my true colors ... When you have someone that close to you, I think you start to understand yourself more.”

Huston explained how he always wanted to see Xan again. The two friends would convene and socialize for hours, and they were always eager to reconnect. As Huston treasures their exceptional friendship, he challenges students to bring aspects of Xan into their future interactions.

While Huston considered Xan’s influential life, he also spoke about his experience mourning. He described the grieving process as profound and personal, particularly as it pertains to the stigma surrounding death.

“Some days it’s moment-by-moment, some days it’s hour-by-hour, some days it’s totally fine until night or when you wake up,” Huston said. “Everyone takes grief differently.”

Oftentimes, emotions cannot be suppressed. Huston said people should accept and share their feelings, even if they are sad, crying or need some space. Society often conceals grief, but it must be expressed.

Although Xan utilized NAU Counseling Services, Huston emphasized the need for greater community involvement. Students should be able to discuss mental health openly and honestly, without being confined by any social standards. Huston explained that social media could be an appropriate platform for students to collaborate, especially considering the residential separation between campus and the surrounding community.

Huston also offered advice. He said Xan’s death has demonstrated how important communication, relationships and love truly are. Although life is short, it also has endless meaning.

“Tell the people you care about that you love them a whole lot more,” Huston said. “What means the most is to express yourself and what your life means and stands for. Connect with others, that’s all we really have.”

As loved ones remember and appreciate Xan’s wonderful life, Huston recommends everyone push forward collectively. By providing reassurance, joining together and sharing moments, life becomes a group story. Xan truly exemplifies the power of living and loving together.

In addition to Huston's ongoing efforts to celebrate his friend's life, Xan's parents have created an up-and-coming organization. To give hope and provide resources for those battling depression, the Leons started the Xan You Matter Foundation, which shows that every life matters. More details regarding the foundation's purpose will be released at a later date.