‘I will make sure that your legacy lives on forever’


Madelaine O'Toole

I don’t think I remember a time in my life without Drew Rainer. For as long as I can remember, he and his family would be lined up on a church pew at St. Peters every single Sunday at 8:30 am. We would then go on to Sunday school together, where he somehow already knew the lesson plan and recalled every single small detail from the mass that just occurred. As we got older, he began to sing in the hymns in church for everyone with his pretty, high-pitched, pre-puberty voice. As I grew older and all of the girls in my middle school started having crushes on boys, I would proudly confess that mine was Drew Rainer, even though deep down I knew that was really the only way to describe how much I loved him as a friend. Plus, it was an absolutely known thing to my friends that he had a crush on our friend Caroline and it was an absolutely known thing to all of our church that he would be a Catholic priest. But even still, I learned to play guitar solely so I could sing Taylor Swift’s “Teardrops on My Guitar” alone in my bedroom, and bask in the sad girl hours and how he’d never have a crush on me.

As we moved into high school and we both became more involved in our youth group, he and a few of our church friends became a close-knit crew. We would go out for Baskin Robbins, we would go watch him play in the band at Christian Brother’s games, and we would of course invite him to every St. Mary’s dance because he was our one and only guy friend. I remember my freshman year of high school, Caroline and I approached him in a panic stating that prom was coming up and we needed to find dates for all of our friends. Sure enough, on the day of prom, he shows up with a guy for each person in my friend group. Apparently, he and his friend Skye had put a lot of thought into it, carefully mapping out which guys and girls would get along best. The rest of the years of high school were endless strings of youth group retreats and youth group dinners and dances and crawfish boils and him hopping over Caroline’s fence to come to hang out. I always remember receiving one of his famous phone calls and his contact picture, a photo of him when he was approximately 5 years old at our first communion, would pop up. He was dependable, and I knew that whenever I called, he would immediately answer no matter what. He was not just a figure in my high school life, he was one of the main characters.


I remember getting the news that both of us would be Day Scholars at Rhodes. In awe at seeing his name on the list, I was about to reach out and share the excitement with him. Before I had the chance to do so, my friend Caroline and I were walking downtown and heard someone yelling our names. We looked up only to find Drew with his goofy contagious smile screaming out: “Madeleine!!! We are Day Scholars!! We are going to Rhodes together!!” I remember thinking how crazy it was that our paths continued to cross in the ways that they did. But in a way, I knew there was a reason behind it.

Although we did not remain in the same friend group while at Rhodes, it was understood that we were always there for each other. Every so often, we would find ourselves deep into an hours-long discussion about life, religion, and plans for the future. We never failed to yell out each other’s names every time we’d see each other. He made sure I knew about every single one of his Belvedere gigs and that I would bring all my friends. I remember when he asked me and Molly to be in his music video and he texted us to: “Bring friends with cool clothes.” At parties, when we would introduce each other to our friends he would say, “This is Madeleine, she and I go wayyyyy back.” And I would introduce him to those around me as one of my oldest friends. We knew that no matter what, we would have each other’s backs.

You cannot tell the story of who I am today without Drew. In a world with very few constants, he was always one of them. From kindergarten to Rhodes, I knew that he was just a permanent figure in my life. Just last week we had discussed future plans – how we were each wanting to move away from Memphis for a while and then maybe come back someday. I had always assumed that we would see each other every time we were both in Memphis, that our kids would know each other, that our lives would stay intertwined in the ways that they always have been. There are no words to describe the anger that I have at the fact that he is unable to have the future he deserved to have.  There are no words to describe the pain that comes with losing someone who is so much a part of who I am today.

Drew was pure good. His goofy spirit was contagious and he made everyone he met feel loved and welcomed. He loved his friends more than life itself. He walked into every scenario with a sense of excitement and eagerness. There is no one else I would have rather walked through life with. I now know that there is a reason that our lives continued to intersect in the ways they did – I have learned so so much from you. I know he is still here with us in spirit – drinking beer, playing in Belvedere, and hanging out at every Sigma Nu event. I miss him more than words can describe, and I pray for his sweet family and friends as they grieve this loss. I love you so much Drew, I will make sure that your legacy lives on forever.