GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Celebrating a birthday without the birthday boy.
Monday night, family and friends gathered to celebrate what would have been Malik Ramirez's 16th birthday.
The ninth-grader at Page High School in Greensboro drowned in a private lake across the street from his school in May.
"I know he's in a better place, but some mornings I wake up and I am like 'why Malik? Why Malik?' You don't want to question God because there is a reason for everything," said Lucille Jones, Malik's aunt.
Loved ones released balloons and cut cake to honor the teen's memory. They also reminisced about moments that brought smiles to their faces, including a keepsake that Malik always kept close. His security blanket.
"About three years ago he still asked me for that blanket and I said 'to do what with it?' because he used to walk around with it under his nose and just sniff it or whatever," said Barbara Townsend, Malik's mom.
His cousin remembers him as a happy teen who was loved by many.
"He has a big bright smile on his face or he's busting out a joke and making everybody laugh. He just had a welcoming attitude," Constance Coleman said.
In three weeks Page High School is launching a program in Malik's honor. It will help turn students who don't know how to swim into swimmers.