"You are and always will be the strongest and most resilient human being I know, and I vowed to carry that with me as I continue to live my life," Heather Morris wrote of Naya Rivera

By Gabrielle Chung
July 15, 2020 07:57 PM
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Heather Morris is paying tribute to her "loving friend" and former Glee costar, Naya Rivera, following her tragic death.

Morris, 33, opened up about her close friendship with the late actress in an emotional tribute on her Instagram Wednesday. Alongside a lengthy statement honoring her friend, the star shared photos of her son — Elijah, 6, and Owen, 4 — playing with Rivera's 4-year-old, Josey, as a way to remember their "pride and joy."

"We started out as the closest friends and then like all new things, we went through a bit of a rocky phase. However, we stuck by each other’s side and created the most beautiful friendship built out of love and understanding," Morris began her post.

"The last I had the chance to see you in person, I had left oranges outside our home for you to take. I wanted to say hi through the window but my phone didn’t ring when you called (which it never does, f*cking T-Mobile), so instead you and Josey left two succulents on our doorstep as a thank you," she recalled. "I planted those succulents and I look at them everyday and think of you."

Heather Morris and Naya Rivera
Naya Rivera and Heather Morris; Josey Dorsey with Owen and Elijah Hubbell
| Credit: Heather Morris/instagram. Inset: Getty Images

"I still listen to your EP on repeat because from the moment I heard it, it struck me and I always wished the world knew more of your voice. You sent me over 5 dozen SnapChat videos when you and Josey woke up in the morning and I kick myself that I didn’t save one of them. You always shared recipes and I admired your love for food."

Heather Morris, Naya Rivera
Naya Rivera and Heather Morris

Morris said in her post that she and Rivera, 33, had "vowed to spend every Easter together," but the ongoing coronavirus pandemic unfortunately made it hard for them to meet this year.

"You are and always will be the strongest and most resilient human being I know, and I vowed to carry that with me as I continue to live my life," she wrote of Rivera.

Heather Morris, Naya Rivera
Heather Morris and Naya Rivera

"You constantly taught me lessons about grief, about beauty and poise, about being strong, resilient and about not giving a f— (but still somehow respectful ). Yet, the utmost important lesson I learned most of all from you was being a consistent and loving friend. You were the first to check in, the first to ask questions, the first to listen .. you cherished our friendship and I never took that for granted."

Morris, who shares Elijah and Owen with husband Taylor Hubbell, went on to explain why she chose to use photos of her children playing with Josey as a tribute to Rivera.

"We never took photos together because we mutually hated taking pictures...our relationship meant more than proof. I have countless pictures of our babies playing, because we shared that kind of pride and joy," she shared. "So I’m showing the world a photo of our little goof balls for you, because I know that meant more than anything and they remind me of you and I."

Morris added, "I speak to you everyday because I know you’re still with me and even though I’m feeling greedy that we don’t get more time together, I cherish every moment we had and hold it close to my heart."

RELATED: Demi Lovato Says She Will 'Forever Cherish' Playing Naya Rivera’s Girlfriend on Glee

Rivera played Santana Lopez, a cheerleader and star glee club member, on the musical comedy Glee. She appeared in nearly every episode of the hit show's six-season run and was considered a trailblazer for LGBTQ characters. Santana came out in the 2011 episode "I Kissed a Girl" after developing feelings for best friend Brittany Pierce, who was played by Morris.

On July 8, Rivera's son was found alone on a rental pontoon boat at Lake Piru in Ventura County, California, where the pair had been swimming. A day later, law enforcement officials announced that Rivera was presumed dead.

Authorities found Rivera's body on Monday — five days after her disappearance — when Morris and other Glee cast members gathered at the lake to say a prayer for their former costar.

Ventura County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Kevin Donoghue told PEOPLE that Rivera's body was located shortly after her castmates prayed for her at the water's edge.