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Three Years Past, But Not Gone

(First Draft – DO NOT SHOW ROY)

By Susie Font

I often get asked, how did you survive? How do you keep going?

The truth is, I almost didn’t. There was a point where I was very close to ending it all. The pain was bigger than I was. It became “me.” It’s all that was left. A deep hollow-out-your-guts ache that wakes you when you sleep – if you can sleep at all – destroys your appetite, and makes you loathe everything around you.

It creeps up on you, the idea of killing yourself. You’re suffering every day, every moment. Every breath is painful. The things that used to give you joy seem putrid and corrupt. You don’t deserve them. So, you think, why not just end it all? With each passing day, it becomes a more realistic option. At a certain point, it’s just becomes a question of how.

My choice was a handgun. We have one, for self-defense.

I held the gun in my hand. Loaded. I put it in my mouth. It tasted metallic and oily.

I was that close.

Camila was seventeen years old when it happened. She was a bright girl. Witty. Chestnut hair, that she loved to wear long, and to braid. Green eyes, like her dad. But my cheekbones. She had a beautiful laugh. She lit up a room, and I know, I’m her mom, but it’s true.

She had a beautiful, kind soul and that kindness radiated from her. She gave me joy, and hope.

And she loved horses. Especially Beau. Whenever she had a spare moment, she was at the stables riding him, grooming him, cleaning up. I remember her leaving that day for the stables because she was running late to meet her instructor.

Ever since she was small, we played this little game. A ritual. Whenever we said goodbye – when I went to work, or dropped her off at school.

I’d kiss her on the forehead and say, “You be good missy.”

She’d kiss me on the cheek and say, “You be better mommy.”

Then I’d kiss her cheek and say, “You’re the best.”

After she left that day, I went into my home office to get some work done. Suddenly she was back. At first, I thought something was wrong, but I quickly saw that she was carrying a duffle bag she must have forgotten, which she confirmed.

Then she said, “Since I had to come back, I thought I’d say a ‘proper’ goodbye.”

And she laughed that beautiful laugh of hers, and bent and kissed my forehead. I remember her hair smelled like peppermint.

She said, “You be good missy.”

I kissed her cheek and said, “You be better.”

Then she kissed my cheek and smiled, and said, “You’re the best.”

It was the first time she’d switched roles on me. It was touching.

After she left, I sat for a few moments just thinking where the time had gone. One moment she was an infant in my arms, at my breast, and a flash later she was kissing my forehead and driving. Someday sooner than I’d like, she’d be wheeling me around my wheelchair.

I heard the door slam. I heard her car leave.

I went back to my work.

Fifteen minutes later, she was gone.

As you all know, on her way to the stables, she was hit head-on by Liam Bareto who was texting instead of paying attention to his driving.

Camila died on impact.

And after a few months wallowing in and out of more stages of grief than I knew existed, I found myself sitting back in my home office with a gun in my hand thinking about her, about the ache in my soul, and about our last goodbye. It was just a few seconds that it had taken to perform our little ritual. If we hadn’t, maybe she would have been further down the road. Maybe Bareto wouldn’t have hit her. I felt all the more guilty.

But, as I prepared to pull the trigger, the memory of our last moment together overcame me. I could see her, standing there, smiling at me with love, saying, “You be good missy.”

And there I was, sitting in the same chair I’d been that day, with a gun in my mouth.

I felt so ashamed. I dropped the gun and cried and cried, a sobbing, moaning catharsis.

So, how do I survive? How do I keep going?

Because I have to live the life that Camila would have expected of me. I have to be the mother she deserved.

Camila died that day. Liam Bareto succumbed to his injuries a few months later.

Two lives gone. Two families crushed. All over a text message.

When you are behind the wheel of a vehicle, you are wielding a weapon just as lethal as the gun I put in my mouth, and didn’t fire.

I didn’t pull the trigger because my daughter deserved better.

Liam Bareto shouldn’t have texted while he was driving for the same reason.



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