Because life isn’t traumatic enough.

September 01 2016

I was not at all surprised to win The Listserve. In fact, I have been contemplating removing myself to avoid the eventuality. I don’t have anything to say. I don’t have any advice. I’m 27 and still figuring life out. They suggest sharing a story so…

Growing up I thought that 17 was a magical number. It was the age at which I would grow out of my gawkiness, be free of my braces, and finally bloom into this beautiful being that novels and movies kept insisting was a part of my future. I couldn’t wait!

The magical day came and I spent it like many other 17 year olds: at the mall shopping. My phone rang and it was my mom, who I was supposed to meet for dinner later to celebrate after I had finish shopping with my dad (my parents were divorced). Instead of the “Happy Birthday Sweetie!” I was expecting, she rushed to ask where I was, who I was with, and told me not to come home. Her voice sounded strained and on the verge of tears. I asked her what was going on and if she was ok. She said everything would be fine, but to stay with my dad at the mall, don't come, and to please pass the phone to my father. I reluctantly agreed.

That night my mom came to my dads house, face pale, eyes puffy from crying. She sat on the edge of my bed holding my hand. There was a long, pregnant pause. She said she didn’t know how to tell me, but… my aunt was gone.

She had been murdered.

As my mom burst into tears and embraced me I sat there shocked. But we had just seen her on Christmas 4 days before. But…murdered? This doesn’t happen to regular families. And it definitely doesn’t happen on your 17th birthday. But it had. The reality sunk in and over the course of the next few days detailed emerged.

She had been at a party with a mixed crowd. She had always been outspoken and that night she had irked some gang member. When he pulled a gun on her she asked, “What are you gonna do, shoot me?!” As she laughed, he pulled the trigger.

I loved watching murder mysteries and cop shows growing up. Those shows always show such clear lines. Bag guy and victim. But who was who in this episode? Recently in recovery from drug addiction we weren’t sure if she’d been using again. What about the other guy? Why was she even there? Would she still be alive if someone had called for an ambulance sooner?

This year will be the 10th anniversary of her death. Most of those questions remain unanswered yet I realize that it doesn’t matter. What matters is that my mom’s best friend and the woman who had helped raise her, the woman who gave me chocolate for breakfast and taught me how to hike is gone. And that each year on my birthday my mom is torn apart by the grief that fills her, and the obligation to feel joy and celebrate the birth of her only child.

Aly Sweet
[email protected]
San Francisco, CA

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