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In memory of Joel Valdes

My worst nightmare came true. March 25, 2022, around the time my daughter and I had arrived back to Chicago after a road trip to Kentucky, my son was being shot in a Rosemont mall. My son, Joel Valdes, passionate, charming, hilarious — my precious firstborn, only son was killed by gun violence, shot five times. He was 20 years old.

He had big dreams; I admired that about him. He wanted to be an entrepreneur. He planned to buy a vending machine and was looking for venues to put it in.

Nothing is the same. I am not the same. His little sister is not the same. I miss Joel so much. I can still picture him at the dinner table with us, or lying on the couch, or in the kitchen cooking while playing his music. He threw me the most beautiful surprise party a few months before this happened. It was my 39th birthday. I will treasure that memory.

By God’s grace I am surviving this horrific loss. Part of me is gone, but the Lord is carrying me. Like people say, I have joined a club I never wanted to be part of.

Reacting shows support for gun violence survivors.