October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Read and share stories to honor survivors whose lives have been changed by domestic violence.

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Julvonnia McDowell

In memory of JaJuan

On April 7, 2016, my life completely changed, and it will never be the same. I experienced a pain so deep that it could be felt to my core. My baby, my 14-year-old son JaJuan was shot and killed by another teen playing with an unsecured firearm while visiting family in Savannah, Georgia, for spring break. I had spoken with JaJuan just hours before I received that call that no parent should ever receive. We laughed, we talked about his plans to attend a movie with my mom that evening, and before hanging up I said, “Be safe son.” He replied, “I will, I love you mommy,” and I said, “I love you too bud.” That would be the last time that I heard my baby’s voice, but those final words are forever imprinted in my heart.

At approximately 4:30 p.m. my phone rang, and I was told that JaJuan had been shot. I felt empty, numb, confused, and my mind was racing. I couldn’t put together complete sentences, because my voice was shattered with pain, and tears flowed like a river without end. I screamed until no sound could be heard. I was hurting and nothing could soothe the pain. Everything became an instant memory. Every day I am living with this pain, and tears still fall without warning. I find it so difficult and challenging to hear others talk about their children in the present tense, their goals, grades, upcoming birthday celebrations, holidays, gifts, etc. I now start every conversation with “I remember when…” I remember when JaJuan would set his alarm earlier than everyone in the house, so that he could be the first to wish me Happy Birthday. So now I sleep longer on my birthday, because I no longer get to hear that knock on the door and that voice that would make me smile. I remember when JaJuan would sneak and eat my leftovers and smile when I would catch him. I no longer leave leftovers in the fridge, because I can no longer see that smile.

I remember when JaJuan would come in my room just to hug me and love on me. He was so protective over me, and I was protective over him, and it hurts so bad that I wasn’t able to protect him on April 7, 2016. Two years later, and it is still difficult to celebrate holidays because my baby is no longer here to be the first to open his gifts. On this journey it is imperative to capture the narrative and tell the world about your child.

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