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Leesa Ross

In memory of Jon

I hesitate to call myself a survivor of gun violence. My son Jon died because a loaded handgun was not stored safely. A negligent act took my son’s life. Yes, the act itself was violent, but Jon’s death was a tragedy. Although I appear to live a successful life, what you don’t see is the scar I wear inside — a piece of my heart forever gone.

I gave Jon a St. Christopher’s medal as a Christmas present, the year before he died. He thought he’d lost it, and so did I. But on the day that he died, the medal was found on the floorboard of Jon’s Jeep. The man who found it said, “I saw something shiny under the driver’s seat.” In that moment when he handed it to me, I felt something beyond words — “God bumps” on the back of my arm. It was my son saying, “Hey momma, look here, not all is lost — I will always be connected to you.” I wear a mask so others won’t see my loss. But I wear his medal every day.

When you lose a child, every day on the calendar changes. Some days I can be focused, but on others I’m much less sure-footed. Those are the times tied to holidays and celebrations, and moments I can’t wait to get beyond. The medal is there to remind me I must survive.

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