Three years ago today, we left your driveway for the start of a small but wonderful adventure. We'd shake the hand of a famous and powerful woman, then have lunch and a manicure, do some shopping, and return to my house to play with bubble wrap as we put away my holiday decorations.
It was a cool, bright, clear Tucson morning. You didn't need that sweatshirt your mom had you retrieve from the front hall before she'd let you leave with me. I know that because you left it on the front seat of my car, parked in the middle of the lot, within my sight if you needed to run back and get it.
I knew enough to keep you safe from errant drivers. It never crossed my mind that I would need to keep you safe from flying bullets.
Since you left us that morning, so much good has been done in your name. Gymnasiums have been built and refurbished, classrooms and playgrounds have shiny enhancements, children are learning civics and playing sports and your aura surrounds them. Your gifts are accompanied by your story.
You are not forgotten.
I carry you with me every day. I don't remember all of that morning, but what I do remember lives in my head and my heart with startling clarity. I hear the sounds. Everything has a sharp, distinct edge. Colors are brighter. The images never fade.
Those images revolve around your face, your eyes, your hair-held-back-with-a-barrette, your hand in mine. I leave you as I remember feeling wetness under my left arm, assuming I was lying in a puddle of water, and trying.... unsuccessfully... to scoot myself onto a drier spot. I wasn't to move. It wasn't water. But I was to concentrate on one problem at a time, and that was the blood spurting out through my favorite skinny jeans, held back inside me by the hands of an angel.
A total stranger, ungloved and ungowned, placed her palm over my open wound and pressed down. She took my phone and called TBG and your mom, telling them to meet us at the hospital, because there had been an accident. I remember thinking that it wasn't an accident at all.
That someone could take a weapon and aim it at you... nine years old... that, in spite of mental illness and imagined slights, an adult could shoot you.... the brightest star in the firmament that morning... so full of enthusiasm that you were jumping up and down... unable to contain your delight over the fact that Gabby accessorized, that there would be photographs to hang on your wall, that you would touch a real, live Congresswoman......that someone would take that away from us is beyond imagining.
But, we don't have to imagine it, do we, sweetheart.
We lived it. It was real. It shouldn't be, but it is.
To remember you is to remember today, but not to the exclusion of the little girl who cheated at pick-up sticks, who ate ice cream dots at the zoo, who promised to upgrade my wardrobe, who loved me and who I loved in return.
You are gone but not forgotten, CTG. On Saturday, we'll Stroll and Roll for the third year in a row, and there will be sidewalk chalk love letters to you all along your path. The event celebrates life and the great outdoors and the friendship between a gray haired lady and a brown eyed little girl.... the two of us, inextricably linked, not by tragedy, but by love.
It's the love that lives on, Christina, just as you always knew it would. That sense of a promising tomorrow, of the joy and wonder that is life lived fully, that is what you've left behind. By honoring your spirit, we honor you. Thanks for making it such an easy task.