Artwork: Tashi Wischmeyer
It was a cool November morning.
She was walking to work, to live a stable life and support her daughter.
She worked in the town over at a local Shop Rite. Her car had malfunctioned the day before, forcing her to walk the long journey.
She still had a long way to go when it happened. She wasn’t even close to her destination, when the truck turned the corner. She took one step into Lawrence Street, and, next thing she knew, she was facing the headlights of a truck and bracing for impact.
She died that night in the hospital, leaving behind her nine year old daughter and the life they once shared together.
No one could have foreseen it: the accident, the repercussions of her death, and the life her daughter would lead. With the tragedy came light, determination, and hope from the darkest of places.
“I love you with all my heart, and, no matter what happens, I’m always gonna be there for you,” she said to her daughter. Little did they know, that would be the last phone call they would ever have with one another.
Brittany was at school when it happened. She had called her mother five times to inform her she had arrived at school safely. She called and called and called, but there was no answer. She thought nothing of it until she was summoned down to the principal’s office later that day.
“I saw my dad and I thought it was a little weird seeing him because I never see him. I would only see him on Saturdays, which was his day, and I wasn’t a fan of my dad. I was disgusted when I saw him, but I kinda knew that maybe it was something serious. I sat down in the principal’s office, and he was the one who broke the news to me. He said that my mom was in an accident earlier that morning. Of course, I started crying, and I started freaking out. My dad and the principal had to control me,” Brittany said.
This was her first test. The universe seemed to betray her, and this was only the beginning. She was forced to move in with her father, his wife, and her two half-brothers. Her step-mother was a natural abuser. She forced Brittany to clean the house everyday, to cook meals, take care of the boys, and, God forbid, Brittany upset or disobeyed her.
Brittany got slapped around a couple times here and there. Then the punches turned to bruises. Her father watched and did nothing to save her.e didn’t protect her; he just let it happen. It ended when she strangled Brittany, squeezing the softness of her neck and cutting off air supply. Brittany called the police.
She was removed from the house and currently lives with her aunt and uncle, seeing her father once in a while to her dismay. She lives a mostly independent life. Her mother’s death forced her to grow up a little quicker than everyone else.
Her mother was beautiful. Kind. Compassionate. She loved a Mexican rock band called Mana. Brittany grew up listening to it in the car. Her mother loved to call her “cookie.” Her favorite spot was on her mother’s lap, bouncing, and hugging, and feeling nothing less than love. That all went away that fateful day.
Her mother was the only thing she had. Her mother’s sacrifice is what inspires her. The three jobs her mother once worked to keep them afloat is what drives her. The truth is Graciela lives on through her daughter, through Brittany’s ambition and strength to survive in the worst of conditions; like mother like daughter.
Brittany is my friend. Brittany is my sister. Brittany inspires me. Brittany pushes me. She’s brave. She’s a fighter. She’s a survivor. I respect her. I love her. On the good days and bad, she is always there for me. Through it all, she has survived, and I’ll never forget it.
She’s proud of you, Britt. She is smiling down upon you and is happy with all your accomplishments, and she’ll never leave you. She lives in your heart and hears your pain and sees your tears. Just cause you can’t see her, doesn’t mean she’s not there. May she forever rest in peace.
With much love,