The following essay was written by 13-year-old Heaven Lowery, an 8th grader in Mr. Yang’s English class at TechBoston Academy:
“On July 7, 2008, ‘Tiffany’ Lomax (28) was shot to death while riding in a car. The family of a city woman claimed by street violence wants her to be remembered as a loving mother who was cruelly gunned down, leaving her eldest boy an orphan and her youngest daughter with only a young child’s memory of her slain mom.
“Nothing in the world, not a damn thing, could get me or my older brother ready for the events that took place on July 2, 2008. The only thing that went through my head was: She’s gone. Those words played on repeat as if it were a broken record; it was like a song that plays over and over on my phone, even when I tell it to stop; it was as if the words didn’t want to leave me. And they never have. So let me tell you who Tiffany Lomax was.
“Tiffany Lomax was my mother. She carried me for nine months straight and she raised me until the age of four. But at four is when I lost her and I experienced something that changed my way of living.
“Everything was perfect as I ran down an empty Mather School hallway. I saw my aunt and a close family friend. Because I was just four years old, I didn’t realize the hurt that was written all over their faces. However, once I got home, I realized that something was wrong. When I walked into the large living room, the familiar scent of candles and cigarettes filled my nostrils. The smell was not what initially caught my attention, though. It was all the faces. Although they were familiar, I only ever saw them all together on special occasions. I knew something was about to happen.
“When I walked into the room, none of the adults ever made eye contact with me. The energy was so thick you could reach out and grab it. Out of this thickness, came the words I thought I would never hear. My aunt said, ‘Well, uh, your mom died.’
“When those words left my aunt’s mouth, I was stunned, to say the least. All I could do was look at my brother. His emotionless face made me realize that this wasn’t a nightmare. I just broke down into tears. My brother stayed emotionless, so they separated us. My aunt would “Shhhhhh” into my ear as I cried. No other words were spoken that day. The silence was almost like a noise that drowned out everything anyone could say.
“Everything besides me crying.
“Eventually, I walked outside on my wobbly knees. I walked out into the cold and windy air that was once warm. I stood on the porch that had previously had so many good memories. Now it felt as if the porch threw out all good memories and transferred them into this place where no one will ever want to be.
“I looked at my brother to see the tears run down his face. It made my heart shatter, like glass that’s been slowly breaking. I clung onto him, scared of separation. I couldn’t lose someone else close to me. Not again. All eyes were on us.
“At that moment, I wasn’t worried about anyone. The voices were drowned out by all my loud thoughts. My breathing was calm and my body was relaxed. In that moment, I was relaxed, even with all the things going on. I was at a place where I wasn’t bawling my eyes out, but I was still holding my brother tightly.
“The next day, no one would talk about my mom, and I was thankful for it. It was like everyone was shocked into a state of depression. I still remember her funeral, but only glimpses of that day come back.
“Walking up to her casket was the scariest thing ever to me. Seeing my Mom’s lifeless body lying in that casket was the breaking point. It was then that I realized that it wasn’t a dream. After we got to the cemetery and she was in the ground, everything turned into a blur. I still have a hard time remembering anything that happened after that.
“Losing my Mom has forever changed me. I don’t know if it was for better or for worst. Some days I can get through it. Other days it feels like I’m stuck in a time cycle, and the events of July 2, 2008 come back to haunt me.
“The loss of someone who was so close to you can either turn you into a monster or turn you into a beautiful person. For me, it turned me into a little bit of both. Sometimes I just want to go talk to my mom and listen to her voice one last time or hug her again. The pain of knowing that you’ll never get loved on back can mentally [****] you up, and that’s real.
“My mom’s death changed me, but I didn’t let it make me into a monster. I will not let this be the ending for me or her. One day, when I am in college, a young man or woman will approach me and ask me, ‘Have you ever lost someone?’
“I will look at them and tell them the story of Tiffany Lomax.”