To my son, from the bottom of my heart – the things I never got to say to you

By Aracelis Sánchez

You're the most wonderful thing that ever happened to me. It was beautiful to hold you, hug you, kiss you and share with you all the days that God allowed us to be together. My dearest son, you are and always will be the love of my life, my spoiled child, my soulmate. I always longed to see you graduate. You were so special, I never for a moment doubted that you would have a brilliant future.

You had only been on this earth for 20 years, years full of joy and good times, when all my fears came true. When you were killed by Forensic and Criminal Investigations (CICPC) officers, I wanted to die too. I felt as if they had ripped out my heart. Like so many mothers of victims of the Venezuelan state, I couldn't understand why this had happened and I couldn’t get used to the idea of you not being at home with me. I thought that any minute you would come out of your room and hug me and tell me not to worry because you would always be with me.

I have loved you since you were in my womb, when I first knew that you would be part of my life. I had so many dreams for you. You came into my life when I least expected it and I couldn't have imagined how incredible it would be to experience all those beautiful and joyful moments with you. I worked hard to raise you to be a good and kind-hearted man. You always gave your best. You were always anxious to help and protect the most defenceless and you never harmed anyone. I remember when you would work so hard to keep learning more and more because you said you were a special person, a different kind of person. How right you were! You were someone who absolutely outshone the world around you. 

I thought that any minute you would come out of your room and hug me and tell me not to worry because you would always be with me.

Son, you were always fair, cheerful and loving. We were so alike that we had the same tastes in almost everything. I was surprised at how close we were and I confess that it frightened me because I knew that if one day you were not here, my heart would be shattered.

When you were a child and you were sick, I begged God to take care of you. You'll never know how much I prayed that you would get well quickly and stay with me. My prayers were answered and you grew up healthy and strong and little by little you grew into a great man. I am so proud to be your mother.

Time has helped and after many tears, after asking myself lots of questions that I had no answers to and thinking that you were in a better place, to comfort myself, I have finally understood that you have gone forever. I started to realize that I would never see you again and that you would never bring all that joy into my life again.  Everything was difficult, the days without you, my thoughts and dreams after that dreadful day were absolute torture. Everything was very difficult, but somehow, I transformed all that suffering into strength, the strength to carry on and to bring you back to be with me again.

One day I got up and I made you a promise – that I would turn all the pain I still feel into something positive, that would help other people who go through this terrible experience. From that moment on, everything changed in me, both physically and spiritually. My life took a 360 degree turn and although today, after five years without you, I still feel the same sorrow. I became what I'm sure you wanted me to be: a strong woman, a fighter, someone who supports many families who go through the same thing we did. I swear to you, my son, that your death and those of thousands of other young people at the hands of the security forces will not go unpunished.

Today, I am someone who helps them to seek justice, the same justice that I am seeking for you and for me. That justice will only be achieved when the officials responsible for the extortion and ill-treatment we suffered, who forced their way into our home and murdered you, face up to the consequences of their barbarism before the law.

According to Amnesty International, in 2016 alone, the Venezuelan authorities were responsible for almost 5,000 killings. The vast majority of victims were men, teenagers and children from areas with high rates of poverty.

Today, I am someone who helps them to seek justice, the same justice that I am seeking for you and for me. That justice will only be achieved when the officials responsible for the extortion and ill-treatment we suffered, who forced their way into our home and murdered you, face up to the consequences of their barbarism before the law.

Although I will never see you again and the pain of that loss will be with me until the day I die, when justice has been achieved, I will feel satisfied. And I know I will get justice, son, your death will not have been in vain because all this has given me the strength to help many families that, like me, are living with this devastating grief.

All our struggles – in the face of obstacles put in our way by those who should be looking out for us and guaranteeing our rights – will be transformed into joy when we know that our stories will not be repeated and that never again will someone die at the hands of a security official.

I am sure that one day these massacres will end and young people will be able to grow up without fear and live secure in the knowledge that they can go home safely and have the chance to build a promising future for themselves.

I know that somehow you are still with me, son, waiting for that day to come and become a reality for many families who only want to live in peace. That day will come and you will be proud of your mother because she did not sit back and do nothing in the face of so much injustice.

I love you so very much, Darwilson, my beautiful almond-eyed boy.

Aracelis Sánchez is the mother of Darwilson, who was killed by agents of the Venezuelan state on 11 June 2013. With the support of the Committee of Relatives of the Victims (COFAVIC), and other mothers of young people killed by officials, Aracelis Sánchez formed the Organization of Relatives of Victims of Human Rights Violations (Orfavideh), bringing together 50 people seeking justice.

 

This article was originally published in Spanish by Huff Post México