My daughter, Dayla, was exactly 4 years, 2 months, and 3 days old on March 6, 2011. I’ll never forget that day, as it was the last time I saw Dayla laugh, smile or giggle. She was a vivacious little girl who was going to make a mark in this world; I just never thought it would be in this way. On this day, Dayla was struck by a stray bullet.
Someone had been shooting their gun for recreational purposes and wasn’t shooting responsibly or correctly. After being hit, Dayla was flown to the nearest children’s hospital, where I was able to meet her, but I did not know what had happened. I was only given a few seconds to be with her before they had to rush her off to brain surgery. In those hours of waiting, I remember feeling helpless and confused and just praying that she would make it through the surgery so that I could be with her again. Finally a doctor came out to speak with me and told me that she had been hit by a bullet. When she spoke those words, I couldn’t fully comprehend what she had just told me. How does something like this happen? Just after finding out about the cause, I was told that Dayla made it through the surgery. I was escorted to her room, where she lay on life support, in a medically induced coma. Wires now were placed all over her head, where her beautiful curls once lay. I wasn’t allowed to touch or talk to my daughter because it would stimulate her brain too much. How is a mother not supposed to hold their child when they are hurting? Seconds, minutes, hours, then days passed when we were finally told that there was no brain activity. Only then was I allowed to talk to and touch my baby girl.
On March 8, 2011, 4 years, 2 months, and 5 days old we made the decision to sign papers to end Dayla’s battle. Only then was I allowed to hold her for the last time. Because of one person’s irresponsible actions, my daughter paid the ultimate price.
Through this journey I have learned so much about life, people and what matters most. The most important lesson I have learned is to find bits of gratitude and joy, even in the depths of grief. I find my greatest joy in my son, Dayla’s twin brother. Dayla is an organ donor, and it brings me joy that she was able to share life with someone who needed it. Being able to be a part of Moms Demand Action and Everytown and having a platform to share Dayla’s story brings me joy. Also, meeting other amazing survivors and knowing that I am not alone in this journey has given me joy. Mostly I am grateful and joyous that I got to be Dayla’s mother.