Stuffed animals sit motionless, the vibrancy of their stitching lost with the imagination that once animated them.
His warmth has dissipated from the bed. All that remains are sheets patterned with cartoons and bright scenery, bedding lazily cast aside by a tired 8-year-old for the last time.
But the absence of his tiny frame in that room pales in contrast to the chasm left between his mother's arms.
She cradles his t-shirt, forcing her face deeper into the fabric to take in his scent, remember his voice.
This is as close she will ever get to holding her baby boy again.
Remnants of blue toothpaste dried on the sink. Fibers of hair left threaded in his ball cap. A half-eaten box of his favorite cereal. An appointment reminder from his pediatrician. The emptiness of his car seat on her morning commute.
These fleeting echoes of her child are like splinters of glass in her lungs, suffocating and unbearable.
This summer, nor any summer after will ever be the same. There will be no zoo visits, no trips to the local swimming pool, no ice cream melting on his clean shirt and sticky smiles as she wipes it away.
The months and years to come will instead be filled with the ache of all the things he would have been, all the things she would have said if he'd come home from school that day.
But he didn't.
Imagining the fear in that Texas school, imagining the unanswered screams for "mommy" and "daddy" reduces me to tears.
Yet our society only sees political leverage for their agendas.
19 babies. 19 heartbeats.
When will enough be enough?