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Memory produces heartbreakingly vivid reel

On Friday, May 20, 2022, the Rubio family was at Crossroads Academy to celebrate Lexi’s eldest sister, Kalisa, a senior. Present (from left) were David, Julian, Kimberly, Kalisa, Lexi, Felix, and Jahleela. The Robb Elementary Field Day T-shirt was Lexi’s favorite.

It’s been nearly a year since I lost my daughter, Lexi Rubio, to gun violence. What I’ve learned in that time is that, while some memories feel far away, others are just within my reach. I can close my eyes and see her hair blowing in the wind – the brilliant shades of caramelized gold reflecting light – feel the summer heat beat down on my skin, the humidity encroach on us, I hear her laughter as it fills the air. 

That’s what the Sunday before the Uvalde school shooting is for me – a now constant reel that plays like an award-winning film I watch on repeat. A life raft. 

The only way to describe Sunday, May 22, 2022, is perfect, peaceful. Just before noon, my husband, Felix, announced we’d be practicing softball and baseball at the Uvalde High School sports field at the corner of Camp and Studer streets. This wasn’t uncommon, as we were nearing the end of the regular season and there was no doubt Lexi would be selected to play for the All-Star team. 

We filled our water bottles, laced up our shoes, gathered our gear, and filed into Felix’s pickup truck. Lexi was wearing a pair of green shorts, her softball cleats, and the exact gray Robb Elementary field day shirt she selected the morning of Tuesday, May 24, 2022. Felix worked with her in the batting cage while I tried to capture the father-daughter moment on video. 

My youngest son, Julian, was laughing beside me. Eventually, it was his turn to practice with Dad. Julian entered the batting cage while Lexi took a much-deserved water break. We took silly photos using Snapchat filters and played several games of rock paper scissors. Afterward, we took the kids to Sno Inc for a snow cone. Lexi chose the pickle flavor, her favorite. 

The rest of the afternoon was slow, while we cooled off in the air conditioning. Felix left for work just before 6 p.m. As night neared, my oldest son, David, decided he wanted to watch a movie. I told him it was getting late and reminded him that the next day was a school day, but he insisted. He called each of his siblings from their rooms and we got comfy with our blankets on the couches. I’m forever thankful he asked, and I am glad I agreed. What is bedtime compared to a family movie night?

Now, Lexi is gone. We no longer watch movies together in the living room. It is an unspoken rule. Her absence is most obvious in moments when we are all together. I often wonder if the families of victims of school shootings recall a similar Sunday. The last Sunday. A gift from the universe before the world as we know it ends. 

As you read this, I wonder what else I can say to sway lawmakers, as I advocate at the state and federal levels for gun safety laws, to keep other parents from going through this same heartache.  As you read this, I wonder, I fear, is this your last Sunday?

Kimberly Mata-Rubio, Lexi’s mom, is a staff writer for the Uvalde Leader-News, where she formerly served as assistant editor, racking up numerous awards for news and feature writing.

The last Sunday: Lexi Rubio woke up early to enjoy Toffifay and some shows before softball practice with her father, Felix Rubio, and trying out Snapchat filters with her mom, Kimberly Mata-Rubio, during her younger brother Julian’s practice time at the Uvalde High School practice fields on North Camp Street.