SAN ANTONIO – William Lopez was fatally shot eight years ago, and even though his heartbroken mother, Sodelva Lopez, has given up on trying to get closure, she decorates William's grave every year to keep his memory alive.
She also does it to remind people about the ongoing effects of gun violence, hoping to prevent other mothers from having to experience the pain she said she'll feel for the rest of her life.
"Every day I get up, and it's just something that ... I can't explain the pain," Sodelva Lopez said
In 2011, Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, took on a different meaning for Sodelva Lopez. She said her 22-year-old son was an innocent bystander who was shot while riding in a car that was leaving the scene of a bar brawl that spilled into the street. One person was arrested but was later let go.
"Somehow they said it was obvious there wasn't enough evidence. It was self-defense, but there's no way," Sodelva Lopez said.
She said she's given up on finding closure, but she has found some comfort in the special tribute she pays to her middle son every year.
"You know, we eat, we play music, and we just — remember the good times, the good memories," she said.
Every year, Sodelva Lopez spends days in advance of the Day of the Dead holiday getting decorations ready, making sure they're just right for the occasion. On Friday, she will take her display and move it to San Fernando Cemetery #3 and decorate William's grave.
"I love doing this," she said.
She said it makes her feel closer to her son, but it also allows her to send a strong message, reminding the public about the tragic and lingering effects of gun violence.
"Before anybody does something like this, they've got to think about the family, the family members, the mother, the father, grandparents, his brother. It's just something I wouldn't wish on anybody," Sodelva Lopez said.
From sunup to sundown Friday, and then again on Saturday, she will sit at her son's grave.
"This is the only thing I have left for him to do," she said.
Family and friends will join her in the tradition she says means the world to her, one she promises to carry on until she meets her son again.