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She was five years old. Five. She always ran to me after I finally came home from a long road trip. This picture was the last one of her with my truck, before I lost my job.

She always smiled, sayin’ “Daddy, I missed you! Mamma always cried at home lookin’ at dat pichure you guys took in fron’ of da house before you left. Now she can be happy with you again!”

I always reply with, “I love you, too, sweetheart. Now go run after your mamma so we can talk about dinner.”

One time when I got home, she, my wife, wasn’t there. It turns out that she didn’t love me no more. She just went away for longer than I was on the road, which was about 15 years at that point. But Clara then said, “Daddy, I missed you, and I still love you. Wanna talk about dinner with me later?”

This is when I took that picture, because that uplifted me higher than the clouds in the sky. My little girl loved me! So I rounded up the truck, having her stand on it and smile her beautiful little grin.

That night we ate out.

The food was good, for a diner. A few of my buds went through, laughing and joking around. Every once in a while they looked at me and talked to me. But tonight, my daughter was the center of attention for me, regardless of how much beer my coworkers drank.

We then drove home.

I took the work truck, because she, my now exwife, stole my car. I remember how the fog covered the unpaved road home through the woods. Barely any cars took this road. I was in a hurry because Clara’s curfew was 9:00, and we were pushing it. After all, I didn’t want to argue in frona her again, as her mom was pickin’ her up. Then, I realized that Clara wasn’t wearin’ her seatbelt.

Shruggin’ it off, because of the distance to the house, I stopped the truck at the intersection before my road. Then, my best friend, Alfred, rammed behind me with the truck. It was so sudden.

The truck went forward into the intersection where a semi hit the bed, spinnin’ us off of the road, hittin’ a tree.

Clara was launched from the cabin, and she flew out into the darkness of the woods. That’s the last time I’d seen her before I blacked out.

I ain’t never goin’ to forget that night. This photo, I always look at it with the grief and sadness I felt since that day, where my everything was taken from me.

Story by Caleb Syler

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