A Connecticut mother who tragically lost her son in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings is paying tribute to his memory ahead of the massacre’s seventh anniversary — and for one very emotional reason.
Nicole Hockley‘s son Dylan was one of 20 first graders who were heartlessly killed on Dec. 14, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut. While that day will forever be a painful reminder to her, there’s also another day that Nicole has been dreading since the tragedy — this past Monday.
Opening up in an emotional post on Twitter this week, Hockley revealed that Sept. 23, 2019 officially marked the number of days that Dylan had been gone longer than he was alive.
“Today it’s been 2,474 days since Dylan was murdered at Sandy Hook. 2,474 days since he’s been gone from my life,” she wrote beside a photo of Dylan smiling in a Superman shirt. “He was only in my life for 2,473 days.”
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Though Hockley admitted that she dreaded this day for fear of forgetting her son, the Newtown mother was reassured by the fact that no matter how many days go by, Dylan’s memory would always live on in the hearts and souls of those who loved him.
“I feared today. Would him being gone longer than he was here mean I would forget him? His laugh, his eyes, the smell of his hair, his voice, the feel of his hand in mine?” Hockley asked. “I am sad today, but I no longer have fear.”
“I have forgotten nothing. My son lives on in my heart, in my soul, in the memories of our family and friends and in the work of me and his Daddy,” she added. “We will always love him and miss him. My butterfly is gone, but never forgotten, no matter how many days go by.”
Hockley previously opened up to PEOPLE and explained the reasoning behind her “butterfly” nickname for Dylan.
“There’s a theory that if a butterfly flaps his wings on one side of the world, it can cause a hurricane on the other,” she said. “Dylan is my butterfly. When I visit schools and look at the kids, I see butterflies. They’re the ones who are going to create the change that will change our country.”
RELATED: Sandy Hook Mom Nicole Hockley Is One of PEOPLE’s 25 Women Changing the World: ‘Gun Violence Is Preventable’
Since the first grader’s tragic passing, Hockley has co-founded Sandy Hook Promise, a non-profit organization that focuses on honoring victims of gun violence and providing awareness and education to prevent these shootings from happening again.
The organization established chapters in all 50 states and focuses on a “pragmatic” approach to preventing gun violence that, according to Hockley, includes “teaching how to know the signs of people at risk of hurting themselves or someone else, how to recognize the signs of chronic social isolation and how to practice inclusivity.”
The Connecticut mom spoke to PEOPLE in 2016, shortly after being named one of PEOPLE’s 25 Women Changing the World, and emphasized her desire to ensure that no other parent experiences such an unimaginable loss.
“I want people to know that gun violence is preventable,” she said. “Dylan is with me every day in my heart. Sadly, the more I learned about his death and the person that took his life, I recognized there were all these signs in advance and there had been multiple opportunities for intervention. That’s something that drives me — to know that Sandy Hook was preventable.”
Today, Hockley continues to travel the country, speaking in schools and communities to both train and teach, but said all the lives that will be saved are due to Dylan and his lasting legacy.
“To honor my son’s death, as well as his life, I’m going to spend the rest of my life trying to save other [lives],” she told PEOPLE. “I don’t want any other parent to ever be in my shoes and to know their child could have lived.”
“Nobody can argue with preventing violence, especially when it comes to kids,” Hockley added. “Dylan could have had a very long and happy life but instead it was cut short. He didn’t die in vain. His legacy will save thousands and thousands of lives.”
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