After a life-shattering tragedy, when is it no longer “too soon” to crack a joke? When is it “OK” to once again feel like yourself?
Hanford native Christy Camara explores the grieving process in her new book, “Can I Still Be Funny After My Son’s Murder?: Memories and Grief With a Splash of Sarcasm — My Life Before and After Wyland’s Tragic Death.”
“I guess I felt like I was starting to forget the memories of my son and I thought, what better way to remember them but to write them down, to journal them and then it just started flowing out,” Camara said.
Camara’s 10-year-old son, Wyland, was murdered on March 2, 2020, by his father, Victor, who then shot himself to death. The crime occurred during a scheduled and supervised visitation, as Camara and the elder Gomes were divorced at the time.
She said that her grief has been hard to work through and she often is triggered by things that once brought her great joy, like holidays. She said that she and her son used to love Halloween, and now the holiday is hard to celebrate alone. In addition, some Halloween decorations, such as yellow crime scene barricade tape, now have a “traumatic” association for her.
“Grief doesn’t just affect me in that ‘OK, I’m sad my son died.’ It affects my work life, it affects my workouts, it affects relationships with friends with children of the same age. It affects every aspect of my life,” she said.
Now that Camara has channeled her grief into her writing, which she said has been a “therapeutic” experience, she’s hoping that the book can offer solace to anyone who has been struck by a similar tragedy.
“I did wonder how people are going to receive the book, just because of the idea that I am trying to laugh and be funny,” Camara said. “By all means, my son’s death is not laughable or a funny incident, obviously. But on the flip side, I’m still a real person. I still want to live and I still want to have a life and laugh. I can’t spend my life not laughing and having fun, and I think that’s what my son would want me to do.”
Camara and Wyland bonded over a shared sense of humor. They shared playful jokes and he would tell her funny stories. Camara, who had never written before and said she’s hesitant to call herself an author even now, wanted to write her book in a way that felt honest, and that included utilizing the sense of humor that was so important to her relationship with her son.
“He was quite a jokester so, if anything, carrying on being funny in my son’s honor is what I want to do,” she said.
Camara, who now lives on the Central Coast, hosted a launch party for the book at her former workplace, Salon Cotoure & Spa in Hanford, on June 3.
“The community has really come together for me. They did three years ago and they are continuing to do so by supporting the book,” Camara said, adding that the school Wyland attended, Kings River-Hardwick, presented her with a memorial diploma recently. He would have graduated eighth grade this year.
Camara also noted her appreciation for another way the Hanford community has supported her and continues to honor Wyland’s memory — the annual Wyland Gomes night at the Thursday Night Market. This Aug. 24 marks the third year that Main Street Hanford has hosted the event, which sees free activities for children and coincides with Wyland’s birthday.
“The family’s wish is that other children enjoy their childhood, laugh, play, and spend quality time with the people they love. We are so honored to provide a space where families can do that,” said Michelle Brown, executive director of Main Street Hanford, in 2022.
Camara will also appear at a book signing that same week at the Hanford Library, on Saturday, Aug. 19.
Camara is in the midst of a lawsuit against the California Department of Justice. The suit, filed by Alioto Legal, seeks to force the Department to comply with the California Public Records Act and disclose the records of the background check that allowed the boy’s killer access to a firearm, even though he had been legally prohibited by a state court from possessing firearms.
The Superior Court of Kings County ordered the elder Gomes not to possess a firearm after he threatened to kill his son and himself after receiving divorce papers from Camara in October of 2016.
At a March 2, 2020 press conference immediately after the crime, Hanford Police Department Capt. Karl Anderson said the weapon used in the incident was a handgun that was legally purchased and registered to Gomes in 2017.
Camara is hoping that her fight will result in a “Wyland’s Law,” that she hopes would help ensure that the type of crime that resulted in Wyland’s death would not be repeated. The exact shape of that law depends on the outcome of the lawsuit, said attorney Joseph Alito Jr.
“Once we understand exactly what happened then we will be able to say, ‘OK, there was a law already in place and the state broke that or violated that statute, that law,’ and that, frankly, is exactly what I believe happened,” Alito said. “Notwithstanding that, I still think there’s going to be a lot of room for additional laws that can be put on the books in Wyland’s memory that will help protect people who are protected by restraining orders from gun violence.”
“Can I Still Be Funny After My Son’s Murder?: Memories and Grief With a Splash of Sarcasm — My Life Before and After Wyland’s Tragic Death” is currently available in eBook and physical editions via Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple Books and other retailers.
It can be purchased locally at Salon Cotoure, 113 Court St, Hanford. For more information, visit www.wylandsmom.com.
Originally published by The Sentinel here.