i absolutely love my sister’s writing. so proud of everything she is and all that she will be. what a painful yet beautiful and powerful story.
It doesn’t matter what you do . . . so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching . . . The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”
― Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
Double-major at America’s first research University,
Fulbright scholar to the Netherlands,
on track for one of medicine’s highest paid specialties.
R.A., T.A., C.A., fellowships, grants, scholarships.
This will be his legacy.
so who am I to bristle when he holds me close and burns my boundaries
who am I to protest when he promises strength yet crushes my dignity
and who am I to argue when he sings of bliss, and so
I scrub his plates and pour his tea, I hem his pants at night, handstitch,
I soothe his restless brow, and then I’m diagnosed as “Basic-”
The first time he hits me,
I laugh. Uncomfortable with my own strength to formulate a “no,” I laugh,
and so does he.
I know he is a good man, so why do I IV-drip tears into our coffee,
why is every day a clinical on my incompetence,
why are insults and anger his prescription for my humanity?
My father says, “that is how all men are.”
My mother shakes her head, every angle broken, and for the first time,
I know something is deeply, horribly wrong with me.
I am a child again, screaming from the balcony as fists meet faces, bookshelves topple,
shards of glass litter the floor like confetti from a drunken teenage dance.
I am one of five million children exposed to domestic violence each year.
Packing stale bread and chunks of cream cheese for our lunches because
“Mommy’s missing again,” and my sisters are hungry, but I cannot be late to middle school.
I am three times more likely to repeat the cycle in adulthood.
Sobbing on a blue rug on the bathroom floor because who will teach me what to say
when I testify in court as key witness against my father, the man who tried to kill my mother?
I am six times more likely to commit suicide, nine times more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.
And when my father scoffs and says “it’s in your head; define ‘hit’,” I realize
I am one of the ten million Americans abused by their partners every year.
That was my past.
But this will not be my legacy.
I will fight the lie that tells me, in my mother’s voice,
“You deserve it”
I will block out the roar of my father’s hands that says,
“This is normal”
And I will face the love that was not real, the jeering, sneering suffocation that
shoved me against the wall after a hard day of rotations, that said my friends and family were hobbies not worth my time, that ridiculed everything about me except what he could handle, that tried to buy my silence and soul with a Christmas present off of Amazon,
and my mouth will formulate a “no”.
For every child in this room who has traced another’s handprint on their flesh,
I will say “no”.
For every girl and boy in this school who believes they have lost their body and soul,
I will say “no”.
And for your future spouse, your future child, those who may one day fill these seats with hopeful hearts and open hands,
I will teach you to say “no”.
Out of these ashes, beauty will rise.
And from one story, truth multiplies.
You see, if I suffer, and you suffer, and we both stay silent,
And if I suffer, and you suffer, and I speak, and you hide,
But if I suffer, and you suffer, and we both speak out knowing we love those who are exposed, but clinging to the promise that today’s darkness will bring a brighter tomorrow,
truth will arise.
Change is painful, slow.
As C.S. Lewis wrote, “Love anything and your heart will be wrung
and possibly broken.
If you want to make sure of keeping it intact
you must give it to no one, not even an animal.
Lock it up safe
in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.
But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change.
It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.
To love is to be vulnerable.”
Your past is not your legacy.
The bitterness mingled in your blood is not your identity.
And if I can stand before you today and say that in your ashes, I see beauty,
then day by day week by week year by year
you can break free.
Take this moment,
and it will become your legacy.