This poem is shared with permission from the mother of a 20-year-old who tragically passed away two weeks ago. It was written by a family friend in memory of Malky. Let us stand with this family as they try to raise awareness and prevent future tragedies involving our youth, l’ilui nishmas Malka bas Avraham Shalom.

This is a story about me
Malky, of blessed memory

I was always pure, with a learning disability
Scholastic success came with much difficulty
I had so many talents unique to me
Judged only by academics, I was marked a ‘C’

My pure heart always wanted to share with humanity
A kind word, a smile, filled with sensitivity
To make people feel special and treated with dignity
That was the person I wanted to be

I had struggled many years alone, silently
Most people didn’t know my challenges constantly
To keep up with my class, I struggled daily
Never giving up, I advanced incredibly

I knew I’m not the best scholastically
But does that negate my creativity?
Does that mean I’m worthless, without quality?
Should that ruin my dreams for all eternity?

Are academics the most integral part of being a wife?
Is that how most people get through life?
Do good grades help in times of strife?
These feelings pierced my heart like a knife

I was still fragile, working to keep the pieces together
My eighth-grade teacher believed in me forever
I was determined not to let her down altogether
And promised to do my best, and even better

Oh, but my teachers didn’t know, I always tried my best
Even when I didn’t get 100 on every test
My disabilities separated me from all the rest
I simply couldn’t fulfill every request

Failure made me feel I wasn’t good enough, at least not yet
Little did I know, Hashem had limited my skill set
Effort didn’t count, teachers’ goals I had not met
But I did my best, there’s not one shred of regret

Time for high school, I was hoping to do well
And break my previously haunting spell
I tried so hard, but soon my heart fell
When I was expelled from school, with no good reason to tell

I was so embarrassed, I’d hide home all day long
Wearing my school uniform, without feeling that I belong
Do I deserve this humiliation? Had I done something wrong?
I begged and I pleaded, but the school’s rejection was very strong!

When after three months, one school had pity on me
From my prison, I was finally set free
I was determined to prove I’ll get my degree
And finally find my place in humanity

My parents got me all the help I needed to achieve
In me they always did believe
After a long day in school, not really grasping
I sat all evening with tutors to help me with understanding

It was like going to two schools in one year
Finally I buckled, it was too much to bear
The subjects that were so simple for the rest of my grade
Took me hours to complete, with enormous aid

Although I was doing well, I still felt dejected
I stopped caring, and my grades I neglected
If this is the only way not to be rejected
This is not the life choice I had elected

I passed the point of fragile; now I was broken, beyond repair
Like the plate of the “tena’im” they break on a chair
I started feeling and thinking life isn’t fair
How could it be? Where do I go from here?

Without many details, for years I went on searching
For a place where I’m appreciated my soul was yearning
It may be something other than learning
But at least I’ll have a reason to get up every morning

I was so scared to try new things, for fear that I’d fail
My confidence was shattered, belief in myself very frail
The special talents I had remained suppressed
Failure was an area that I didn’t want to invest

The love my parents gave me was unconditional and true
The way I respected that, they haven’t a clue
It gave me the determination to want to heal
And live a productive life, one that is real

The struggles I went through may seem to you as negligent
But I assure you, the way it looked, that’s not what it meant
For when one is in such pain, in a constant descent
Escaping those feelings is life’s rent

The amount of times I fell, and stood up tall
That’s because my parents I could always call
I was young, but not strong enough to walk without a fall
When I felt my future blocked by a big wall!

I had my special connection with Hashem, I knew He was there
Even when I didn’t understand, my life very unclear
My parents knew I felt Hashem near
That I was a thinker, you may not be aware

Don’t judge a book by its cover
We simply need to understand one another
Show respect and value for who they really are
Even you! Even you need recognition to shine your own star

The story I’m telling is not just my own
So many children in this pit are thrown
The dark abyss is what they see as their own
Shame, degradation, and rejection is why they moan

In honor of my neshamah, please make a change
And stop judging all within range
Try to feel another person’s pain, think what they’re going through
Don’t look at the surface, how it looks to you

We aren’t all gifted with the same talents
And we don’t all share the same set of parents
But to Hashem we are too precious to miss
To each of us he gives a unique life purpose

Am Yisrael is a nation that should be a unit of one
Sharing the burden of suffering, second to none
The willingness to help and support is readily there
If we only stop for a moment to observe, to listen, and to hear

In tragedy we see Am Yisrael, how they get together
As a team, any storm they will weather
Realize, these children aren’t looking to cause us pain
Understand them as a tragedy, simple and plain

Don’t criticize their parents as failures and say it’s their fault
Their reward for suffering is locked in a special vault
Let’s care about each other’s problems as if they’re our own
Then the real “V’ahavta l’rei’acha kamocha” will be shown

If only you cared when I was fragile and scared
I wouldn’t be broken, these words would be unspoken!

 

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