Each year, seniors and postgraduates at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School deliver a speech to their peers on a topic of their choosing in the Newhall Auditorium. Often equal parts clever and moving, emotional and personal, each speech offers a glimpse into the lives, experiences, struggles, and triumphs of SSM seniors.
Throughout the 2018-19 school year, we will share these speeches with the SSM community and hope that you enjoy the humor, wisdom, and powerful reflections conveyed by our senior students.
I tried to write this speech in prose, but it emerged as a poem.
On Calle Somosierra, in Madrid, Spain,
There is a small house
Built of brick and stone
With four little rooms
filled with children and love.
A strong woman lived there
Mother of five
Grandmother of four
Because my mother and aunt worked,
She raised my cousins and me by herself.
Monarch of an entire family,
I called her abuela.
One day a monster invaded her body,
targeting her right breast.
“But don’t worry,” the doctors said. “We got it early, this will not be how her story ends.”
So they chopped her breast off and followed with radiation.
Her brown hair fell and her green eyes grew tired
But her selflessness remained
While she hid every ounce of pain.
She did everything for my cousins and me, loved us more than life
And at night we would fight to see who got to sleep by her side.
Finally, victory came and the monster was dead.
Everything was good, so my mother and I moved away from Madrid
All the way to America
Leaving behind my abuela.
We talked to her every morning
Skyped her whenever there was time
Then, in fifth grade during lunch I saw tears in my mother’s eyes
The monster was back
Striking a surprise attack to the scar of the breast she no longer had
Her smile remained as the chemo tore her body apart.
She refused to let anybody feel bad.
I was still far away but we Skyped twice a day,
And I visited her every winter and summer break.
She was fighting so hard
And ten years passed, cancer seemed like a constant.
We checked for good signs, but for some reason all it did was spread
From her breast to her lungs, from her liver to her head,
Eventually devouring every part of her frame.
Mitosis they claimed.
An absolute sociopath.
There was no cure, the only option was postponing its wrath
I watched her smile remain the same, heard her voice on Facetime at my soccer games, called her after all the good and everything bad. Her compassion was always there, and although I know it hurt, she disguised her pain so well.
The day it broke into her brain was the worst one of all.
But she refused to give up, so the doctors attacked
Using radiation on her brain as she hang on to a tiny chance.
Soon she could no longer walk, her words began to slur,
Simple things turned to impossible tasks.
Losing her individuality made her so sad,
But we all came back to hold her hand.
My mother and I returned to America and another summer passed,
she was still fighting against all odds.
I didn’t go back to Spain the next summer.
Selfishly I stayed, not wanting to miss region camp, corrupted by personal wants, trapped in a bubble of selfish thoughts.
One day I was playing soccer when my mother came.
Her eyes puffy, her expression depressed.
She hugged me and I knew my grandmother was dead.
“Don’t worry,” my mother said,
“She only went after we all said she could leave.”
Everyone had said goodbye
Everyone except for me
And that is my biggest regret.
I would miss any soccer game to see my grandma again,
But it is too late
If I had to leave you all with one message today
It would be to look beyond yourselves.
Look past momentary desires that distract the mind.
Be aware of the life that surrounds you
Because there is nothing constant; there is no forever. There is only the here, the now, and this moment.