* WHAT IS LIFE? – by Melissa
Melissa (center) with her friend Tamara
Life is a journey. Life is a race. Life is a highway to heaven. Some people say life is what you make of it. I am going to tell you a thing or two about life. Throughout my lifetime, I have been used and abused. I’ve been called all kinds of names. I’ve been robbed of my womanhood and have been cheated of being a mother. Maybe I would have been a great mother, the best mother that I could be.
Life, what is life? Where does life begin? I will tell you: My life began in my mother’s womb. We each are given different gifts: Eyes to see with, ears to hear with. I think I was given the gift of perception – the gift to sense some things that happened to me even before I was born. I seem to remember my mother crying out while I was still in the womb, saying that my father was dead. But maybe these are just words I heard as a tiny child, I can’t say for sure. But one thing I do know for sure is that when I heard those cries, I recognized the fear in her trembling voice: What would she do with me when I entered this cold world? Where would I sleep? What would I eat? I have so many early memories, but most of all, I remember my mom always praying. She prayed that God would take this new life and bless it. Mummy used to say, Father, this life in my belly is yours. The last day she said that was April 14, 1986, the day I was born. It was around Easter time – well, during Good Friday to be exact. At 5:15 p.m. a new life entered this world at ten pounds and five ounces.
I lived with my grandparents, my mother and my uncle. I always thought that my father was dead. Until one day when I was three years old, I saw him. My whole body stiffened It was like eating ice cream on a cold day. I felt numb, frozen inside and out, devoid of emotion of any kind. I didn’t know what to do. And then it came to me. I prayed. At the age of three, I prayed to my father to help me be the best daughter in this lifetime. Well I grew up without him in my life, but I was the best daughter that my mother could ask for.
At the age of eleven, I knew how to pray well. I was smart and doing well in school. I had my grandparents at my side. I loved going to church with them. Somehow I felt life wasn’t meant to be this good. I was right. I was watching television one day after school when my uncle came and did things to me that no man should do to a child. After he was finished, I cried and cried. I had no way of knowing that his abuse would continue and keep me crying for years. I asked myself, What is life? But I got no answer. I prayed for God to help me to be strong and to stand up for myself. Despite my tears and prayers, his abuse continued for years. I was sure this was the worst thing that could ever happen to me in this lifetime. I was wrong.
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FOOTNOTE: ABOUT MIKE IMHOF
When a retired teacher by the name of Michael Imhof entered Melissa’s life, he recognized special strivings in this young woman and offered to teach her English without charge. He explains: “Melissa is undocumented. She strives to get her GED. I teach her English gratis. When Melissa gave me a hint of her story, we found a tale full of heart break and hope. This is the first competition she has entered.”
My name is Melissa. I am a twenty-five year old black woman from the Caribbean. I am courageous, intelligent and hard working. I have been faced with incredible hardships which have taught me the arts of courage, perseverance, hope, and faith. I invite you to discover extremely personal revelations about myself and my life.