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My TMI coloumn:  Read on

Dear Leah,

 

I write this column as the news spread like wildfire that you have passed to a better life.  No parent should be burying their child, particularly after having seen you suffer so much these last years.  It is all the more tragic when we all had started to believe, me included, that you were out of the woods.  It shouldn’t have worked that way Leah but I suppose life is what it is and quoting Forrest Gump;   “Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

It’s true you’re gone Leah but your spirit and fortitude are ever so present.  Leah, in a way all of Malta had adopted you as their own with that contagious alluring smile of yours.

Leah, it’s mind-boggling how you have managed to endure innumerable treatment programs, tough therapies, painful cures with so much bravery and fortitude. Your parents tell us how you still wanted to play, you still craved to learn and you still wanted to soak-in all the experiences you could lay your hands on.

I just can’t get around understanding why we should be speaking about your death and how a 6 year old girl who had a whole life to tackle should endure so much.  So illogical! It just doesn’t follow.  With you Leah I should be talking about school, about ballet lessons, about driving your mum round the bend because you want new toys, new clothes and yet another visit to McDonalds!  And the more I think the more confused I get and the more ridiculous and absurd it feels.  For people like myself who believe in Divine mercy, in a God of love and compassion, it just makes it even more tricky to swallow.

Some have conceitedly claimed that you lost your battle against cancer!

How dare they talk about a lost battle?  It’s not true that you have succumbed to this arduous clash.

Cancer didn’t win. Cancer tried to kill your spirit, but it was defeated by your smile.  Cancer tried to stop you living, but you shook it off with your willingness to live life to the full. Cancer tried to stop you hoping, but once again it lost, because your desire for life was endless.

You know very well Leah how I dislike having to see the illnesses of children flaunted, their personal narratives and pain so that money can be collected.  But what a loss it would have been, were we denied this story.  I am so infinitely appreciative that you shared your storyline a beautiful narrative of faith, desire and resolve.

 

Yours was not an ordinary story – it was an extraordinary one.  Leah you are amazing because you are uncomplicated and unfussy.  Yours was an account on how to live one’s challenges, to kick-up against the incongruity and inaptness of life even when the going got really tough and it was noticeably difficult to get going.

My heart goes out to you and your family Leah.

I am deeply saddened by the thought of those unbearable and interminable days and nights and the pain that you must have gone through.  You must have been so frustrated lately that you did not have the energy to go to school or play with your friends.

The grief that your parents and the people around you have experienced as they accompanied you in this journey must have been terrible.  Their hearts must be broken as they saw your health condition ebb and flow.  They will miss you terribly but they have worked so relentlessly to help you restore to health.

Leah, your story reminds me of so many other children who are suffering in all corners of the World not only because illness has caught-up on them but because they are victims of other people’s selfishness and revulsion. Who knows maybe from high up in Heaven you could keep inspiring each one of us to make a difference, the same way you made a change in our lives.

You know what Leah?

17,000 children under five years of age die every single day from avoidable causes.

In one particular year almost 95,000 children and young people were victims of homicide.

60% of children worldwide, adding up to circa 1 billion, between the ages of 2 and 14 are subjected to corporal punishment by their caregivers.  To compound this, over 30% of adults worldwide believe that physical punishment is justified to ‘properly’ raise children.  UNICEF estimates that in 23 countries around the World, severe physical punishment is widespread amongst 20% of children.

120 million girls, that is, practically 10%, have experienced forced intercourse or other coerced sexual acts.

But if that is not terrible enough, more than 33% of students between the ages of 13 and 15 experience bullying on a regular basis.

But it seems that violence has no end in sight.

25% of girls aged 15 to 19 all over the World, counting up to 70 million, are victims of physical violence.

Another shocking statistic is that 58 million children between the ages of 6 and 11 are out of school.

We can do something about this Leah.

There is certainly something we can all do, because all of this is not just happening away from our Islands but is also taking place ‘close to home’.

Your incessant determination to get on with life is incredibly inspiring and I am so sure it brings hope to so many other children who are suffering.

And while there was nothing else anyone could do about your health, there are children in the World who are victims of so much brutality and violence that we can act on!

Scores of Maltese and Gozitan children are being denied love, are on the verge of poverty and social exclusion, children who are busy trying to survive rather than taking time to play, children who are suffering in silence and might not know a better life than having to endure violence.  We can change that for sure.

Leah yours was a brief life but with an infinite revelation.

After the tears and the heartbreaking farewells please inspire us to find our own little way on how to make another child’s life better than it currently is.  As the Psalm goes; ‘Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.’ (Psalm 23).

Good bye Leah, it’s time for you to rest in peace and time that you hand over the baton so that we can continue the work you started.

 

Andrew

 

A small appeal from this end – please help ‘Puttinu Cares’ – http://www.puttinucares.org/  Contact Number 7980 9778

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