Amanda Todd: In Memoriam

To show her vulnerability,
To open her heart, to say ‘I’m hurting,’
I need someone,
Was an act of bravery.

Most of us live our lives
Hiding our hurts, fearful.
We grow old and die,
Allowing few people to know us.
We pretend to be strong,
But none of us is strong.
Not really.

We pass our days wearing blinkers,
Oblivious, until some unimagined event,
The death of a loved one,
Infidelity, an illness, can topple
What we thought
Was a well-constructed life.

None of us is immune.

To be known is a gift.
Amanda, in her youth and innocence, sensed this.
My Irish mother, were she still alive,
Would have called her an old soul.

How easily we label people as ‘depressed’,
‘Troubled’ or ‘at risk’ as if the labels
Themselves relieve us of responsibility.
Have we forgotten our own thin-skinned youth?

Those who bullied Amanda
Mistook her vulnerability for weakness,
And in their unknowing, they misjudged her.
They didn’t understand the emotional courage
It took to write ‘nobody cared.’
‘Nobody liked me.’
‘I sat by myself at lunch alone in the library.’
‘Everything just touched me deeply.’

The thin-skinned among us become
writers, poets or artists.
They use their suffering as scaffolding
To create visions of horror and beauty.

I was once thin-skinned and bullied.
My stepfather called me ‘big ears.’
It was my only name that didn’t double as a curse.
I didn’t tell.  I was ashamed.
I did not possess Amanda’s courage.

Amanda told the world.

When her heart was broken,
She opened it, laid it bare,
Exposing her pain to help others.
She believed she could handle the relentless
Onslaught of hatred from her tormentors.
She expected too much of herself.
Few of us could have withstood such brutality.

Her plea for compassion has touched thousands.
We remember our childish hurts,
We gather our sons and daughters closer, afraid.
Her untimely death has become a requiem
For something flawed in us all.

In war, the enemy can often be seen or felt.
For Amanda, her pursuers online
Were unreachable and unrelenting.
That they still harassed her
After her passing was predictable.
Those complicit must have felt threatened.
She brought it on herself, they write,
Hiding behind the wall of anonymity.

Her tormentors seem impervious to compassion.
They cover their ears, refusing to listen
To the small still voice inside,
Whispering, ‘You, you, you.’

It might take years before
Some unimaginable event:
The death of a loved one,
Infidelity, an illness, can topple
What they thought
Was a well-constructed life.
None of us is immune.

Composing these words, I imagine
Amanda standing at the edge of a cliff,
Frightened, knowing the power of words
To destroy, but also knowing that sharing
Her story, despite the risk to herself,
Would help others struggling to find acceptance.

If only she could have stayed in the world longer.
Imagine the gifts she might have given to us
If she had filled the full measure of her life.

Her death and the poignancy of her story
Has sparked a conversation across the country.
Her struggle with bullying woke us up.
We are left, questioning ourselves.
How could we have let this happen?

The video she created was a brilliant act of daring.
It was also a cry for help.
The tragedy in Amanda’s narrative is that the support
She so desperately longed for came too late to save her.
And yet, her message will save others.

Amanda Todd is an inspiration to the world.
Her motto was Be Strong.
She was.

Annette LeBox