| Teen Diary Serial |

The Girl That Was: Chapter 13  

“Today, as we say goodbye to our four years in high school, we leave as changed people”


“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak tonight. Two and a half years ago I became the girl whose mother died, or the girl without parents.

But there was no way that I was going to let that define who I was or was going to be. I decided I was going to be a regular, normal girl. No different than anyone else. And if anyone would refer to me as “the girl without a mother,” I was determined that they  would have to include the words, ‘the most amazing girl’ in the sentence.

“And so I did what I could to be that girl. I got good grades and was constantly surrounded by friends. I was involved in extracurricular activities, and I excelled at pretty much everything.

“But inside I was struggling. I felt confused and I felt like a nobody. No one knew that inside I was struggling because I put on a very good show. But Mrs. Schonfeld knew. And she knew exactly when to reach out to me.

“She helped me so much. She helped give me a new view as to what it really meant to be a  tzelem Elokim. She taught me how to strengthen my belief and my connection to Hashem.

“And so I stand before you, yes, as the girl who lost her mother. A girl that lost her mother and was forced to look internally and make changes.

“Before I started high school, my beloved Bubby said to me, ‘Everyone is dealing with some sort or challenge in their life even if you aren’t aware of it.’

“I’m sure that none of my classmates are the same as they were when we entered the building as ninth graders. With the help of our incredible teachers, we all took our challenges and grew from them. Today, as we say goodbye to our four years in high school, we leave as changed people.

“We are standing at the cusp of a new chapter in our lives. And I can say, that although I am fearful of the future and will miss the safety of these walls, I thank Mrs. Schonfeld and all of our teachers for what they have given me.

“Now that I have a much stronger relationship with Hashem, I know that He will be with me as I make career choices, enter shidduchim and im yirtzeh Hashem raise a family. I learned that Hashem loves each of His children so much. I am a worthy person. I can speak up for myself. I can make choices that don’t leave me feeling stuck. I can appreciate that Hashem made me into a person that feels her self-worth and knows how to appreciate it.

I struggled with a sense of over-responsibility. I thought that I was responsible for everything and everyone. Today I know that I thought I was in control, forgetting that it is Hashem Who runs the world. I have learned to know what I can change and what to throw up toward Hashem as simply His.

“Today I feel like I have the tools that I need to move forward. The tools to help build relationships. The tools to navigate life. And for that I am so grateful.

I now know that my challenges will not simply remain in the past. I will continue to move forward with what they taught me and I hope to continue learning from them throughout my life. Tonight I am not embarrassed to be the girl whose mother died, or the girl without parents. Because I know that I can say I am the girl who changed because of those challenges.

“So thank you, Mrs. Schonfeld, and thank you to all the teachers and staff who helped me walk down this difficult road. And of course a huge thank you to my brother Yehudah and his wife Baila for turning their lives upside down to come live with me in the house I grew up in. I am truly lucky to have such wonderful siblings.

“As I get ready to leave this school as the girl with the challenge of growing up without parents, I say, ‘Mommy, I hope that I am the daughter that is giving you nachas and that will continue to do so.’”

There was a moment of silence and then came the thunderous applause.


Soon after graduation, we received a call. Never did I think that I would be the girl to start shidduchim so soon. I thought for sure something major must be wrong with the boy. He must be missing a head. Or maybe he has two heads. But my brother and sister-in-law made so many phone calls and the information that we got was really, really good.

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 930)

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