the Sake of My Daughter
By Marion Ruiz
[Excerpts from the World Tribune, January 12, 2000]
In 1979, when I was five months pregnant with my third daughter, I had a heart attack. My children's father left me. I lost my job, lost my home, and had to move in with my sister, Fran, who taught me about chanting Nam Myoho-renge-kyo.
Melissa was born four weeks premature and she was critically ill with a devastating virus. The doctors had no hope that she would live, and said that if she did, she would be blind, deaf, and a total vegetable. I was determined that she would live and overcome her prognosis.
Melissa did live and kept developing against all odds. She learned to walk, and how to dress herself; she learned sign language, writing, drawing, and simple math. She overcame a heart condition, blindness, liver dysfunction, and coordination problems. This was the result of my dedicated practice of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism, manifesting determinations and goals for her life, as well as my own.
I remarried and had two sons.
On Halloween in 1996, the director of the school that Melissa attended called me with terrible news. Melissa was in the nurse's quarters being examined for injuries inflicted on her by a caregiver. Two other students had witnessed this woman slapping Melissa across the face, punching her head, and slapping her hands.
This news made my heart stop. I had wondered why Melissa's behavior had changed so much since school started — now I knew why. A specialist for deaf children evaluated Melissa to determine what had happened and what could be done to help her recover, physically and emotionally.
Every morning I prayed and made a list of what needed to be accomplished that day. I had to win one day at a time.
We tried to take legal action, but there was no recourse because Melissa was unable to defend herself in court, and both Melissa and the caregiver were deaf.
Throughout my life, I had felt victimized by my circumstances. What happened to Melissa made me intolerant of being a victim any longer. I took responsibility for the situation and determined to change because I believe that our children live in the wake of our karma.
Understanding life through a Buddhist perspective was my lifeline to sanity. It gave me the strength to put my energies into creating value for Melissa, rather than revenge toward the woman who hurt her.
As time passed, however, all avenues of help turned into dead ends. The state that I lived in did not have humanitarian services for someone with needs as complex as Melissa's were. But my SGI activities encouraged me to never give up.
Like a bad dream, Melissa began to act out what had happened to her. She became unpredictable and violent. I felt her frustration and her inability to express what this incident did to her. The pain I felt made me even more determined to relieve Melissa of her suffering, no matter what.
In order to receive care for her, I had to testify every month in court that I was trying to place her in a school or program. The court set a deadline that I had to meet, or else Melissa would become a ward of the state, and I would no longer have any say in her life.
I finally found a school that said that they would accept her. It was our last chance. Then when we arrived at the school, they refused to accept Melissa due to her emotional state.
I chanted and demanded protection from the universe. Then Melissa was placed in a therapeutic setting that stabilized her emotionally, and she was able to qualify for the school.
All of my dreams were realized. Since Melissa began attending this new school, she has improved remarkably and she will be graduating this June. She will then begin working and earning a living for the first time in her life. Melissa has now learned how to express her feelings appropriately, and her emotional health is very good. Her physical problems are less too. Visiting her is such a great joy.
In fighting and winning through this experience, I developed absolute confidence that Nam Myoho-renge-kyo is my life itself.
the deepest appreciation to Nichiren Daishonin, SGI President Ikeda, all
the SGI members and, most of all, I feel tremendous appreciation for Melissa
for giving me the opportunity to strengthen my faith.