Tell me, who matters to you?
By Ly Berry
On March 24th, the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic held the second annual SHE MATTERS fundraiser for young professionals interested in social justice. New to the Clinic, I had limited exposure to SHE MATTERS and event management in general. Nonetheless, in the weeks leading up to the event, I poured my heart and soul into ensuring this year’s event was successful. Gradually, I watched as the event took shape –ticket sales rose, and donations increased.
For some, volunteering as a coat check attendant isn’t the most glamorous role, but I was beyond excited to be there and had the unique opportunity to meet every guest who attended – one coat at a time! Sooner than I thought possible, the closet was full, and the venue was bustling with activity. As both an awareness-building and networking event, guests were provided with ample opportunity to mingle, ask questions and propose thoughtful solutions to issues concerning gender-based violence. As part of the experience, guests were also invited to post on the SHE MATTERS Instagram wall, named ‘Who Matters to You?’ the name of a woman that meant the world to them. By the end of the event, the wall was covered in flower and heart-shaped notes on which names were boldly written.
In the weeks following SHE MATTERS, there was a lot of cleaning up, sorting out, and recycling to be done. While working my way through these tasks, I came to the mound of collected notes that made up the Instagram wall. As I began to sort through the pieces of paper, my curiosity got the better of me – I had to see who mattered. A quick sift through the pile showed plenty of names, but there was one that came up so many times it was evident she mattered the most – Mom.
A quick sift through the pile showed plenty of individual names, but there was one that came up so many times it was evident she mattered the most – Mom.
Sitting on the carpet of my office, now surrounded by these notes, I began to wonder whose name I would have written on a sticky flower that day.
My Mom died when I was 16. At the time, my Dad encouraged me to try out a support group. I didn’t have a great experience with the group I tried and became turned off to the idea of support groups. Eight years later, I still felt so lonely in my grief. Desperate to connect with other people like me, I was relieved to find a group through the Bereaved Families of Ontario in Toronto.
It was at BFO that I met Maya,* who lost her mother a few years ago. Like me, Maya misses her mom every day. Maya, now one of my closest friends, taught me the importance of community, of being able to lean on someone for support and to be there in return – without judgement. Maya’s worse day is her Mom’s birthday. For me, it’s my birthday and Mother’s Day, which just passed. For years I tried to ignore Mother’s Day altogether, but recently I changed my mind and now lean into it – for my Nana’s sake. As a mother who lost her daughter, Mother’s Day is a bittersweet day for my Nana. Through her, I’ve learned that coming together, especially on difficult days, is more healing than being alone.
With fundraisers like SHE MATTERS and the Annual Tribute, to honour our namesake, Barbra Schlifer, a young lawyer whose life was lost to violence, we come together to recognize that violence against women continues to be a systemic issue in society. Daily, women’s lives are at risk in cultures that undervalue women. Despite these grim circumstances, there is ample room for celebration.
At the Annual Tribute (Spirit of Schlifer Award as of 2020) , we celebrate the bravery of women who seek out our assistance to escape violence, the work the Clinic does to help these women build lives free from violence, and we celebrate all our donors and supporters who made this work possible. Moreover, we celebrate the possibility of a future where clinics like the Barbra Schlifer Clinic are no longer needed.
In a similar fashion, my siblings and I celebrate the memory of our mother – her life, her bravery and the love she gave us. Our annual tribute is Mother’s Day; a day when we also celebrate our Nana’s love for her daughter and her grandchildren and the respect and love we have for our Nana – one of the few remaining tangible connections we have to our mother.