Welcome to Fall '13/Winter '14 Scholarship

Topic: Please write a poem, in a style of your choosing, on the theme of overcoming a personal challenge.

Greg Larrick
Eastern Washington University


New Grass

I wonder what my mother dreams
As she attempts to claim her throne
Of ivy cutting to the bone
And marrow seeping from the seams

Mimicking Sonya in sorrow
A little girl devout, yet lost
Her pain comes not without a cost
Of bread her children must forgo

And what of her they must now think
This woman who could do no wrong
Fallen with neither prayer nor song
A cup from which no one could drink

But truth from dream must now surpass
This Raskolnikov can repent
Her suffering demands ascent
From the seeds she did sow – new grass


Here' is Greg's personal statement:

This poem depicts my mother's struggle with Multiple Sclerosis, along with the effect it has had on my own life. After battling with depression and bipolar disorder for most of her adult life, my mother finally discovered the underlying cause of her problems when diagnosed with this debilitating neurological disorder three years ago. Since then, she has switched between four different medications, each with minimal success, and has witnessed bankruptcy, the death of the dog whose introduction to our home marked the opening chapters of her new family, and the departure of her firstborn son to college. These past few years have certainly not gone easy on my mother.

Admittedly, I must attribute some of her difficulties to my own actions. At times I resented her for the impulsive and violent behavior she displayed, which anyone familiar with bipolar disorder should understand. Instead of appreciating all the love my mother blessed me with, I filled my adolescence with rebellion and petty confrontations. Now, when she barely possesses the strength to pull herself out of bed throughout the day, I can only reprimand myself for having acted in such a pitiful and childish manner. Sometimes, I wonder what my mother dreams as she lies in her prison of a bed. Throughout my childhood she displayed an uncanny strength and courageousness – despite her position as a woman over forty with three children, she successfully graduated from law school, and, at the time of her diagnoses, had finally begun to witness the success of the law firm to which she possessed sole proprietorship. I never knew her to back down from a fight, but Multiple Sclerosis has proved a worthy adversary.

However, everyone knows that brooding over the past never solves any problems, and, consequently, I have dedicated my life to the pursuit a doctorate in pharmacy, so as to enter the field of research in treatment for Multiple Sclerosis. I refuse to let my mother's illness continue in vain; instead, it will serve as the fuel that fosters my helping of others in need. I find that Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky serves as an appropriate allegory. In the character of Sonya Marmeladov, who became trapped in a life of prostitution to support her impoverished family, I saw a girl lured by circumstance to an isolated world of misery; much like my mother, who, without having committed any deserving sin, received such a terrible punishment. Yet, Sonya's suffering ultimately catalyzed the redemption of the nihilistic murderer Raskolnikov, and therefore, perhaps served a greater purpose in the long run. Similarly, given my own failures and misdeeds, I consider helping others with disorders like my mother a personal obligation. In a sense, her disorder has planted a seed, which, through my vigorous pursuit of academic success, will yield new grass. I have subsequently dedicated many of my weekends to working at the local food banks, but I truly believe that my greatest goals can only be fulfilled through a college education.

Unfortunately, the aforementioned bankruptcy has put my family in a very awkward financial situation. My father makes a wage slightly above average, which, although having provided security and leisure throughout my childhood, now prevents me from receiving grants and many institutional scholarships. At the same time, my parents cannot take out the loans that would otherwise compensate for this lack of funding. Despite working as a tutor at my university, I still do not earn enough to pay for tuition, let alone all the other expenses associated with college. These developments led to my transfer from Washington State University to Eastern Washington University, where I could live from home without worrying about paying for room and board, while simultaneously helping my mother. However, tuition still provides a significant hurdle for me, and, as a result, I rely almost entirely on scholarships from generous institutions such as yours to continue my college education. I am confident, though, that, despite these difficulties, I will persevere, because this new grass deserves to see the light of day.