It had all the trappings of a teenager’s birthday party: friends and family conversing, arty cupcakes, gift packages, music, and singing. But at this gathering Monday night, the absence of the birthday celebrant was palpable, his life stolen by the unbearable pain of being cyberbullied.
The party and concert at Christ Episcopal Church celebrated the life of David Molak, who would have turned 17 on Oct. 10 had he not taken his life on Jan. 4. Dozens of his schoolmates, extended family, family friends, and supporters of David’s Legacy, a foundation that promote awareness of bullying and its repercussions, swarmed the church’s teen hall.
Making the same kind of racket heard at all parties, guests visited with one another, ate, and bid on raffle prizes donated by local shops and music groups. A basket of “A Few of David’s Favorite Things” contained a Spurs T-shirt, Star Wars ornaments, and a Tackle Box Outfitting gift certificate.
Cellist Ryan Murphy spoke on behalf of Musicians of the San Antonio Symphony, members of which later performed a concert of music special to Molak and his family.
“I’m sure I speak for all the musicians here when I say we all have had to deal with people who may give us a hard time for being different or, in my case, lugging around a big cello case in my mom’s minivan isn’t the coolest look,” Murphy said to the crowd’s laughter. “The other musicians and I are absolutely delighted to share what we love, what we dedicate our lives to, and thank all of you for being here.”
Molak’s mother, Maurine, told the Rivard Report she and her family have been overwhelmed by the city’s outpouring of support. The birthday celebration comes on the heels of David’s favorite gym naming its Athlete of the Month award for him
Bird Bakery’s “Be Kind” cupcakes and sales of Stop Bullying yard signs both benefit David’s Legacy Foundation, which is dedicated to educating the community and passing David’s Law, which would make bullying a punishable offense in Texas.
“Between now and Thanksgiving we will be in Austin talking to representatives about David’s Law,” Maurine said, “trying to get feedback, finding out what questions and issues they might have. Then we’ll be able to take that back to the bill writers and hopefully come up with a bill that everyone will agree with.
“The community here has really pulled together and I think it’s a lot of ‘There by the grace of God go I.’ They felt like David was just like one of their kids and it could have happened to them.’”
High school senior Abigail Dickson, 18, orchestrated the celebration and concert and emceed its moving parts with grace and sophistication. The throng moved to the sanctuary for the concert by 14 members of the Musicians of the San Antonio Symphony, a recently formed organization aimed at strengthening the San Antonio Symphony’s involvement in the community.
The program included some of David’s favorites including “All Things Bright and Beautiful,” “The Throne Room” from Star Wars, and the crowd favorite “This Little Light of Mine.”
Former San Antonio Symphony associate conductor David Mairs arranged “What the World Needs Now Is Love” for the occasion in just one week. Smart phones were held high to video the apt selection, chosen by Symphony violinist Beth Johnson.
“There was such grief behind the smiles as I watched the family from the stage,” Johnson said. “But I was happy to be able to give the gift of music.”
David’s favorite song “Hey There Delilah” was sung by a trio from the U.S. Air Force Band of the West. After the mostly upbeat yet formal mood of the chamber music, the intimate sound of acoustic guitar and voice jarred the emotions in the room. So did the words in a song with filled with optimism, longing, and love of a sensitive young man:
“Hey there, Delilah
I know times are getting hard
But just believe me, girl
Someday I’ll pay the bills with this guitar
We’ll have it good
We’ll have the life we knew we would
My word is good.”