Melissa: "Are you going to write more blog posts soon?"
Me: "I will, but I haven't had anything to write about and I don't want to write unless it's something I feel passionately about or it's something worth sharing."
Melissa: "Oh. Okay. I just like when you write. It makes me happy."
Melissa passed away suddenly on February 26th. There was no warning. She simply slipped away in her sleep. Like everyone else, I've been in heartbroken shock.
Unexpected losses are difficult because you second guess yourself early and often.
Did she know how I felt about her?
Did I spend enough time with her?
Could I have been a better friend?
All of these are questions that will remain unanswered, but if I really take the time and think about our relationship, my guess is that what I did right for my friend during our friendship far outweighs what I might have overlooked or let slip by because, well...I'm human.
Today, I had the honor and privilege of speaking at Melissa's funeral where I could encompass how I felt about Melissa in a way that would resonate with the people she loved. Based on the feedback I received today, I think I did alright.
You wanted a blog post, Melissa? Well, my sweet friend, here's one just for you. It's about this amazing person that I will miss very much and I will never forget. I hope you have good internet access in heaven, kiddo.
"I'm honored to be standing up here and I'll do my very best to honor our loved one, Melissa.
My personal relationship with Melissa was unique in that we were kindred spirits dealing with physical and mental complexities that few could relate to. Over our lifetime of friendship, we would have many conversations that went far beyond small talk and chit chat. I'd give you more details and share some moments from our mutual venting sessions, but I'm not going to for a few reasons. First of all, I'm afraid most of what we talked about is not appropriate to share within the confines of this place of worship. Second, some things aren't meant to be shared and if I did share them here, I have a feeling a giant snowball would be hurled from heaven and hit me square in the face. Third, and most importantly, those complexities are not something she chose to dwell on in her life, therefore…neither will I in her tribute.
I will say this: because of those complexities, Melissa made the choice when she was very young to focus on the simplicity of life. The things people often take for granted were the things that meant the most to Melissa and what I believe drew so many people to her.
She was honest. If you asked her opinion, Melissa gave it to you without reservation. If she had something on her mind, then you heard about it. And she always got right to the point. It was never in a malicious way, she just hated playing games and didn't want to waste anyone's time. You never questioned where you stood with Melissa. It was one of my favorite qualities about her because it was so refreshing and so rare. I already miss it.
Melissa was also determined to succeed in life despite the fact that there was never an easy path for her to tread on. Everything she every got in her life she straight up earned. High School and college meant extra time studying on top of her medical responsibilities. Didn't matter…she graduated both with flying colors. Finding and holding down a job despite a long list of obstacles. No hesitation there. Being a home owner, volunteering, the list goes on and on….she tackled them all with optimism and enthusiasm.
She LOVED to laugh. Whether it was telling a corny joke, pulling a harmless prank or a giving someone a gentle teasing…Melissa was always keeping things light. Over the years, it was a pretty typical thing for Melissa to, through no fault of her own, occasionally run over my toes. Of course I'd start the teasing by saying "Hey! Watch where you're driving that thing! You just ran me over." To which she'd quickly reply: "Well…you shouldn't have been standing there, dummy." She had a good point and I had no comeback.
Most of all, Melissa loved unconditionally. I know it's a cliche, but it's the truth. This woman was an extraordinary example of love. She was ferociously loyal. If you needed help, she was the first one to offer. If you were struggling, then she was the first to reach out and support you. I cannot tell you how many times I got a phone call from Melissa when I was struggling. There she was, checking in on me, protecting me from the big bad world, only to find out later on that she was struggling through something of her own and never said a word. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has experienced this selfless gesture.
Melissa learned that kind of love from her parents, Tim and Kris, who gave her love in bunches. They taught her the skills and the confidence to be the amazing person we know who would go far beyond the boundaries others tried to place on her throughout her life. It gives me great peace of mind to know that the last words she heard in her life were joyful ones from her mother. Sentiments that were no doubt echoed by her father. Tim and Kris: You are phenomenal parents and wonderful people. Be proud of the daughters that you raised and the lives you gave them.
Melissa also learned that love from her sister, Liz. I told this to Liz the other night and I'll share it with all of you now, Melissa was so proud of Liz and proud to be her sister. There was an unspoken bond and trust that grew from childhood arguments into an adult friendship that will never be replaced. Liz, please take comfort in the fact that she knew how much you loved her and believe me…the feeling was mutual. She is always with you. I know that one all too well.
Last, but certainly not least, we have her husband, Eric. 13 years ago you and Melissa met at a New Year's Eve party (which is bizarre in it's own right because Melissa wasn't a fan of parties and neither of you were going to go to this one until the last minute!). From that point on, you learned to love together. I've never met a couple more devoted to one another than you two. She was "the boss" of you and you happily admit it. Happy wife, happy life after all.
Of course, you know I'm teasing. The truth is that Eric and Melissa's love is a blueprint of a simply wonderful commitment to another. Quiet nights out to dinner, dates at plays and movies, the occasional vacation and a faith filled devotion to God and each other. The only excess in their life was their mutual love…with the exception of this past Valentine's Day…where Eric recruited a barbershop quartet to serenade his darling wife. Meanwhile I gave my wife a heart-shaped pizza. Thanks for making everyone else look bad, E. I'm sure Melissa loved being the envy of every other person she knew that day….and rightfully so.
Eric, you always loved Melissa the way a good man should and the way she deserved. On behalf of everyone in this church, we thank you for being worthy enough to be her man and more. Know that she returned that love to you tenfold.
If we had the time, I know every person in this church could share a wonderful story about their time with Melissa. I encourage you to think about your stories and share them with others, not just today, but throughout your life. Memories are precious and they keep the people we hold dear close to our hearts for eternity. You all were precious to her. Thank you for being in her life.
Melissa certainly left us way too soon, but I believe with all my heart that she loved twice as much as any other human being and that MUST be why we only got to have her for a short time. Now she's up in heaven, toasty warm with a smile on her face RUNNING through those pearly gates into the arms of the Lord and her loved ones. She is one more angel watching over us…and what an angel she was here on earth and now in heaven.
God Bless you, Melissa. We'll never forget you and we'll always love you."
Peaceful Things and Lots of Love...Forever,