Missing Melissa

I barely know how to write about this, so forgive me if it comes out ragged. One of my wife’s best childhood friends, Melissa Bessen, died on New Year’s Day. She fell down a flight of stairs and broke her neck. I can barely imagine the pain her parents and brother are going through. Her brother, Matt, called us to tell us the news. What a brave young man for taking on that duty.

We hadn’t seen Melissa in a few years, much to our regret, but we loved her still. She was Ann’s next-door neighbor through her high-school years in Ironwood, Michigan, the little sister she never had. Back when Ann’s parents still lived in Ironwood, we spent many Christmas Eves at Melissa’s house, celebrating with her and her family. She was a bridesmaid in our wedding.

As regular visitors know, my grandfather died a few weeks back. At the age of 92, he’d lived a full life and was ready to go. He left painlessly, in a warm bed, surrounded by family. Melissa was only 35 years old, in the prime of her life, a beautiful and talented young lady who we all hoped had a long, full life ahead of her.

Tragedy is the only word for it.

So, what can we take from this? Grief for her family, for sure. No parents should ever have to bury a child. But also that life is always too short, it can end at any moment, and that we never have as much say in how it ends as we would like.

We loved Melissa, and I only wish we’d said that to her more often, that we’d seen her more often so we could do so in person. I know she knew it, though, and there’s some small comfort in that. Here’s to those who she touched, who will miss her so much. May your love for her mitigate the pain of her passing, even as it amplifies it, and may she stay in our hearts until we all pass on as well.