Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sidelined by loss

I've contemplated not publishing this post because words cannot adequately describe how I feel.  However, I decided to post this just in case it helps someone else deal with the loss of a loved one.  My words here will never be enough...

Last week, I lost my good friend, Melissa Dowd, to a pedestrian-car accident.  I've been at a complete loss for words to express the depth and range of my emotions during this past week and have spiraled into a dark depression that only surfaces itself during when I'm not actively doing, saying or thinking something.

The last time I saw Melissa was during a really hectic, stressful time in my life, and as usual, she brought her light playfulness to dinner and made me laugh and forget my troubles for the night.  We were getting ready to move to Sweden and Melissa emailed me saying she would be in Atlanta for a few days attending a conference.  She asked if we could get together and hang out.  Of course!  I was busy arranging all of the packing and selling of our stuff and told her that I'd be making our usual Wednesday Mexican dinners at home since Calvin was on a strict 7pm bed time.  She promised to come to the house around 5 or 6pm so she could play with Calvin and meet Darby.  Well, as it happens sometimes, life intervened and she was unable to make it to the house before Calvin had to go to sleep.  After dinner, we snuck up the stairs and peeked into his room to watch him sleep.  A poor substitute for playing with him, but sometimes timing just doesn't work out.  I don't have any pictures from that night because it was just a "regular" night -- just hanging out.

Remembering that night has become an obsession of mine because for the life of me, I can't recall much detail.  I've been searching my emails, Facebook messages, pictures, texts, and anything and everything to get a clue as to what we talked about, what we laughed about and what we did on that last night.  I just can't remember.

Melissa was not just a good person, she was a great person, who was constantly helping others.  One day we were making weekend plans to hang out and I asked her if she was available on Saturday.  She just said that she had other commitments and couldn't make it.  I later found out that she was volunteering her time to work with families in Atlanta who were displaced (for one reason or another) and were in transition to new homes.  I don't really know how she was volunteering her time because she was so humble about it.  She just helped out when she could.  This past summer she was in Sierra Leone, working with children with HIV and I'm sure she helped out hundreds of other families doing volunteer work over the years.  That's just the type of person she was.

I couldn't possibly capture her entire spirit in this one post and to attempt to do so would be an injustice to her very full and complex life.  But what I can do is challenge every person who reads this post to live your life as she lived hers and try to make the world a better place.  It is a challenge that I am taking myself because her death has taught me that life is too precious, too delicate and ultimately, too fleeting to waste any time or to waste any moments.  You never know what is around the next corner. When that dinner or coffee date may be your last moment to have a conversation with your friend.

Even though I don't remember many details of our last dinner together, I do know that I gave her the biggest, deepest hug goodbye since I knew our move to Sweden would separate us for a while.  I didn't think it would be forever, of course, but I knew it would be sometime before we could re-connect.  Melissa, my friend, you made the world a better place and I hope that all who knew you (and those who didn't) continue to do so in your memory.  May you rest in peace.

What Would Melissa Dowd Do? (WWMDD)

  • Pursue your dreams to the fullest 
  • Be open to all new experiences 
  • Travel the world - especially Africa
  • Make jokes frequently and laugh loudly 
  • Dance like you're really drunk or better yet, drink while you're dancing
  • Brighten every room with your smile
  • Connect with friends when you are randomly in their town
  • Snowboard in Breckenridge
  • Don't save anything for "later" -- money, candles, the "good" shampoo -- just use it
  • Help out others without expecting anything in return
  • When asking friends for help moving or packing, promise beer or delicious food as an incentive
  • Ask someone to take a picture of you with your friends rather than standing behind the camera
  • Work hard but play hard too
  • Don't take yourself too seriously

Here are some quotes that have helped me cope a little with this sudden loss.  The sun shines less brightly without her here.

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” 
― C.S. LewisA Grief Observed

“To weep is to make less the depth of grief.” 
― William Shakespeare

“It's so curious: one can resist tears and 'behave' very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer... and everything collapses. ” 
― Colette

“And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend. You will want to laugh with me. And you will sometimes open your window, so, for that pleasure . . . And your friends will be properly astonished to see you laughing as you look up at the sky! Then you will say to them, 'Yes, the stars always make me laugh!' And they will think you are crazy. It will be a very shabby trick that I shall have played on you...” 
― Antoine de Saint-ExupéryThe Little Prince

“The tears I feel today
I'll wait to shed tomorrow.
Though I'll not sleep this night
Nor find surcease from sorrow.
My eyes must keep their sight:
I dare not be tear-blinded.
I must be free to talk
Not choked with grief, clear-minded.
My mouth cannot betray
The anguish that I know.
Yes, I'll keep my tears til later:
But my grief will never go.” 
― Anne McCaffreyDragonsinger

“Grief is a most peculiar thing; we’re so helpless in the face of it. It’s like a window that will simply open of its own accord. The room grows cold, and we can do nothing but shiver. But it opens a little less each time, and a little less; and one day we wonder what has become of it.” 
― Arthur GoldenMemoirs of a Geisha

“Relationships take up energy; letting go of them, psychiatrists theorize, entails mental work. When you lose someone you were close to, you have to reassess your picture of the world and your place in it. The more your identity was wrapped up with the deceased, the more difficult the loss.” 
― Meghan O'Rourke

“Life Lesson 3: You can't rush grief. It has its own timetable. All you can do is make sure there are lots of soft places around -- beds, pillows, arms, laps.” 
― Patti DavisTwo Cats and the Woman They Own: or Lessons I Learned from My Cats

“She heard him mutter, 'Can you take away this grief?'
'I'm sorry,' she replied. 'Everyone asks me. And I would not do so even if I knew how. It belongs to you. Only time and tears take away grief; that is what they are for.” 
― Terry PratchettI Shall Wear Midnight (Discworld, #38)

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