Tuesday, August 13, 2013

My Tribute at Melanie's Funeral

I've been asked several times if I spoke at my sister's funeral. I did. It was the best way I could think to honor her, to share her with those who didn't know her like I did. Some of what I said I'd written here, after I first found out we'd lost her. But over the week before her funeral, I thought of more I wanted to say. Here it is for those who wanted to know what I said:

Writing this talk was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to write. I wanted to get it just right because I want to do Melanie justice. It’s hard to describe her to those who don’t know her. She was a very diverse and complicated person. She was the type of person who made you realize that you should never judge a book by its cover, because she never fit in to any of the stereotypes.

I keep seeing her as a child. We were always together. She was my little tag-a-long. Sometimes it drove me crazy, but many times in the turmoil of our young lives, having Melanie with me was such a comfort. Things were certainly never boring with her there, she was so excited and curious about life. She was always a spit-fire too, with beautiful curls that got her complimented as a “little Shirley Temple” more than once.

I couldn’t help but be protective of her. We never knew what she was going to do next, she kept everyone on their toes and she loved to shock and surprise us—including the time she asked me to close my eyes, put out my hand for a surprise, and when I opened my eyes---behold! It was a spider! Yeah, those were good times!

We sometimes fought like siblings do. Some of those fights resembled a Junior WWF match. But Heaven forbid anyone else hurt one or the other of us. I remember a time when she was being bullied at school in the first grade. I yelled at the kids who were being mean to her and threatened them of what would happen if they touched her (since I felt invincible at a whole two years older than her). I recall saying something along the lines of, “No one can hit her but me!” To which Melanie yelled out, “yeah!” Then realizing what she’d just agreed to, she turned to me, shaking her head a little, “what?”

She had my back too. And in those times in our lives where we were both scared or hurt, we knew we could count on each other to be there. Life took us different directions, as we reacted differently to the trials of our lives. But our love for each other never changed, even as we changed in our adulthood.

When our father died, she never really got over that. She was always Daddy’s girl and I can still see her as a little girl, playing that song by Red Sovine over and over again. She would sing along to the chorus, “Daddy’s girl, Daddy’s girl, I’m the center of Daddy’s world….” She tried to find and hold on to the things that reminded her of him. She was ecstatic when she got into contact with his two older children, Kristy and Ron. Family really was important to her.

What you saw when you looked at Melanie was a woman with several tattoos, piercings (when she had them in) and extremely curly—sometimes frizzy hair (compliments of our beautiful mother). Sometimes it was even streaked with her favorite color, purple—it all depended on her mood at the time. She was unconventional and liked to dress to please herself, whether that be a comfortable pair of sweats, Betty Boop pajamas while shopping at Walmart, a costume for a Harry Potter party or some crazy Goth get-up. She even had a favorite cape she would put on for special occasions. She just didn't care what people thought.

What you didn't see when you looked at her, unless you took the time to get to know her: She was extremely generous. She'd give you the clothes off her back—literally. And the amazing thing about her generosity is that she didn't expect anything in return. She loved unconditionally, and I’m not saying that just because it sounds good. It didn’t matter what you did, once she loved you, it was forever. She forgave, even when someone did what most would consider unforgivable, and she didn't hold a grudge either. I've never known anyone who did that as freely as her. Never. And I'm sure I never will again.

She was there for whoever needed her, and did whatever was necessary to get to the place she felt most needed. She stayed with me in the hospital after my first daughter was born, because I was afraid to be alone and my husband needed to be home with our son. And if you’ve slept in a hospital sofa-bed, you know that night she spent there with me was not a comfortable one. But she never complained to me about it. She seemed happy to be there and was the perfect loving aunt.

Melanie loved her animals like they were her children, even more so when she learned she would never have any kids of her own. She sobbed when she lost one of her beloved pets and even asked to bury her oldest companion in my backyard because while her housing status was often up in the air, she knew we were planning to stay put and she wanted her Cocoa Baby to be where she could visit. She would let herself be homeless rather than go to a place that she couldn’t take her pets with her. Chicko and Princess had a wonderful mother in Melanie.

She loved my children like they were her children, and just a few days before she died, she was the only one who thought to call my 3 year old to personally wish her a Happy Birthday. And my kids love her too. Aunt Melanie is the “cool one,” or the “fun one.” She’d come over just to introduce them to a new game.

I had to be extra careful about telling her anything my kids liked or were interested in, because she would take money she didn't have to spare and spend it on something she knew they would enjoy. She did the same thing for me. I would scold her for it, but it never did any good because she'd just do it again anyway. It was her way of telling us she loved us. Truly, thinking back on her life over the years, I’d say the only person she could have shown more love to was herself.

While I like to think I know a lot about my sister, there were things about her I didn’t know until recently. I didn’t know she kept meticulous notes on just about anything-whether that be a household to-do list, a grocery list, things she wanted to remember to tell someone or, even, as I found out when going through her things this past week, a list of scriptures to look up, learn more about, or determine the meaning of. I didn’t know she kept a journal, or that she kept a book of sayings to read everyday with her husband. I didn’t know she’d talked about what she wanted done with certain things when she died. I didn’t think to ask her those things because I thought we still had time.

I guess I’ll have to wait until after this life to learn more. I don't know how I'm going to do without her. Thirty-two years was not enough. Not nearly enough. But I'm so glad I got to have her as my sister. She’s no longer in pain and that’s a good thing. She’s with our Heavenly Father and with Daddy. I have no doubt he was there to greet her when she to passed to the other side. So rest in peace, Baby Sister. We’ll be a forever family and I’ll see you again someday.

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