They buried my friend Melissa today. The service was private, as is the responsible thing to do in this time of Covid-19. There was a viewing prior to the service.
Her family was not there when I went by, but I signed my name to the registry and viewed her body. Our friend Cathy, who went to school with Melissa even before I did, had already gone in but waited to go back in with me.
I often appear outgoing and an extrovert, but am actually an introvert and more shy than anyone knows. Those people you went to high school with – they often can sense your needs. Plus Cathy is empathetic, and has a beautiful sense of the needs of others. She’s another long-time treasure.
I have no idea when exactly I met Melissa. All I can tell you was high school. North Iredell High School Class of 1978. I suspect if she were still alive she would be able to tell you exactly what class we were first in together. We were in quite a few in those years.
Our commonality had probably always been we both love people, but also are not only opinionated but blunt. We argued on occasion, usually while laughing. Melissa moved through high school with a self-assuredness that most teenagers lack. She’d rather hurt your feelings than tell you a lie. Sensitive as I can be, I love that kind of person. Almost always they are the kind of people you can trust.
Melissa was black, me white. Once I realized that mattered to some people, I used to think my inability to notice it was a good thing. I have since learned that my cluelessness sometimes meant I didn’t see that my black classmates were made to feel less than. I probably never was there to defend them in those times because I was oblivious to anything going on.
Melissa and I talked about that earlier this year. I was participating in one of our local marches for racial equality. At that time Melissa was recuperating from a stroke, so she was not able to participate, but she read my blog about it.
She then told me about growing up black in our county. For example, having white neighbors your age who you could talk to at school, but whose parents wouldn’t allow them to play with you at home. I had no idea that was the norm. Then again, my neighborhood from 4th grade until I left home was made up of all white families. Still, I don’t think my parents would have had an issue.
Melissa loved to talk and it makes me laugh to learn I am not the only one to have such long phone calls with her. I don’t like long phone calls, but I have many 4-hour long calls with Melissa in my history. Every subject was tackled. One of our classmates talked about calling her and hanging up the phone eight hours later.
I was on a list of people who got morning and evening texts from Melissa. Often I would forget to turn off text notifications and they would sound at the worst possible time. She just laughed as I told her.
The last one was from 9/21/2020 and it reads “Continue in the faith grounded and settled and be not moved away from the hope of the Gospel.” – Colossians 1:23
It seems a fitting end. I had not cleared out texts from her for a while, so I have much of our conversation from the past year. Her wisdom and encouragement will be with me for a while.
There’s something about my high school friends. Even though I don’t see them often they are such a special part of my life. Most of us are 60 or 61 now. Too many have died too young, Still, sharing that time of life bonds you forever. Or at least it bonds some of us.
I suspect Melissa was tired of being consumed by health issues. She may be enjoying heaven now, but isn’t surprised she lives in our hearts and our minds here on earth, Peace, my long-time friend. You left your mark. Well done, good and faithful servant.