The first time I met Melynda was a few days before my oldest daughter’s birthday a year and a half ago. We were so excited to have new neighbors with young girls that we invited them to the birthday party the following week. I did not expect them to bring a gift. My intention was to just give them a chance to meet their neighbors and become good friends with my girls. They did not bring a gift, they brought 4. Each of her girls scavenged their rooms for little trinkets that they thought my daughter would enjoy and Melynda brought us some of her pickled green beans that she had canned herself. Some children might have turned up their noses at such gifts but I remember Kaleigh telling me that night as I tucked her in bed that her favorite gifts were the homemade gifts that the Thomas girls had given her. She knew as well as I did that they gave those gifts with love and the love they shared with us was the most precious gift of all. It was precious because it was so pure just like Melynda. Anyone that met Melynda could testify to that.
As I sat there at her funeral yesterday, listening to her family recall their favorite memories of Melynda, I was most impressed by the stories told by her sister-in-law Debbie. Two that stand out to me are about how selfless she taught her children to be. Through her example, they have made choices in their lives that many adults would not even make.
The first was about her sweet Maya. When Maya was in preschool, Melynda noticed an empty bag of bread in Maya’s backpack one day when she returned home from school. She asked Maya why she had it in there. Her answer was simple, “I didn’t want anyone to be hungry today.” If we all took on that attitude, I wonder how many fewer children would go to bed hungry tonight.
The next is about her sweet Macie. Macie used to have a little stuffed kitten that she carried with her everywhere she went. She loved that little kitten so much. One day Debbie found her own little girl carrying the kitten around after visiting with Melynda and her family. You see, Macie loved her cousin so much that she chose to give her cousin her most prized possession. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time getting my girls to give up the toys they no longer play with let alone their absolute favorite toy. It is the selfless acts of love that Melynda practiced daily that impressed upon her children the joy of giving.
It wasn’t just gifts that Melynda gave. She gave all of herself to everything she did and she did it without fear or complaint. A few years ago, Melynda was in a bike accident that left her with a pretty bad back injury. That injury caused her to develop blood clots which ended up passing through her brain and causing her to have a stroke. That stroke left her with a number of struggles that she was bound and determined to overcome. Though she had a hard time speaking and stuttered quite a bit from the stroke, she still went out into the world and shared her story with countless others in the hopes of giving them hope. Though she had a hard time walking and had to use crutches, she still got back on her bike. At first, she could not even put her foot down to hold herself up if she had to stop but that did not stop her. No matter how many times or how hard she fell down, she got right back up again. Nothing was going to get in her way of living and loving life. Even with the struggles she had been through and the struggles she still had to face, she radiated a light brighter than anyone I have ever met. If I ever grow up, I want to be just like my friend Melynda. Rest in peace my friend.