If you read no further, I want you to first read this: tomorrow is not a guarantee, please go hug your loved ones that are close enough to do so. A few extra hugs are always good anyway.
Today I want to write about something kind of personal. I recently visited my friend Melia, just days before she passed away from cancer. This last visit was such a gift for me. As a way to honor my friend I want to just tell you a little about her and about our last visit. Tomorrow (the day after this blog post goes live) is her celebration of life. I will not be able to attend as it is in Oregon and I live in Kansas, so the trip I took at the end of July was my one time to travel. So this is how I want to help celebrate my friend today.
Melia and I met and were friends when we were kids. I can remember playing together in her backyard, and having her over to my house. We were both Munchkins in the Wizard of Oz when we were 11 years old. We went to girls camp together, and enjoyed lots of youth group activities together in our teen years. I always knew she was my friend. Everyone always felt loved by Melia.
Back in the “old days” when I went away to college I didn’t have a cell phone or Facebook so I lost touch with many people. Melia was one of them. But one of the sweetest reunions was when I moved back to Oregon and Melia was there at church. We instantly rekindled our friendship. And you know what, we were both mamas by now and both going through our own hard times and our bond just felt so sweet. The love between us was palpable.
I was heartbroken when I first heard about her cancer. I helped with her kids as often as I could and made special bonds with all 3 of them. And even when Melia was sick, I knew I was on her mind too. She’d text me to see how I was doing, knowing that she was one of only a couple people that knew how hard my marriage was at the time. She cared about me and wanted me to know I was loved and remembered.
For Christmas 2020 she handmade ornaments for me out of cookie cutters and pictures of me with her kids. Y’all, they are one of my most treasured possessions, and get very special places on our Christmas tree each year. When my foster daughter graduated high school in the middle of the pandemic, Melia took the time to make a GIANT candy-gram letter made out of multiple poster boards. She was so giving of her time, talents, and especially of her love.
She and I loved to get sushi together. And mani/pedis. In the middle of her cancer treatments she had ordered all the stuff to do acrylics at home. Her oldest was the one who was supposed to learn all the things. I had NOT watched the youtubes like her daughter had. But her daughter wasn’t having it one night when I was over, and she asked me to help. My exact qualifications for the attempt=I have had acrylics done on my nails at the salon for years. I have in fact NEVER been the salon tech. Ha! Let’s just say it was a valiant effort and I told her to send me the bill and to go get them fixed at a real salon. Ha! But we had fun!
Melia was the friend that I could text late at night after a fight with my husband or a hard day with step-kids and she would just listen and validate me. She assured me that my love was seen and she knew how hard I was working on all the complicated relationships in my life. She was a friend I could tell all the hard things to. In fact, the day Carson, her husband, called me to tell me she had passed away, I had a good cry, and was like, okay now who do I talk to? And I wanted to call my friend Melia, because she would understand. She would listen as I told her how sad I was to have just lost such a good friend. So instead of calling her, I just started talking to her in my room. I’ve done that a few times since and although I don’t know if she can actually hear me, I feel her love for me. Her love did not die, only her body.
I think it was on Monday July 25 I got “the call” from Carson telling me it was time to come say goodbye. The cancer had spread to Melia’s brain, and the doctors had only given her a few weeks. I didn’t want to wait weeks; I was on a plane that Friday. And Saturday through Tuesday Aug 2, 2022 will always be a very tender gift to me. I want to share with you a few things we did and some thoughts I had while visiting. And I want to acknowledge what a tender gift her parents Janice and Bruce, as well as Carson, and their 3 kids, gave to me in allowing me to be there for some intimate and special things. They truly welcomed me into their home with open arms and I am forever grateful. I didn’t feel like just a guest, but a part of the family. And at a time when I know they were all hurting too, I want to say out loud that their kindness is not lost on me. I am so thankful!
I enjoyed so many snuggles with Melia on the couch. There weren’t any long conversations, but I could see in her eyes she was listening and I could feel her love flowing freely. She had almost a constant stream of visitors. I was privileged to meet some of her other close friends from out of state who I had only heard stories of before. And Rob and Dylan lived up to their hero status I know she saw them as. Melia loved them, and sharing her friends with me is now a gift that will continue. I could see by all the visitors that Melia was loved by many!!!
As I was finishing my packing to leave Kansas for Oregon that Friday morning, like minutes before I needed to be out the door, I had the idea that I needed to bring my party supplies. As part of the retreats I run as a life coach, one evening is an 80’s/90’s themed party. So I just happen to own more neon things than I usually know what to do with. And with aprox 30 seconds to decide, I threw all the vintage party gear in a second suitcase, and headed to the airport. I wasn’t sure exactly when we would need it all, but I felt like the right time would present itself.
Monday I took the two oldest kids to the mall for some shopping and to play games at Dave and Busters. It was fun to get to see them just be kids again for a couple hours, playing games, riding fake motorcycles, winning tickets and picking out prizes. And of course the obligatory Auntie Anne’s Pretzels from the mall too. I knew I was going home the next day, and I had brought a whole suitcase full of party crap, oh I mean bright and colorful items, so I figured we should do something with them. So I told the kids what I had, and asked them if they wanted to help me surprise the adults at the house with an impromptu party. Their faces lit up! They were totally game. We stopped and bought cheap neon t-shirts at the craft store as the base of everyone’s costumes. We stopped at my parents’ house to blow up the inflatables, put on hot pink makeup, and secure our side ponytails. We were a vision to behold let me tell you! Ha! I had Melia’s oldest text her dad and say simply, “the party is on its way, get ready.” So technically we warned him, but nothing could prepare him for what arrived at their house.
When we arrived the kids made quick work of passing out the shirts to their little sister, dad, and grandparents. Melia was not feeling up to dressing up. We settled for giving her a neon feather boa that she had across her lap. Then everyone was accessorized with neon belts, headbands, pony tails, lipstick, sunglasses, mesh gloves…you name it, we got dressed in it. We had cupcakes and played in the backyard while Melia rested inside. Now, was a party necessary? No. But it was a vehicle for wearing a costume for an hour and letting everyone forget for a second what was really happening around us. We took pictures and I saw genuine smiles on everyone’s faces. And I got a group picture of their entire family, all together. There had just been so much happening, and no real “reason” to take group pictures, so it was nice to have a reason to get everyone together. I know I will cherish the pictures from that night and I hope they will too.
On another evening I kidnapped all the kids and took them swimming with my friend Brittany and her crew. She does foster care and never knows what size kids will be at her house on any given day so she had ‘all the things’ needed for a proper pool party. It was so tender for me to have another friend, who didn’t know Melia, care about me enough to then also care about my friend and her family and go above and beyond in helping care for Melia’s kids in this way. Again it was amazing to see the kids just be kids again for a bit, and enjoy the pool, pizza, and other kids to play with.
Tuesday, before I left for Kansas, the hospice nurse came to visit. I truly believe that hospice nurses are literal angels on earth. And Carson is an angel too. And it was like those of us in the room had stepped into heaven for just a minute as we watched one angel teaching the other angel how to care for his dying wife. She was so patient as they went through each of Melia’s meds and talked about how to administer them since she wasn’t swallowing pills anymore. I feel honored to be one of the few that was in the room. I was also glad I could call on my parents to come pick up the kids and take them to the park while the nurse was there so the adults could focus. And the kids had a great time at the splash pad.
I also got to help get Melia’s childhood room ready for a hospital bed to be delivered. At first I was so sad, thinking about what that meant, that she really was declining that much. But so much peace rushed over me as I thought about how comforting it must have been for Melia to be living in her childhood home, surrounded by so much love, and finally back in her childhood bedroom. The tenderness of getting to help felt so sweet to me.
Sometimes your friends know things about you that your spouse doesn’t know, and sometimes your spouse knows things the friends don’t know. And sometimes when those two people get together they can make a little magic happen. When I had first curled up with Melia on the couch and was whispering to her things we could do together, I mentioned sushi. Her eyes lit up. But when I asked if she was hungry then, she said no. It was either later that day or the next day that she told us she was hungry. Multiple things were offered to her but none sounded appetizing. Then I brought up sushi. She immediately said, “yes sushi!” But when I asked her what kind she wanted she wasn’t able to tell me. So Carson and I put our heads together. I told him what I remembered her eating when she and I had gone out together, and he had never heard of her eating such a thing. Then he told me what she had when the two of them would go out and I had never seen her eat that. So, like the amazing people we are, we ordered both, hoping she’d eat at least a little of one or the other. Well, she must have been hungry because she ate two full plates full of sushi, more than she had eaten in days. We were all just in shock, and so happy that she was so pleased with what she was eating, and that she was getting needed calories.
I could go on and on talking about my time with Melia. For now this will do. I will cherish all the photos that I have with her. Especially the ones my mom took for me of my hugs goodbye to my friend. I don’t know if she knew how close to death she was when she asked me “when are you coming back?” I knew that no matter how soon I came, it wouldn’t be soon enough to see her again. I just told her “I hope real soon.” And we hugged one last time, and I left. Although I will never hold her hand again, or hug her body, I know I will see her again some day. In some other realm we will meet again. And I am in no hurry for that day to come, but I know when it does, it will be such a sweet reunion.
Melia McVay passed away, surrounded by family and love on Aug 10, 2022, just 8 days after I said goodbye to her. I am so glad I didn’t wait. So as I said at the very beginning of this post, don’t wait to hug your loved ones and tell them you love them! Melia was 40! Breast cancer took her way too young! She has left behind a husband and 3 young kids, parents, her brother and his family, and so many other family and friends! Death is unfair. Cancer is unfair. Other tragedies happen too. So please, give everyone an extra hug today.
To my dearest Melia, I love you so much! Thank you for being my friend and touching my life in all the ways you have! You are so greatly missed by me and everyone who knows you! All my love, Kendra
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