Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Friends' Tribute to Melanie

Friends' Tribute to Melanie as read by her friends Sandra Nickel and Karen Schroeder at Melanie's Celebration of Life Service, August 28th, 2015

Sandra: My name is Sandra and Karen and I are privileged to stand up here and share some thoughts about our dear friend Mel with you.  My friendship with Mel started in our teens where we met at Turtle Mountain Bible Camp counseling together.  We became fast friends and our friendship has continued to grow over the years.  When Darryl and Mel got married and moved into the same apartment building as my husband and I, we knew our friendship would last, cause not many could handle “that” smell and the very fashionable flooring décor.

Karen:  My name is Karen and there’s a bit of a debate on when Mel and I first met. Mel thinks it was at my parent’s farm during a church function after her and Darryl had started attending.  But I think it might have first been in our last year of university at U of M when we were in the same class pursuing our education degree.  Either way, we met a long time ago and Mel and Darryl quickly became important parts of our lives.  We know that we represent a much larger circle of friends that were dear to her heart and were impacted by Mel in profound ways.

Sandra:  Mel had such a special way of drawing people in and building meaningful relationships.  She got energy from people.  She loved travelling with friends, going on girls weekends away and women’s retreats and playing bunco with her Whyte Ridge ladies.  Late nights have been spent around the fire pit in their back yard and cooler evenings in the hot tub catching up on life.  Darryl and Mel loved to have fun with friends and would often be joined on camping trips, water skiing and snowmobiling excursions, sports teams, or any reason to get together to share some laughs and good conversation.

Karen:  Many evenings have been spent around their kitchen table, where it was often observed that Mel usually won the game, unless she let Darryl win.  She didn’t have to cheat to get the upper hand.  Mel and Darryl have opened up their home generously to so many of us making time for people –old friends and new.  Mel looked for ways to get to know people. She put people before projects and her relationships were her priority.  This is evidenced by all of you here today.  Mel’s spiritual walk was also shaped in community. Over a decade has been spent together in small group learning, sharing, praying and caring for each other and just doing life together.  We will treasure our many years where we were able to grow up in Jesus together.

Sandra:  I have had the honor of calling Mel my friend; to have known her like a sister and the privilege of being a part of her life.  We have shared a special bond as dear friends.  We have done life together.  Mel and I have helped celebrated life’s joys and sat beside each other through the storms life throws.  We have shared secrets, surprises and laughter.  We leaned on each other for support when we could not stand on our own.  When she first went back to work after Kira was born, I had the opportunity to take of care of Kira.  When I went back to school to get my degree, she was the one who understood what it took and even became my editor, reading a couple of my papers.  From the start of our friendship we made a conscious effort to connect to chat or get together regularly.  We have loved, cherished, enjoyed, shared and prayed, debated theology, listened and advised each other and told one another the painful truth when we needed to.  We had a relationship so special to me that is hard to put into words.  Our children have described the time with Aunty Mel and Uncle Darryl as a blast.  In their words – “Aunty Mel has shown them what it means to be a child of God and has demonstrated how to give your life fully for Him no matter what the circumstances.”  When cancer became a part of Mel’s journey, Mondays were the hardest for her, so in order to help ease those days; we would share Monday’s together.  At the start, it was chemo/radiation those days, not exactly fun for her.   After those Mondays were over, it was about getting strong both physically and mentally, which meant physio appts and long walks; I always had a hard time keeping up with her and her long legs!  It was a time of sharing deeply the things she was learning during this journey and figuring out what God desires for us, it was a time of crying, laughter and praying.  I just loved the comfort of being together and not feeling the pressure to say anything.  My days felt full and satisfying when they included time with Mel.  I loved bringing her flowers and Starbuck treats – in fact towards the end; it was the Starbuck refresher drink that brought a sparkle to her eye, not seeing me. J During our last conversation she said “sorry to cut this short”.  I know that it was in reference to something else, but looking back at it now, I too am sad that our doing life together was cut short.  To paraphrase Isadora James - She was a gift for my heart, a friend to my spirit, and a golden thread to the meaning of my life. 

Karen:  Now, I have to say, there were some things that drove me a little crazy about Mel. First of all, she was good at everything she picked up, she made any sport look easy and then she could sit in the sun for 5 minutes and have a golden tan for the rest of the year!  Really, who else is able to do all that!?!  Mel’s loyal friendship is one that I will treasure forever.  Mel has been there in my highs and lows of life. She stepped up, in such a huge, sacrificial way to care for my oldest  when my heart broke to go back to work after several years off.  Mel went to such lengths to keep me in touch with his day, complete with a journal of what he all ate and did, and even took pictures of him (for blackmail I’m sure) of his short hairdressing career with Teagan and Kira as his clients and of him playing in the sprinkler wearing Kira’s girly, pink bathing suit bottoms.  She modeled for me what it looked like to balance family life and a teaching career and to thrive while doing it, cheering me on.  Mel showed love in practical ways, coming over to help during bath and bed times when our hands and lives were full after our twins were born, with 2 babies and 2 other little ones running around.  Over the past few years I’ve been privileged to have Thursdays off and it was a standing date that Mel and I would spend part of the day together.  We usually loved going on long walks and sometimes we thrift store shopped for bargains, a new skill I have developed, learning from the best! J  I was so excited when Mel FINALLY grew up and started drinking coffee in more recent years, as I could now “pick up a coffee with her” on our excursions.  After Mel became sick, our times together looked a little different and we would go to her radiation, physio and dr appointments or run errands and complete jobs in the house that needed to be done. I always left these times together feeling so blessed, encouraged and challenged as we shared our hearts. It is rare when you are truly known by someone.  We have cared for each other, praying for our dreams, marriages, children and the things we hold dear.  Mel was real and in being real together, she challenged me to grow deeper in my faith and in my relationships. There have been many times this past week that I wished I could just ask Mel about something.  Her life as a teacher far out-stretched her classroom walls.

Sandra:  Now it may sound like Mel was perfect – but she also was flawed and no one knew that better then her.  It was in these flaws she saw the need for Jesus in her life.  Three or four years back, I remember seeing a change in Mel. She had such a deep, personal desire to serve the Lord and to really know Him. She knew then already that God was calling her and Darryl to something new, and although she didn't know what it was, she knew it was important and that it was going to be big.   No one could have predicated it would be this journey, not even her.  Even though it was hard and the suffering and pain was not easy - she continued to seek out God’s will for her life.  She lived intentionally in all of this and shared her journey with many, being open, honest and vulnerable through her blog and speaking engagements.  She was faithful and obedient to God, even when the journey was so hard.

Karen:  Mel not only taught us how to live well, but she also showed us how to die well.  A year ago when Mel was told by her oncologist that the cancer had spread and was now terminal, she was advised to go home and build a legacy.  Mel struggled with that, “how do you go home and build a legacy?”  How do you live your life while preparing to die?” Well, Mel showed us how to do exactly that.  She showed us how to embrace today, for that is what we are given, and to hand over our tomorrow, to our Creator, who holds it.  She showed us how to love people and place them as priority and to live intentionally, loving and serving.  Over the last 2 years, we've had many conversations about life and death.  Fears and future concerns, asking hard questions of God and praying for the tomorrows.  What a privilege it has been for us to be on this faith journey together.  

Sandra:  It was just over a year ago when the song “Glorious Unfolding” became very special to Mel, Darryl and the girls.  It was just after her surgery couldn’t take place last year and the future was dark and fearful. The song became a beacon of hope for Mel that God wasn’t finished with them, that their story was just beginning and that good would still come.  We know we still have hope in Jesus and that the story will not end here on earth.  Her new chapter has just begun.

Karen:  Darryl: we know Mel is the love of your life and you were hers.  We can say with experience and honesty her face lit up when she talked about you - except maybe when you were STILL out golfing. J  Know that you loved Mel well and served her tenderly.  You truly were a team in your marriage.  As her friends, we are so very grateful for that and couldn’t ask for anyone to have done that better. 

Sandra:  Kira and Teagan:  through all of this, her fight was for you.  Her love for you will never end.  We see so much of your mom in you and know that you will continue her legacy of loving people and walking with Jesus.

Karen:  To Mel’s friends whom we represent here today:  know that she treasured you, loved you and prayed for you daily.  She would want you to carry on, but more importantly she would want you to extend and share yourself with those around you, just like she did for you. She would want you to live well and with purpose just as she did, seeking Jesus and investing in the eternal. She could only have traveled this road because you were there, walking this journey with her together.  

Sandra:  Melanie to us, your friends, you are:
His Light
Godly and Wise
Encouraging and Kind
Generous and Present
His Servant
Loyal and Dependable
A Blessing
Strong and Courageous
A True Friend
Beautiful and Devoted
His Beloved who He Delights in

Karen:  Mel, our Sister in Christ, we are so thankful that this is not goodbye and not the end. We know where you are and Who holds you now.  Mel, you have fought the good fight, finished the race and kept the faith.  Well done, good and faithful servant.

Sandra:  Mel, you are His beloved, in whom He delights.  You are in His glorious unfolding. 

(Original Painting called "First to Arrive" by Rosalie Olsen, Melanie's friend)

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