I’ve violated one of the cardinal rules of blogging here, in making this so long. But it’s from the heart and I won’t apologize for its length. Below is a repost from another blog I own. I moved it here, because it’s a part of my soul– a tribute I originally wrote over two years ago, after the death of my best friend, Melissa (Missy) Ridings. RIP, my dear. I still miss you every single, damned day.
Your daddy said that we had to tell you, “It’s okay to let go.” I failed at that at the hospital. In fact, I did the opposite, standing there and begging you, relentlessly. “Hold on, my love. Don’t leave us. Don’t leave me.” It was selfish of me. On life support after a sudden stroke, stricken down way, way too young. No. You’d not have liked to live like that. Your dad was right. But those must be the most horrific, devastating words a parent can say about their child.
I thought there was a moment of clarity in those last moments with you, that maybe you realized I was there. God, I wish I knew that was true. Now, I’m stuck on this side of heaven, wondering. There’s so much more I wanted to say.
I failed at the funeral to say these words, too. Your sister spoke about you and there wasn’t strength in me at the time to follow her beautiful eloquence. I had only stunned pain in my heart that day, numbing me like a fog. But now, I can get the thoughts out through my writing, which you always were so supportive of. It seems fitting to use written words as a permanent mark to celebrate what you eternally etched into my soul.
We have traveled together long enough and now you are going ahead of me. You always were an individualist, walking to your own beat, following your own path and creating your own rules. I’m not surprised that between the two of us, you went first, given this free spirit mentality.
I just ache horribly that it has to be so terribly soon.
Last night I found a Christmas card you sent me from 2010. (Only you could find an Elvis Christmas card…btw.) You wrote, “Thank you for being my best friend. I love you more than you’ll ever know. Together we can make it through 2010 and love every minute of it! Merry Christmas.”
It was one of many cards you sent over the years to me. Me? I’m the nut job who fails at conventional stuff, forgetting to mail cards or neglecting to buy a stamp until its several months past the event.
You, in all the years we were friends, never missed a holiday or birthday. Not once. And you never commented that I was lacking social graces in this matter of sending cards or gifts at appropriate times. I hope to God I didn’t disappoint you with my stupidity.
If I had overs, I’d shower you with cards every damn day of all twentyish years I knew you.
You never complained that the loner in me would flake out and cancel at the last minute often, because I couldn’t “do” people on that particular day. To me intimacy is a steel trap and when it gets too close I bolt from the confines, unless I can control how much I let people in.
But you didn’t try to “fix” me when I struggled with relationships or when I let you down.Sometimes, you’d flake out too and cancel on me, but I never attributed it to “getting even”– simply just a shared flaky gene. I still remember you playfully warning guys I dated that I had “that look” in my eye which meant I was going to turn into “hit and run girl” and suddenly leave him in the dust. You made me laugh at the thing I’ve struggled with all my life, because you knew and understood how much pain it had brought me and your teasing wasn’t hurtful, but born out of a kindred soul sharing.
You were my wingman in Prada, complete with a purse that cost as much as a compact car.
Miss, I’m not sure how I’ll be without the “together” part in the years to come. Together we made it through nearly two decades that encompassed my cancer, your medley of ongoing health problems and our mutual marriages and divorces and career ups and downs, each with our share of praises and tears. Over the years, we took turns sitting in the hospital, keeping watch or visiting when one or the other of us was ill or we had sick family members. Even when you were in ICU years ago over Christmas, we still laughed together because you had that gift for spreading joy, no matter the crappy circumstances.
My kids and your precious nieces grew up during our friendship, our parents started checking out retirement plans and we got a few wrinkles (gasp) along the way. We shared numerous New Years, took a few glorious trips together and went out and partied a bit (okay, more than a bit). But it was the day to day stuff that you and I celebrated most.
Over the years, we semi-stalked a few ex boyfriends and laughed at our own antics. Because together, we’d learned, “Gee. Not everyone is what they say they are.” A realization we found both painful and incredibly humorous at times.
I remember the night I operated on gut instinct (and goaded by you) and trailed one of my soon-to-be ex’s on a bitterly cold night in January. You stayed on the phone with me the whole night during the stalking episode, when we together found out he wasn’t “home sleeping” (alone) like he had told me…oops. And, even though my heart was literally breaking in half– you made me laugh over the craziness of the situation– standing there in that driveway knee deep in snow, phone in hand giving you a minute by minute breakdown of the events, whilst watching my guy kiss and grope another girl and contemplating his impending doom and potential places to hide his body.
That was the beauty of you– my love. You understood me at the DNA level of my soul. Had there been an actual boyfriend body to get rid of, you’d probably have been GPSing a place to hide it and showing up with a shovel and a thermos of coffee.
Our phone call that night and thousands of others kept me sane in an insane world.
There was the night of the 200 dollar bar tab when we (you) insisted on buying drinks for every human being in the sleazy dive of a place we were in. It was all great fun until we realized that the dive was a cash only bar and we had to empty our purses and throw a pile of change and a tattered personal check on the table and slink out the door before we got arrested or beat up for not paying…So glad we didn’t get hauled off to jail. We both look awful in orange.
There were the shopping trips where you bought up every expensive, crazy, dog outfit for “Junior” your beloved, spoiled micro-pooch, who despised me (and almost everyone else, except your dad). Hopefully, all dogs don’t go to heaven.
When I did bite the bullet and opted to get engaged and attempt a second marriage, you knew me well enough to offer this matrimonial advice, “Don’t fucking do it,” and your sage words for the happy couple also included, “What the fuck are you thinking?”
In the end, you were loving enough to support me wholeheartedly when I foolishly went ahead with it. You even talked some random older-than-the-hills guy to strip down to his boxers at my bachelorette party right in the bar and had some other guy text messaging us pictures of his privates from the bathroom—all so I’d have a “memorable” night. OMG. It was memorable, especially as I look at the pictures and recall how you flashed the “girls” for the camera in the bar, too.
You were there at my wedding to celebrate, both you and Vicky (our other dear friend and wingman). And when that second marriage crashed almost within days, you didn’t give me an, “I told you so” (which I REALLY deserved) but instead a warm shoulder. (Although you did tease me about the marriage lasting less time than it took to have a pedicure, and it honestly did.)
I can’t even imagine how many hundreds of changes in hair colors or styles we’ve had too—some of which were fodder for years of laugher… You do remember the drunken dye job that Vicky and I did? The one that bleached my hair so pale, it turned clear and you could see my entire scalp? You literally peed your pants laughing so hard.
Then there was your own hair crisis, when your bangs that melted and fell off your head during a straightening event, which resulted in an emergency fix. (Forever called, “The Weave”) And we laughed and laughed, while lesser women would mourn these events or hide in a closet till their hair grew back.
You never forgot anything I told you. You remembered with that sharp brain of yours and kept up to date with my life—whether we talked fifteen minutes prior or two weeks had lapsed between conversations. You never betrayed a confidence and you never looked at nutty me and told me I was a wacko, even though I am excessively, schizoid and wacky. (It’s taken years of therapy to be semi-functional, so it’s true. I am nuts).
You adored me for me, even in spite of me.
In the sea of the humans we meet, it’s rare to find one that can love you as you are. It’s even rarer to love that person back just as much.
You had my back, through thick and thin and you were always “in”… You were the gift I got in life through an unexpected turn of events and I was always grateful for that.
Melissa, you will forever be the person that best embodied life as a strong and visible force to be reckoned with. You didn’t just go to places or events, you “owned” them, with that wonderful personality of yours. Every stranger was your friend by the time we left. That was your special gift and it was amazing to behold.
It was my great honor to be included in your life and that vicariously of your family, whether through texting, coffee breaks, phone calls, visits, or trips away. I looked at my phone bills from February and March 2007 and estimated that we had about 600 minutes between us in those two months alone. I don’t even want to think about how many text messages and land line minutes there were on top of that. Egad.
That’s the funny thing about our friendship. You and I didn’t have to be physically in the same space to share things. Yeah, we did spend time together, but our friendship was the sort that was connected in larger ways. Almost telepathically, girlfriend, you knew when I was hurting or going through something “huge” and we stayed intertwined in spite of busy, conflicting schedules and chaotic events that kept us apart. We often said that it didn’t matter how long it was since we laid eyes on each other, we could pick it up instantly when we were together again. And over nearly two decades we did just that.
I’m really hoping that even though you’ve gone to heaven, there is still that connection here. That I feel you near or when I hear a song or have a story to tell, somehow I know you are “there” with me. I think my life will lose so much joy without your wonderful story telling and your priceless expressions that cracked me up, but I can endure it if I just feel you nearby.
The human, selfish side of me can’t imagine a world without my phone ringing and you on the other end with some crazy drama, inside jokes, gossip or truly, hysterically funny event.
It’s inconceivable that you won’t ever call back and make my life better, via a combination of collective brainstorming, plotting, laughing or tears.
It’s impossible for me to think I can’t send a 911 text to you anymore. Period.
To use your own words, “un-fucking believable.” And Melissa, you really were my life raft. You literally saved my life more than once.
I wonder, as I write this, if my unlimited cell data plan includes coverage to heaven? If you were here, you’d crack up at that last comment and you’d counter with some outrageous statement back. I also wonder if you’ll be the sole person in heaven with a smart phone, keeping track of everyone up there and texting St. Peter and telling him what his schedule is for the day, while getting your nails done.
I suspect heaven will be a lot livelier with you present. There might be some real hell raising, (pardon the pun)…I wonder if you’ll have a karaoke bar, a heck of a big dance floor and a replica of Graceland up there. If there isn’t such a thing already in heaven, my guess is there will soon be, complete with Elvis, serenading you daily. On an alternate note, I could also see you ensconced in an upscale dog clothing store, shelling out frilly dresses and personalized leather jackets as part of the heavenly reward for deserving canines. I know it’s irreverent of me to say so, but it’s hard for me to imagine you keeping your mouth shut for an eternity without a few colorful, well-timed adjectives, one liners and jokes. Heaven won’t be the quiet place it was only a few days ago. (Just don’t cook for anyone up there okay? We don’t want a rash of food poisoning amongst the heavenly beings).
You were such an eclectic mix, Miss. A self described redneck with roots in the hollers of Kentucky, who dressed like a fashion model, (with perennially perfect nails) and the sharpest mind of almost anyone I’ve known. You related to everyone you met, regardless of their background, age or gender. People didn’t just like you— they adored you because of this quality.
You idolized Loretta Lynn, belting out Coal Miner’s Daughter on almost…every…single…road trip. (It was also your favorite movie) OMG. On the day you were buried, I listened to a mix I’d made of your girl, Loretta, and found the tears streaming down my face unchecked. You’ll be pleased to know I actually like her music now, because it’s one of my last ties to you on this Earth.
Elvis was your sovereign king and Graceland was like holy ground to you, too. I’m making a trip there this spring, sweetie and I promise to swoon at least once, just for you.
You’d call yourself a “fat girl” and I never saw it. No one did, Melissa, because all anyone that knew you could see was this beautiful, beautiful woman inside and out that held herself like a class act, but could turn bawdy in a heartbeat or light up a room like no one else I’ve ever known. You took on the roles of aunt, sister, daughter, healer, friend and consummate professional and did each to the best of your abilities with no holds barred. What was yours to give– whether time, energy, effort or resources– you gave and gave freely.
I can’t imagine another human being as full of life, as openly honest about some areas, yet so painfully vulnerable. You often hid large pieces of who you were from those closest. We all knew you only gave us a sliver of the total picture, but the fragments we were blessed to see, were more than enough for us to know we had a rare gem of a human being in our lives. I respected how much you struggled with your own issues and overcame them, and more so, because at times you gave us a glimmer of brutal honesty with these areas. And even tiny glimpses of your inner pain sometimes took my breath away. But you’d bounce back again and again, flashing that ten million dollar smile.
I know you struggled over the years trying to reconcile your overflowing (and sometimes shocking) personality with the “classic” Christian persona. I think God has always loved the Melissa he made, each aspect of you and who you are. You weren’t a “classic” Christian, but you were intent on protecting those you loved, spreading joy around and unselfishly doing for others. I think those things count for God, just as much as sitting in church or joining a Bible study. I think you’ll find the harmony you so desperately sought in life up there in heaven. I think Jesus wiped those tears away with his own hand and you are at peace at last, but somehow still vibrant and sassy.
Keep the lights on and the coffee warm for me. (Can you make sure it’s not that dreadful mocha/latte/skinny/double/ disgusting mixture you called “coffee”?) When I get there, we will have a heck of a lot of catching up to do.
I had always hoped that we’d be like the ladies in The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, toting our emergency Vodka and coming to rescue each other into our old age, you, me and Vicky. But God has a different plan and I can’t be selfish. I will wish forever though, that I spent more time with you. Forever, I will wish I answered that last text message only an hour before you fell suddenly and fatally ill. I can’t undo these things. I hope you forgive me for my failings. I hope you know my heart was always with you.
In life, you’ve laughed much, but you’ve also cried volumes of tears, my love. Your big heart was tender and you were wounded often by life, deeply so. Where you are now, there will be no more tears, only the infectious sound of your laughter for eternity. You –more so than anyone– have earned forever joy. You spread laughter, joy and love here. Now it’s your turn to receive even more than you gave, only God can do that much.
Till I can see you face to face, I will keep you in my heart each day of this journey. I will laugh like a crazy fool at private jokes that only you and I shared while in public places. I’ll buy a stupidly ridiculously expensive purse in your honor and I’ll try to embrace some of the joy of life you imparted.
I’ll never be the same without you, but I’m a better person today and every damned day because of you.
All my love,
Your forever friend and sister of the heart.