4 years ago today a good friend of mine passed away after a heroic battle with cancer shortly after giving birth to her third child. It changed me for life. After being with her in her last months, I returned back to Vancouver later with such a passion to believe God that the next person I prayed for with cancer would be healed. I just wanted that so bad.
Mel and I had been friends since high school. Her beautiful sister Tamara and I graduated together, and Melanie was in the grade below us. We all worked at the same summer camp, attended the same choirs, were in the same theatre performances. These two girls together sang like angels, and I always admired and respected their whole family. They were beautiful inside and out, talented, loved God, and loved people. Mel first got diagnosed with a brain tumour when she was 16. It was surreal for everyone, but miraculously she overcame it for a few years. It came back twice, after that.
I have so many memories of life with Mel. We got engaged around the same time, I sang at her wedding, she was in mine. We traveled to Taiwan with our new husbands, spent our first Christmases there together. We appeared on tv together, she spoke, I sang. She was a hero to me in all that she had overcome, and she spoke with such beauty and grace. She trusted God for her life and it shone out of her.
It doesn’t seem like it’s been 4 years, as I can remember every detail of the 2 months we spent with her before she went to Heaven. In the last weeks with her, our family moved back to Medicine Hat just to be with her, her husband Kevin, and the family. I didn’t imagine myself anywhere else, and it was strange that most people around me were more confused why we would do that – take time out of our lives to be with a friend who was in hospital with a tumour, and pregnant. It baffled me actually how much support we didn’t get and people were more concerned about our paycheques. Our family however were supportive in every way possible. We moved in one of the bedrooms at my parents house, while my older brother and his wife and 4 kids were on the other side as they had just returned from traveling and were in the midst of buying a place. So, here we were. 11 of us in my parents house lol. It was a little crazy, but it was an amazing divine blessing, as our kids were looked after by their amazing auntie Aaron, uncle Jean-Paul and cousins, so we could go to the hospital everyday. We slept in one room, and it was an adventure! That was also a year we home schooled, so we were mobile and had the ability to stay longer in Medicine Hat. I remember Kevin calling us on Christmas Eve to come to the hospital, and our family didn’t hesitate to let us go. We ended up taking our guitars and just playing for Mel in hospital that night. We had a lady come to our room to ask what the music was. She said her mother was across the hall and wasn’t expected to make it through the night, and our music was bringing her peace. That day changed the way I even thought about the power music. For that family, it was bringing them peace, for Stace and I it encouraged us and what we were meant to do in life.
Mel gave birth to a beautiful baby girl Jirah, and a few weeks after went to be with God. The night before she passed I had turned off my cell phone for one of the first times in my life. Being in youth ministry and music, I just seemed to have it on in case. But after all the late nights I had and messages that weren’t that important, I just thought, it’ll be ok for one night, right. Yep, that morning Kevin had been trying to reach us to come and pray as Mel had passed away. I got the message a few hours later and then went to the hospital, but to this day it’s hard for me to turn my phone off at night.
There we were friends and family surrounding her. Her Dad and Mom – Ken and Donna -were there as she was ushered in to Heaven. Her whole family were amazing to me.
I had the privilege of singing at her funeral, which was probably one of the hardest things I have ever done, although one of the best times I have ever sang. The funeral was a true celebration of the incredible woman that Melanie was.
Today I remember her, but also the incredible family that is still here today. Tamara, you are still one of my heroes, and you are such a beautiful mother, friend and daughter, and I think Melanie was such a beautiful woman, because she had such an incredible example in you as her amazing older sister. As I write in tears, my prayers are with you and your family as you remember your sister today. Nothing can replace her, and she will always be in our hearts.