About three hours ago I found out that an old friend of mine had died of cancer this morning. Just two days ago I found out that she was even sick and had only weeks to live. I guess God decided to take her a little earlier than her doctors had estimated. Needless to say, I am in shock. Melanie was younger than me by a couple of years, and she and her husband had only been married for two. She was a young, vibrant, strong-willed woman, and I am saddened by her passing.
I guess one thing that has been hard about this was that Melanie and I had lost touch over the years. There was no particular reason for that. It just happened.
I met Melanie in 1997 when I was working for a theatre company in California. We were in The Sound of Music together. She was in the ensemble and I was Uncle Max. The two of us developed a close friendship. Part of that stemmed from the fact that we were both Christian and didn't drink or smoke or sleep around like some of our fellow co-workers. I'm not judging my other coworkers, honest! It was just nice to have someone to talk to that I related to. She was of a different faith than I and, actually, had some misconceptions about Mormons when I met her.
At the time I met Melanie, I was still in the closet and trying hard to like girls. She and I hung out as friends, although I know she wanted more. Melanie was a good friend, but I wasn't at all attracted to her physically nor at the time did I feel an interfaith relationship would work, so I declined her advances. Still, we were good friends. She made feel good about myself and instilled confidence in me at a time when I was feeling somewhat insecure.
There are two things I fondly remember about her. One was that I remember going to a coffee shop with her late one night. We played Star Wars Monopoly, and I kicked her butt. Then we stayed at the coffee shop just talking for hours into the morning until it was so late (or early) that we had to go home to get some sleep. The other thing I remember was taking a trip with her to Anaheim and L.A. We went to the Movieland Wax Museum in Anaheim, a place I had fondly loved as a child, and then we went to Hollywood and went to Grauman's Chinese Theatre. I remember it was shortly after Frank Sinatra had died because his block of cement had flowers all around it. We also took a walk on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and lay down on the ground next to the stars of celebrities we liked and took each others pictures. I still have those photos and was looking at them a couple of hours ago, remembering my vibrant friend.
I later started dating a mutual friend and felt guilty because I knew Melanie had been interested in me, and I didn't want to hurt her feelings. I think she was a bit hurt, but she was cool about it, and I always admired the fact that she took the high road and that we still remained good friends.
Eventually, I left my job in California and moved back to Utah, and Melanie and I continued to email each other and update each other on the goings-on in our respective lives. Somehow, that dissipated after a few years. Like I said, there was no particular reason. It just happened as it sometimes does. Semi-annually I did send mass email updates out to all my friends, including her, and I assume she received them. Every once in a while I would hear an update from her from a mutual friend. When my ex-girlfriend told me that Melanie had become engaged to the guy she eventually married, I was so happy for her because I knew that was something she really wanted, and I was glad that she had found, by all accounts, a man she loved who loved her in return.
Two days ago my ex-girlfriend (who now lives in Missouri) informed me that she, herself, had just found out that Melanie was dying and knew that I would want to know. I no longer had Melanie's phone number, but still had an email for her and wrote her telling her how much her friendship had always meant to me and that I was sorry we had lost touch. It is doubtful she ever read it. From what I understand, these last couple of days she was weak and bedridden. Her breathing was very shallow this morning, and the only time she opened her eyes was when her husband said, "I love you, Mel."
I am sure Melanie knew how much I valued her and her friendship at a time when I especially needed it, but it would have been nice to tell her one last time before she passed. It reminded me how much we need to let people know how we feel about them while they're still here.
I guess what I lament the most is the fact that her husband, who loved her so much, lost her so quickly and so soon. He said he had lost his best friend, and that got me to thinking about how much I love my partner, Jonah.
In my last post or so, I think I mentioned I was unemployed and back in Vegas with Jonah. That only lasted three weeks. I then got a surprise job offer to do a show in Utah. Jonah and I both agreed I should take it, and although I am very grateful for the job, I was looking forward to a summer with Jonah, and I miss him a lot. My friend's sudden death reminded me just how valuable Jonah is to me and how much I wish we could spend more time together. He is one of the most important people to me. I also thought of my mom, who is getting up in years, and who is one of my best friends. Although she is healthy, I also know that relatively it won't be too many years before she is gone as well. And I know I will see all my loved ones again, but Melanie's death reminded me how precious the relationships we have with our loved ones are.
I made the mistake of watching a somewhat emotional episode of the TV show "Friday Night Lights," and I just started crying; not over Melanie, per se, but because I was so, so happy that I have Jonah in my life. I was reading through the new issue of The Ensign today and read an article about agency, and it, of course, was saying that we must use our agency wisely and that when we disobey the commandments, we become captive to wickedness, and as I read that I thought to myself, "I can definitively say with no regret that I am glad I used my agency to be with Jonah even if it meant sacrificing my membership in the church." Perhaps that sounds awful, but it's how I feel. Jonah has made my life richer and brought me so much happiness and joy that I never felt when I was trying so hard to be a "good" member.
I still go to church. I still love many things about the church. I still maintain a great deal of loyalty and praise for the religion I grew up in. But I do not regret my relationship for Jonah one bit, and how that plays out in the eternities is up to God, but I know I feel true happiness in my relationship with Jonah, and true happiness does not come from the adversary.
Thanks, Melanie, my old friend, for bringing so much light into my life and into the lives of so many others. I know I will see you again some day. I was blessed by your presence. I know your light still shines. My prayers to your husband and your respective families. God bless you all.