Thank you all for your continued loved and support. It means more than words can say.
There are no actual words that exist that can tell you of our family’s love for Missy. There are no stories I can write that will truly capture her magic, but magic is exactly what she was. She possessed a power of making those she loved feel special. She made you feel important. She listened and really heard what you said. She gave the best hugs, somehow making it feel as if she was wrapping you in love. She was fun, and oh, was she funny. She was feisty, and would defend those she loved to the bitter end. She loved music and to dance. She loved her friends and her family so fiercely that we could use that love as a supporting structure to define who we are. Missy held those around her up with her love and loyalty. She had the ability to make you feel better than you are, just by being loved by her.
When Missy was little she would do things to make sure we noticed her. I am sure that comes along with being the baby of the family, but at the time it can drive a sister crazy. I remember when we would be eating bowls of ice cream around the table; she would eat hers as fast as she could so she could go play. When she was done, she would jump up and dance around and say “I’m done fir-rst! I’m done Fir-rst!” After a few times of being taunted with being too slow of ice cream eaters it became a race. All three of us bound and determined to take the top spot. When finally the day came that I finished first, I jumped up and said “I’m done! I AM DONE FIRST!” I was prepared to bask in the glory of finishing my ice cream at what was honestly an unenjoyable and alarming pace. I thought she would gracefully admit her defeat, but instead she looked at me and sang “I have Mo-re, I Have Mo-re!” There was no beating Missy. Either way, she won.
It was around Missy’s middle school years that the three sisters truly began to change to being best friends. We were always close. I remember from a young age our mom telling us again and again how lucky we were to be given sisters, that they would forever be our closest friends. That we would always be together, that we could always depend on each other, than nobody would ever know us better than our sisters. And as Missy started middle school we started to realize it was true. We didn’t just love each other as sisters; we loved each other as friends. The three of us would pile on the couch, watching hour after hour of Road Rules marathons or beloved movies like Dirty Dancing or Sister Act 2… we had great taste, obviously. As we grew we loved going places together. First around town, like when she begged me to take dad’s truck to McDonalds the first day I got my license, only to have me knock the keys out of the ignition at a four way stop and have them fly under the seat. I had to climb out and search for them, holding up a huge line of traffic, all while she just sank lower and lower in the passenger seat so nobody would see her. As we grew we took trips everywhere together. Every trip could be made better by including our sisters. We went to Vegas, New York, South Carolina, and Washington DC; we went to cabins, to shopping outlets, to the beach, we didn’t really care where we were going. We just loved being together.
Of all of the places we went together, Pensacola beach will always and forever be our families second home. Oh, how Missy loved it there. The memories those beaches have given our family are priceless. From the first trips when she was tiny, visiting with our Great grandmother, dancing on the deck with our cousins; to trips as teenagers, full of music and sun and maybe a few boys; trips with just her and our parents, her and mom antiquing together, her and Dad watching movies; to our trip this past year when we were back again, surrounded by the babies, showing them the beach that we have loved for so long. Aunt Mimi, out helping the babies build their sand castles and chanting “kick! Kick! Kick!” while she helped teach Henry to swim in the pool. Pensacola was in her soul, and it is even more in ours now. White sands, sun, memories together. We are so grateful for those moments.
Our family grew close through family vacations, but also through our weekly family night dinners. We started the tradition when Missy was in elementary school, setting aside one night a week to just be together. To laugh, talk and listen. To really take the time to know what is going on in each other’s lives. It was wonderful when we were young, and it was a tradition that still continues to this day. But for Missy, commonly one night of family a week was simply not enough. She needed more. She would call and see what we were doing, commonly joining someone in the family for dinner several nights a week, just because she loved being with us. She took the time and effort to have very special and personal relationships with each member of our family. Mom, Dad, Boo, Me, Nick, Chris, Henry and Darcy. She loved each one of us so much. Individually. Uniquely. She loved us for exactly who we truly are. And she showed that love daily by always being around us. By taking an interest in the things we were interested in. By telling us every single time we were together how much she loves us, how lucky she feels to be a part of this family. When in reality, we were the ones that were so lucky, so incredibly blessed, to have her.
In 2008, after graduating from Sullivan University, Melissa began working in Cancer Research at Central Baptist Hospital. It was a field she was so proud to be working in. It was amazing to see how that pride in herself and her work helped her to become such a confident and amazing adult. We had always treated Missy as the baby, and she embraced that role, but with this career change she felt her life was truly and completely under her control, and she loved where it was going. She made amazing and loyal friends while at Central Baptist, friends that would help her through the struggles of the last two and half years. We are so thankful for the Cancer Research team. Both for them seeing the potential in Melissa and bringing her on to their team as an employee, and for the amazing care and support they gave her during her battle with cancer. We will forever be grateful to them, as well as to the National Institute of Health, for the quality time they gave us with our sweet Melissa over these last two and a half years.
The day Missy’s nephew Henry was born in 2009 Missy cried. It was an emotional day, and we all cried, so it wasn’t unusual. But the funny thing with Missy was that she kept crying. Every single time she spoke of him for his first two weeks of life, she would be overcome with love and just tear up. Every time she would say “I just love him so much, I can’t help but cry.” The love was overwhelming her. The love tied to this new little life, no matter how she wanted to celebrate, she found herself constantly overflowing with tears. Missy’s heart was overflowing again when her niece Darcy joined the family in 2010. Although Missy was battling headaches at the time, she made the journey with the family to be there to celebrate Darcy’s arrival. Oh how Missy loved our Doodle-bug. I think of all the family, Missy truly saw a piece of herself in our Darcy. And I think we will always see that piece of Missy in our sweet baby girl.
Once the babies started walking and talking our Missy became their Aunt Mimi. Aunt Mimi was such a wonderful Aunt. After she stopped working, she decided she would babysit each baby one day a week, just to be sure she got that quality one on one time to really know them. They both loved this time so much. Later in the week, after Aunt Mimi’s day, Henry would ask me “Mama, Can we play Play-doh?” Or “Mama, Can we play Michael Jackson Dance Party?” and I would say “No baby, I am busy”, and he would always reply “Oh…Only Aunt Mimi do dat?” He knew if he wanted to do something fun, the most likely candidate to ask was Aunt Mimi. The park, the mall, a dance party, Aunt Mimi would always want to do that. Henry and Darcy’s loss of their Aunt Mimi will be felt for their entire lives. And forever we will have to try to fill those shoes, of the amazing Aunt Mimi. She will make us better parents, because we will now try to mirror her desire to enjoy every second of life with them.
I believe in your life, if you are lucky, you touch a few people’s lives deeply. Not just as a friend or an acquaintance, but as a true kindred spirit. Your relationship grows into one where you own a piece of each other’s heart. Parents have it with young children, and if they are lucky, they hold on to it as the children grow into adults. Some siblings have it, some spouses, some friends. Missy had more kindred spirits in her life than anyone I have ever known. Truly. The lives she has touched, the pieces of hearts she shared, it’s incredible. The love in this room for our sweet Melissa… the hearts that are missing a piece… she is an inspiration to us. How to be a friend, a sister, how to be an aunt and a daughter; Missy knew the answer. She went in with her full heart. She supported us, and she loved unconditionally.
Melissa was one of the most faith filled people I have ever known. These last few years she relied so heavily on prayer that in the hospital it became a comforting joke for our family. When one of us would be overwhelmed with this difficult road ahead, overcome with sorrow for a future without our Missy, we would tell each other again and again, “Missy would tell us to pray about it”. And she would. She would want us to lay our troubled and broken hearts at His feet. She would want us to embrace that she is in a better place, a place with no cancer and no heartbreak. She would want us to pray for peace in our own hearts, because her heart is full. It is complete in the Lord, and she is singing and rejoicing in heaven. And if we know our sweet Missy, she is up in heaven right now, looking down on us, dancing and saying “I’m in heaven fir-rst, I’m in heaven fir-rst!”. And there is no question, this time Missy wins. She beat us all to paradise. How lucky heaven are to have her there. How lucky we will someday be to meet her again. But for today we can’t help but cry. We just love her so much. And some of the tears are of joy and of love, like the tears she couldn’t control when Henry was born. But many are of heartbreak, because from now until the day we are together again, we will miss our sweet Missy so very much. But we know in our hearts that she will always be with us, everywhere we turn, every place we go, forever and always.