I believe in the power of passion. Passion isn’t usually a word I use to describe my friendships with other women but it seemed to fit my friendship with Melanie. Over the 15 or so years that I knew her, I couldn’t help my desperate need to see her whenever I could, to hear her voice, to laugh at her impersonations, and in the end, simply ache to hold her. I don’t know why she had such an effect on me but she did from the moment I met her until my last attempts to reach her as her blood pressure slowly dropped. Melanie taught me that passion is great love coupled with great sacrifice.
Melanie was a lover of the arts: of music, theatre, and dance. In college she transformed our college theatre and music programs with her vibrancy. When she met and married Jeff, she told us that she thought their military life might hold her back from her dreams, but she loved Jeff passionately, too, and followed him to each of his military assignments. Along the way she discovered that her greatest passion was choreography, so her dream became to earn a masters degree and open her own studio. Although these dreams were left unfulfilled, she found people everywhere she went with whom she shared her passion for dance, and transferred it to them. The friends and students she encountered along the way were forever changed.
The illness, the cancer which started in her breast at age 31 and spread to her brain, lungs, liver and bones, could not rob her of her passion. She choreographed in the midst of chemo; she choreographed on tape from Hawaii for her students in Florida; she choreographed even when she could no longer feel her feet but was determined to create one final piece in honor of her father. He died four months before her from multiple myloma. She was always Daddy’s girl.
Simply put, Melanie incited passion in others and it was like a flame that she passed on to you without you realizing it. I looked around at her funeral and saw a sanctuary full of others like me, changed by their mere proximity to her. Her passion changed everything, including her marriage. Over her 5 year struggle, Jeff poured himself out for her without hesitation and only wished he could do more. She changed us, her friends from college, from close friends to sisters. She changed her students from children to artists, burning bright with her love of the dance, a love worth any sacrifice. For those of us who knew her, whether student or friend, sibling or parent, she passionately instructed us to dance like no one was watching, then showed us how to do it. Oh, to live like Melanie: loving passionately and sacrificially until her final breath.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.