Melissa made a small book for me about 3 months before she died. The cover of it said, "friends through thick and thin" and inside she put small photos of us and our friends, and cards with different Bible passages on them.
Having lived without Melissa for 2 years, I have an even greater understanding for her choice of words and photos than I did when she first presented me with this gift. In a lot of ways, this little book is symbolic of my friendship with Melissa and the relationship I continue to cultivate with her.
First, "friends through thick and thin" is the perfect title for this small present. While she was living, we certainly made it through some fun times and some tough times together. In the last 2 years, that has not changed. I feel Melissa with me every day- whether it's a good day or a bad day. I felt her friendship when I could be with her in the flesh and blood, and I still feel her friendship through a more spiritual medium.
The second message she included in the book says, "Your friendship keeps me going! Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves" (Romans 12:10). This passage was shared amongst our friends and was something that Melissa proudly passed onto us. She wanted us to know how much our friendship had helped her cope with cancer, and she also knew that our friendships with each other could help us get through hard times in the future. Although I miss Melissa deeply, her friendship does keep me going. Knowing that I had a friend like her, and that there is still somebody out there who's looking out for me, is a great comfort.
The third message says, "Have faith. Trust. Rest Assured. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him" (Romans 15:13). This seems to break down Melissa's faith into very simple terms. She found faith, she trusted in God, and she was able to rest assured. This simple transformation showed the rest of us how beautiful life can become when you turn your life over to God.
The next message reads, "If it matters to you, it matters to Him. Cast all your anxieties on Him because He cares for you" (Peter 5:7). To me, by including this message in my book, Melissa was assuring me that even when I might feel like there is no one to listen to my troubles, God is always there. I used to share my thoughts and feelings with Melissa, and now that she's gone, I don't feel abandoned because of these words she left with me.
Next, "Two are better than one... if one falls down, his friend can help him up" (Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10). To me this emphasizes the importance of friendship in general. Melissa valued friendship very highly and showed the rest of us how to be selfless, considerate, and loving of all of our friends.
The next passage reads, "I thank my God every time I remember you" (Philippians 1:3). This Bible passage was particularly special for Melissa, as it was on the promise rings that she and Jamie shared. But it also is applicable to all of us who remember Melissa. I thank God that I even got the chance to know Melissa.
Lastly, "May the Lord watch between you and me when we are absent from one another" (Genesis 31:49). I think Melissa put this at the end so that I could understand that our time apart is only transitory, to reassure me that we would see each other again, and to comfort me that God would be with both of us during this time.
As we near the 2-year mark of Melissa's death, it seems harder because I simply miss her more. The more time I've spend without Melissa, the more I long for those days. But I know that she would want us to remember the happy times with her and celebrate the fact that we were lucky enough to know her at all.