I’ve been wanting to write about Melissa for a while, but knowing she is a very private person, I have been reluctant to shine a spotlight on her.

Well, let me clarify – she is the kind of person who will not hesitate to tell you in detail her most embarrassing experiences if they might bring a laugh, but she will rarely bring attention to herself in a way that isn’t self-deprecating.

She is one of the most modest people I know. She is also incredibly protective of the people she loves. Her heart is enormous, and fierce.

Today I pulled out my checkbook to pay a bill, and I noticed the date –

September 11th

As I always do on this date, I thought of Melissa…and somehow I felt as though I wanted to honor her today…and so I hope I can do that in a way that feels like a tribute and not an intrusion…

Because Melissa is truly my personal idol when it comes to grace and strength.

Melissa lost her brother in the World Trade Center attack.  I’ll never forget the panicked call from her that morning…the fear, and the agony of uncertainty…and then the unimaginable confirmation of their worst fears.

Within two years Melissa lost her brother, Richard, and then her father. During that time of fresh grief she became a mother twice over.  I can only image the strength it took to navigate all of that, emotionally…the births and the losses…the tragedies and the miracles.

More very painful losses came for Melissa and her family. Through it all she has remained an unwavering pillar of strength and love.

She astounds me.

Melissa and her husband, Jaime, now have four beautiful children. They are amazing parents.  They have prided themselves on their active role in community life, both holding jobs in public service. They love people, and their gregarious personalities are a draw to all. They are the kind of people who make other people feel good about themselves. That is a gift.

Jaime and Melissa have a relationship I have always admired. Their love and devotion to each other is never in question. I so appreciate the way they make each other (and everyone else) laugh, and how they clearly respect and appreciate each other. They are true partners in life. I love being in their company – they bring joy.

Almost two years ago, Jaime was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. It has been a rough road, but miraculously, he continues to heal. Through it all, Melissa has been remarkably brave and optimistic, and whenever possible, she continues to insert her humor.

She is just a powerhouse of personal strength.

Recently she and I caught up over dinner, and  I keep thinking about something she said.  She said, “You know, I am just really looking forward to boredom. Seriously, it will be wonderful when life just gets dull.

So many things we take for granted…right down to the seeming minutia of our daily lives. What an amazing reminder to treasure it all…even, and maybe especially, the boring bits.

Melissa, you truly inspire me. 

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