Yesterday I shared how Zach Sobiech’s song Clouds landed on my ultimate playlist upon first hearing it last year. Writing my own playlist and documenting the significance behind each song was a very emotional journey for me. Being able to give my friends and family small snapshots of more personal events in my life and insight into the words that inspire me is a gift. There are few things in life that we all have in common, but each day we look at the same sun and moon, and each day we get one day closer to our eternity. Each day is an opportunity to share with those we love and learn about others.
My good friend and soul sister, Debbi McCarthy, just accompanied me on a whirlwind road trip last week, the result of which we will share with you tomorrow. We had a lot of time to talk about the gift that Zach Sobiech gave to us in Clouds. With 24 hours of drive time, we got to discuss (and listen to) music at length. Debbi jenerously offered to share the musical life of her daughter, Melanie Rose, who passed away from complications of Juvenile Diabetes at the young age of 38. It is so beautiful that Debbi continues to uncover new stories about Melanie’s life as her friends share their memories. The Fly A Little Higher Blog Tour has created this opportunity for Debbi to rediscover the inner beauty of her daughter all over again. Please enjoy this mother’s tribute to Melanie’s life of music and friendship.
She enjoyed music on her noise-cancelling headphones, a gift from her brother.
Musical Memories of Melanie Rose Weaver [1971 – 2010]
At the beginning of the soundtrack of our children’s lives – that miraculous indignant cry that lets us know they have arrived – no mother expects to have to choose the music for her child’s memorial service. But, the ensuing cacophony that accompanies us each step along the way underscores our ups and downs and provides an evocative context for our tapestry of memories.
Like mothers of many species, our child’s voice is like a beacon. We can pick out our kid’s call for help in a crowded park or their enthusiastic rendition of a holiday classic hitting a wrong note in a school concert. We can decipher their words even wrapped in breathless sobs or gales of giggles. From my daughter Melanie’s first solo rendition of the ABCs to the final strains of a church full of people singing Abba’s “I Believe In Angels,” the closest thing to sacred music we dared to play at her memorial service, the music of my daughter’s life echoes like a lilting aria that drifts among those of us who loved her best, holding us close.
While my daughter herself was not a musician, she was introduced to music early and shared her love of it with family and friends, introducing us to obscure artists and blaring her favorite songs over and over again until she could sing along with every word.
My mother, Mary McCarthy, whose lovely voice was a gift in our home, delighted in teaching old songs to her children and grandchildren. Along with my grandmother and our parish priest, my sisters and I spent several years as The McCarthy Sisters, travelling around Connecticut to church fairs and nursing homes with our act that combined Irish, Broadway, Shirley Temple and nostalgic hits. Melanie especially loved one of Mom’s favorites “Side by Side,” a popular 1920’s standard most often sung by our family loudly in the car.
My oldest dearest friend, Melanie’s godmother, Tina West Pateracki, introduced us all to the exploits of “Little Bunny Foo Foo,” which would leave Melanie collapsing from laughter every time one of us would sing it for her (preferably, a hundred times). Mel later helped teach that and other children’s songs to her brother and sister, Steven, and Tisa – and, later, to her son Ryan.
One of her close girlhood friends, Tania Trepanier – who was tragically killed in a 2003 accident – spent hours at our home in Zomba, Malawi, perched precariously on a chair opposite my daughter, go-go dancing to Abba’s “Dancing Queen,” “Waterloo,” and “Mamma Mia.”
From me, she learned to love The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel and other sixties and seventies artists – although she did confess later that she never really warmed up to Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen, and, I will admit that there were years when I was not a huge fan of the music coming from her room or car.
As a teen and young adult, she made wonderful memories with her friends, who have shared many with me in the years since we lost her. I am so grateful to these people who loved Melanie so dearly and cherish their times together – so often, punctuated by vivid memories of the music they shared:
During Junior High, Trisha McMillan Ferguson lived within walking distance of Melanie’s dad’s house. When the girls would walk the back way to meet each other, they crossed a big open field. Mimicking the opening of “The Sound of Music,” they would run toward each other, arms outstretched singing the song all dramatic and silly.
Melanie’s closest friend school friend, Shannon Conway Johansen, remembers singing Bon Jovi’s “I’d Die For You” at the top of their lungs when it first came out. And, the two of them loved dancing to Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love,” convinced in their profound youthful angst, that all love was tainted in the end.
At the old Storman’s Palace in Clearwater, FL Melanie and her buddies danced many a night away – her friend Kristy Knight, a popular radio personality who did a weekly appearance at Storman’s, particularly remembers one of their faves was “Lean On Me” from Club Nouveau – it never failed to move them onto the dance floor.
Cindy Quo was an angel neighbor/friend who brightened many of Melanie’s toughest homebound days when her health was so fragile that some of the local EMTs, who came to resuscitate her all too often, actually learned the names of her fish. Cindy remembers that “Hanging By A Moment” by Lifehouse was a kind of lifeline for Melanie during that time.
As Melanie’s illness progressed, she took as her own an Alanis Morisette song, “That I Would Be Good,” that contained the lyrics, “… that I would be good, if I got and stayed sick.” I know that those unflinchingly brave lyrics helped my daughter come to grips with the inevitability of her illness. She also drew an amazing strength from Damien Rice’s “The Blower’s Daughter,” with a less obvious, but equally powerful theme of the pain of no-win situations.
My best friend’s daughter, Caroline Schuler, was an especially close friend, spending long summer and holiday vacations with us. Singing along to James Taylor’s “You’ve Got A Friend” is one of Caroline’s favorite memories of the many road trips between Tampa and Charleston, SC – screeching out the high notes singing “…and I’ll beeeee there yeah, yeah, yeah – you’ve got a friend.”
Melanie’s sister, Tisa, remembers the two of them loving The Pretenders “I’ll Stand By You.” By the time Tisa got married, Melanie was struggling to keep healthy with her transplanted kidney and pancreas and the immune deficiency that challenges transplant patients. Tisa had the song played at the wedding.
In later years Tisa, Caroline, Steven, Ryan and I all remember listening to Jeff Buckley’s timeless version of “Hallelujah” with Melanie. It became her anthem.
In the days following her death in April of 2010, Tisa, Steven, Caroline and their spouses went into seclusion at Tisa’s house and produced an amazing slide show synched to Melanie’s favorite music. That labor of love carried them through those first days of unthinkable loss and gave us all a gift at her memorial service.
After losing my dad, I spent weeks listening to Tom Petty’s “Room at the Top.” When my mother died, Leonard Cohen’s “If It Be Your Will,” was what I played over and over. When I lost Melanie, my song became “The Circle of Life” from the Lion King Broadway soundtrack. The CD is still in my car CD player.
Every April 13th, on what we call MelMorial Day, a group of family and friends makes the trek to Bok Tower Gardens, a beautiful, historic bell tower in rural central Florida surrounded by lush gardens in a beautiful natural setting. It was her favorite place on earth. We walk, reminisce and take a break from everything else in our lives, stopping each time the carillon plays to let the beauty of the bell concerts wash over us and soothe our aching hearts, something that only music can do.