Sunday, February 22, 2009

Melissa Duke Mooney: a celebration of life!

People always say funerals are supposed to be about celebrating life, not mourning death but I have found that is rarely the case. We dress in black, we sit quietly, we whisper our condolences to one another and nod somberly. We pay our respects respectfully. There is no joy in mourning.

But every once in a while, someone lives a life so extraordinary that people cannot help but celebrate. Melissa was one of those people. And celebrate we did.

The church where the memorial service was held was completely full. People squished in next to each other to fill the pews while the rest of us lined the walls, shoulder-to-shoulder. I leaned against the back wall, surrounded by friends, while my son played quietly at my feet.

The eulogies were well-crafted and touching, revealing different sides of Melissa that were all equally impressive. Melissa the wife, the sister, the friend, the mother. A woman who would rather flip the board than lose the game. Whose favorite word, lagniappe, means a little something extra.

Her husband spoke to what was on all of our minds. "Don't worry about me and the girls," he said. "They have her genes so I know they'll be fine. And even though I'm a single father now, please don't feel sorry for me. I was married to Melissa for 10 years: I'm the luckiest guy you know."

Her five year old Nola ended the service by getting on stage with her Daisy troop to lead us in the Girl Scout camp favorite Make New Friends.

Make new friends,
But keep the old.

One is silver,
And the other gold.

I laughed. I cried. I vowed to incorporate a little more Melissa into my every day life.

We filed out of the church and made our separate ways to the neighborhood pub for a Melissa-worthy celebration complete with a Mardi Gras style second line parade around the block. People along the parade route gathered on their porches to enjoy the sea of smiling faces in fancy hats and costumes, dancing down the street with umbrellas and feather boas to the sound of a New Orleans jazz band, celebrating life.

She would have loved it.

Bubbles for you, Bubbles la Rue.

14 comments:

lp said...

thanks very much for sharing. i'm so glad to hear neil's words.

i miss her so and wish i could have been there to celebrate her big wonderful life.

bill said...

moving. i'm sorry i couldnt be with you and liam at the celebration of a wonderful life.

Girl Healthy said...

Everything about it was so perfectly Melissa.

Anonymous said...

thank you for sharing, I was not able to be there and appreciated reading what it was like. She was an amaging person that only comes along once in a lifetime.

LClaire said...

Thank you for documenting this for us, it's a reminder of what we can all be and the to recognize our joy.

Ms. Booty Homemaker said...

beautiful! thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Thank you-- this is beautifully said. It was an amazing day for an amazing woman. I left a different person, thanks to Duke.

Anna said...

there will never be another one like melissa...what a vibrant and inspiring woman! i'm so thankful we could experience the joy of celebrating her beauty together.

Charles Alexander said...

Maggie,your description of the service and how you heard was so moving. I used it to send out to my email list. Hope that's cool.

http://tinyurl.com/bmgdm8

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting - I too find comfort in reading Neil's words as I could not be there in person. Seeing the photo's of a true celebration of her life and spirit is a bitter sweet delight.

Katie said...

Maggie, thank you for sharing and taking the pictures. I bawled when I read what you wrote about what the dad said, and kudos to you all for having a celebration! That is what I would want too and her daughter sounds amazing.

Omar Lugones said...

Thank you for sharing the beautiful images from the celebration of one truly wonderful life. Melissa was a true original. It's pretty incredible to see the impact she had on so many. I was lucky to have her friendship and truly blessed to have crossed paths with her. Anyone and everyone who knew her can call her an inspiration. That can only be said about very few people in this world. God bless you Duke! and thank you for living so genuinely.

Scott Major said...

I have only met her one time but from what I hear, I really missed out on never meeting her again. God Bless the families and Neil, I know she is looking over you and the girls and wont "start the music without YOU".

mockingbird said...

It was...truly...a moving day. I cry just reading this, and I was with you and cried there too. I Still can't believe it. And I just think, I will go to bed and move along with my life and my day, but her children and her husband will wake again tomorrow probably with that sinking feeling in the pit of their stomach's that it wasn't a bad dream. ugh. I am so lucky to have known her at all. Blessed, I am.