By Linda Demo and Andrea Callanen
When Melissa was first buried I remained silent, but now I want to take this opportunity to tell you about the daughter that I knew for 30 years. It was Melissa’s unique qualities that inspired us to want to start this foundation for young people in her name. This should be prefaced by saying I want you to know that I’m not trying to paint a picture of Melissa as some sort of a saint. She was a spirited child from the beginning. In fact, I always told my mother that I wanted her to be a child with spirit and my mother would ask if we couldn’t take just a little of the spirit out. Raising Melissa was a 24 hour a day job. She never let you forget she was there. She was strong willed and strong minded, but early on I saw in her a sense of fairness and kindness. When she did make mistakes, she seemed to learn from them and not repeat them. But what I really want to talk about is the adult she became. I could never really tell her this when she was alive because I guess it’s just not something you do, but she became the person that I wished I could be. She was funny. She was kind. She was generous. She never wasted a minute of her precious 30 years.
During her time at ND, and after, Melissa was always the one who would joyously retell all of the stories and anecdotes which not so coincidentally, often seemed to embarrass some one other than herself. Melissa radiated energy and excitement within her group of friends. She was the glue that bonded them together and helped them remember all the crazy things they did and said. She reminded them often not to take life too seriously and to enjoy the time they had together because who knew what tomorrow would bring.
Melissa had a true gift of making people feel comfortable, of disarming them with her directness, of putting them at ease. If you were lucky enough to be called her friend, you never had any doubt in the world that she would be there for you whether it be a phone call, a hug, or just to go have a drink and a laugh together. Her loyalty and integrity were never questioned - two values that can only be learned by example and witnessed by those she loved and respected the most.
Whenever Melissa was present there were laughter and smiles, competition and a bit of mischief. She was so many things: a student, an athlete, a Monogram member, an accountant, but most importantly, a daughter and a friend for life.
When she died, I was satisfied that she had crammed just about as much as anyone could into 30 years. There were no regrets. I was so proud of her as an adult woman. She lived her life with such kindness. When she lived in Wrigleyville, she told me how a homeless man would wait every morning for her and she would give him a dollar. I wanted to tell her not to do that because it was dangerous, but I didn’t. I just prayed that nothing would happen because I didn’t want to stop Melissa from being the special person she had become. My last vision of her was an act of kindness. On the day of the Hancock accident, I watched her stop the car and wave a woman across the street in front of our car, saving her life and sacrificing her own. In my eyes she will always be a hero for this selfless act.
In my darkest hours I often thought that if God had let me see into the future and given me a choice of having her or not having her before she was born, that I could have seen the horrific tragedy that was to come and be able to avoid it by not having her, I would not have hesitated for a nanosecond because the joy and the fun and the love that she gave me was worth any pain I would have to endure.
She is missed more than words can say, but her memory lives on through this Scholarship, and in the hearts of all who knew her.
Recently read by Lou Nanni, Vice President for University Relations at the University of Notre Dame, at the dedication ceremony for the new batting cages at the Melissa Cook Stadium:
|How Did You Die? |
by Edmund Vance Cooke
Did you tackle that trouble that came your way|
With a resolute heart and cheerful?
Or hide your face from the light of day
With a craven soul and fearful?
Oh, a trouble's a ton, or a trouble's an ounce,
Or a trouble is what you make it,
And it isn't the fact that you're hurt that counts,
But only how did you take it?
You are beaten to earth? Well, well, what's that?
Come up with a smiling face.
It's nothing against you to fall down flat,
But to lie there -- that's disgrace.
The harder you're thrown, why the higher you bounce;
Be proud of your blackened eye!
It isn't the fact that you're licked that counts,
It's how did you fight -- and why?
And though you be done to the death, what then?
If you battled the best you could,
If you played your part in the world of men,
Why, the Critic will call it good.
Death comes with a crawl, or comes with a pounce,
And whether he's slow or spry,
It isn't the fact that you're dead that counts,
But only how did you die?