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Melissa

How is it that time passes so quickly?

When you’re young you never notice life passing by you, I remember the day that I realized time flies.
The day Cooper died.
Three and a half years fighting, days that seemed to never end, yet I blinked and there he was, dead, on the hospital bed.
Time flew.
But it also sat completely still- and I wish I could still be in that stillness.

Some people will not experience the death of someone they loved deeply until they are much older, to them I have so much wisdom to offer. But most of it they will never be able to apply until that moment comes.
Other people, like me, like my sisters, like my family. Have experienced what I would say, is too much death.

But I truly believe God gives his strongest soldiers the hardest battles.
And that’s my family, full of strong soldiers.

A year ago, I woke up and was avidly getting ready to go to church.
I had just moved to Naples, so I was anxious for my car to arrive later that week. I remember waking up and thinking, “Today is going to be a GREAT day!”

Then it happened.
The moment that happens every single time I receive bad news.
I know this moment, I can see it coming before it hits me- my therapist calls it my superpower.
The moment of horrific news.
The moment of the unspeakable.

My phone rang, it was my Mom and I thought I would call her after my shower, but Nicole insisted I picked up the phone- that’s the moment right there.
See, every single time I’ve received horrific news, someone has INSISTED I take the call, or I be at home, or I listen to the voicemail.
This demand to respond to whatever is going on around me, immediately alerts me that bad news is coming.
But this time I could not picture what it could be- Cooper’s dead so it’s not him? Could it be my sisters? My dad?

Then, as soon as I heard my Moms voice one name popped into my head, my Mom hadn’t even said what happened.
I saw the name ‘Melissa’ flash before my eyes.
Sure enough, my Mom was calling to tell me my sweet cousin Melissa had passed away.

In a morbid way, I knew someone had died.
It was almost as if I was wondering, who’s next?
But by the same token, I NEVER would have thought my young beautiful 18 year old cousin would leave… at the same age my young handsome brother would leave me.

But she did.
She left us and entered Heaven to be at peace, to be healed, to be hugged by her FAVORITE human, Cooper.
In all honestly, if there was one human I know Cooper would want to hang out with ALL THE TIME, it would be Melissa.
They had a special bond no one understood and now, they get to be together for the rest of eternity.

Death is hard.
Explaining death is even harder.
See, my family and I boarded planes, met in the airport, and sat around a coffee table well before we went to visit my Aunt and Uncle.
And I looked around at my sisters, my dad, my mom, and I could hear them sigh.
Unfortunately, they were not sighing because of Melissa’s death, they were sighing because they knew what my Aunt and Uncles family was about to experience NEXT.

Death, that’s the easy part.
The funeral, a breeze.
It’s what happens next that is the hardest part of death.
Going home and spending a year without the person you love in the room next to you? Torture.
Wondering every day when the loss will get easier? Difficult beyond words.
Realizing that death is permanent, that your person is gone, that this is now how your life works- with one less human.

I struggled writing what I would say to Melissa if she were still here with us. But what I realized was that Melissa did not want me to write to her, she wanted me to write to her family, and if you knew Melissa, YOU ALWAYS DO WHAT SHE ASKS! So here we go.

To My Ricciardi Family,

I love you. I am so sorry that you are experiencing the most dreadful part of life, so early on. But, I know God built you for this even on the days you don’t believe he did. Even on the days you cannot breathe because the loss has taken over your entire body. Even on the days where you cannot get out of bed because Melissa is not there and it feels like it’s not worth getting up without her…. God built you strong, courageous, and full of hope. I want you to know that the days will not get easier. The moments will not be simple. Every day new challenges will arise because one less person is physically on this earth with you. But, notice I said physically. See, Melissa & Cooper are physically gone- but like the quote says, “People die only when we forget them. If you can remember someone; they will be with you always.”
Melissa was NEVER EVER going to be someone you could forget.
She was extraordinary, powerful, successful, and loved.
She was hilarious, kind, and would overwhelm you with her infectious personality.
You cannot forget Melissa, because she is unforgettable.
She is with you, in good days and bad.
You just have to keep searching.
Some people believe that after years of someone passing they stop showing you signs that they are with you. But that’s the biggest lie I’ve ever been told.
Cooper sends me enough pennies from Heaven, I’m going to need a bigger wallet. He sends me 11:11 to tell me I’m doing just fine.
And he always whispers to me, I love you big sister.
The people we love never leave us, they just move to a place where they can spend more time protecting us.
That’s why they call them angels.

I love you my sweet family.

In Memory of the world’s one and only Melissa Ricciardi- my cousin, my friend, my sister- I love you.

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