Happy birthday, Melody!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Last year on March 17, I went shopping with a friend in downtown Eureka Springs for Melody Rusts birthday. She turned 42 that day. By that time, we had been close friends for a year. We met in 2016 when I took over day-to-day operations at Lovely County Citizen, where she worked on page design in the back room. She was so talented, and she constantly encouraged me to do my very best.

She was the kind of person who brought the best out of everyone. When we lost her last Thanksgiving, I felt as if my heart had been ripped out. All her loved ones know that feeling. She was such a warm, kind person. She lit up the whole world. Over the past few months, my world has been noticeably bleaker without her in it.

I miss her, to say the least. I miss her laugh and her effortless affection. I miss talking to her on the porch, watching her play with her dog and hearing her curse with abandon. Her life was full of adventure. She embodied adventure. Shes the only person who could convince me to jump off a cliff. When you were around her, you just knew everything would be OK. She knew how to comfort. She cared about people like no other.

Shed be 43 this Saturday, but my mind is stuck on March 17, 2017. I picked out a pair of earrings and some colorful socks for her at a shop downtown. Then, we bought two birthday cards and a cupcake. I called her around 3 p.m. asking if we could drop by. She sounded so excited to see us. I could hear her smiling through the phone. About 30 minutes later, we pulled up to her house and saw her sitting on the porch.

Images of her doing everyday things like that are burned into my memory: her sitting on the porch smoking a cigarette, her ambling into the office at 7:30 a.m. and her standing at the refrigerator in mismatched pajamas asking if wed like anything to drink. She always answered the phone with an emphatic Hey, you! and ended the call with a little laugh. Love you, shed say. OK, bye-bye.

On her birthday last year, she greeted us with her patented Hey, you! We handed her gifts over, and she said it was the birthday of cupcakes. Shed already been given some cupcakes by her family, she said. Ill never forget sitting on a bench near the kitchen window and watching her eyes light up as she saw what was in the bag we gave her. Her daughter would probably steal the socks, Melody said, because she loved colorful socks.

She loved her daughter so much, and she was the best mom. Every time Id compliment her art or singing or design work, Melody would say her daughter was much better than her. She was so proud of her. She once told me she felt so lucky not just to be a mom, but to be a mom to her kid. Id say her daughter was pretty lucky, too.

This Saturday, Id give anything to sit on the porch with her again. We wouldnt have to do anything. Just being with her would be enough. She could calm you through her presence alone. Like the rest of her loved ones, Ive been missing her calming spirit these past four months. I dont think Ill ever stop missing her.

Happy birthday, Melody! I miss you every day, and Im awe-struck at how lucky I was to be your friend. Youre still with me with everyone you loved every single day.

Love you. OK, bye-bye.

Samantha Jones is associate editor for Carroll County Newspapers. Her email address is Citizen.Editor.Eureka@gmail.com.