Before I became friends with Melody Rust, I hated summertime. The heat, the bugs, the humidity Ö I couldnít find anything good about it. To be fair, I grew up in Texas where you can boil an egg on the sidewalk in June. The heat became my adversary early on. I spent June through August indoors for most of my life.
Melody and I started hanging out two years ago, right in time for summer. It didnít take long for us to become close. There was a spark between us. I canít explain it, but Iím grateful for it. We worked together every day and spent the weekends on her boyfriendís porch swatting at mosquitoes.
Not long after we became friends, Melody told me how much she loved the summer. She grew up in nature. She remembered traipsing across Alaska as a child and floating whatever body of water she could find in Arkansas. Floating was her favorite thing to do, aside from riding horses. She loved spending the day on the river, cut off from the world, just her and her loved ones and the water.
She took me to the river for the first time in 2016. While our partners left to find food, Melody and I sat on blankets under a tree. We talked about the way we grew up and I told her I had always been afraid of having children. I didnít want to be a bad mom, I said. She told me I wouldnít. She said Iíd be a great mom. She always made me feel like I could do anything, like I truly mattered.
As of Saturday, sheís been gone for seven months. Seven months. It feels like such a long period of time, but somehow itís gone by so fast. Time is funny like that. Itís our most valuable resource, and itís finite. Iím still trying to understand why I didnít get more time with her. I was so heartbroken this winter, scared of facing the world without her. I was even more scared of facing summertime without her.
After all, itís her time of the year. When itís hot and breezy and the waterís high, I think of her more than ever. On a day like this past Saturday, Iím sure she would have called me to go to the river. Maybe we would have had a cook-out with her family, like we did in July 2016. I can close my eyes now and picture all of us at Trigger Gap, swimming and lounging and laughing.
Her family accepted me and my loved ones into the fold immediately. When Melody got sick late last year, her sister kept me updated on what was going on. Iíll never forget the day I found out Melody died. Her sister called me, and we sobbed on the phone for 30 minutes. I remained there for another hour or so, calling coworkers and friends to break the news. I didnít stop crying for months. Until late March, I cried at least once every day.
Now itís almost July, and I know what I have to do. Itís time to go to the river. Itís time to make some river art. Itís time to celebrate summer the way Melody would, with a huge smile and endless appreciation for the natural world.
This summerís for you, Melody. Iíll see your reflection in the water. Iíll feel your love in the wind.
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Samantha Jones is associate editor for Carroll County Newspapers. Her email address is Citizen.Editor.Eureka@gmail.com.