I’ve been avoiding this post… but I know that I need to write it.
My sister Melissa Hudgins died very unexpectedly on Sunday evening this week. She was 43 years old, and living in Las Vegas at the time. Surviving her in Las Vegas are her husband, her 18 year-old son, and 16 year-old daughter. She had an older brother and an older sister, and me, her baby brother.
I have so many things to say on this topic… About Melissa, about her death, and the future without her. But for now, I just want to talk about my sister as I remember her.
Being 11 years older than me, and growing up in different households (she’s one of the children of my father’s first wife, whereas I’m the child of his second) we didn’t spend a tremendous amount of time together in my formative years. She did live with us in Florida for awhile when I was very young, but I don’t know for how long. Most of what I know about her living with me comes from the stories my parents are fond of telling.
I have one memory of living with my sister Melissa: when I was a little boy, I used to always want to know what time it was. And I distinctly remember tip-toeing into her bedroom one Saturday morning, gingerly waking her up, and asking her what time it was. I remember her groggily looking at the clock, mumbling that it was half-past, and falling back asleep.
And I remember that I hesitantly thanked her and shuffled out of the room, closed the door, and stood next to it for what seemed like an eternity, anxiously debating my next course of action… But finally, I worked up the courage to tip-toe back in, and tentatively woke her up to ask, “Half-past what?”
Several years later, I remember my parents and I went to visit her, though I can’t recall where. I just remember that I discovered then that Melissa and I shared a love for books, and had many of the same favorite authors. (Not surprising, since it was our sister Janet that got me into reading fiction for grown-ups… but the story of Janet and me is a different blog entry altogether.)
Years after that, I remember she came to visit us in Florida. I was around 16 at the time, if my math is right… I just remember that she had a toddler with her, and a baby in her belly. And I didn’t see her again for 14 more years.
St. Patrick’s Day weekend in 2008, Sal and I visited Las Vegas. It just so happens that Melissa and her family were living there at the time, so we had made plans to spend an evening with them. I’ve chronicled that in detail in a blog entry years ago, but the short version is that we enjoyed a bit of time at their home and a lovely dinner together. It was terrific, and we vowed to not let it be another 14 years before we did it again.
For the last two years, Sal and I have both been trying to find a good time to go back and visit. We enjoyed Las Vegas, had a great time seeing my family, and spent quality time with some friends of his as well. It just… didn’t work out. And now, I’m finally going back, but it’s to say goodbye.
Melissa and I were very alike, in a number of ways. I was so happy to be reunited with her two and a half years ago, and was delighted to keep up with her via Facebook, txt msging, and the occasional phone call. I’d even sent her a txt msg as recently as the week before her death, saying that I wanted to check in and see how she was doing, and that we should talk by phone soon.
We didn’t. And now we can’t.
Now the best thing I can do is be out here in Nevada with the family and hope that my presence somehow adds a hint of comfort. I may not see my family often — and I’m practically a stranger to Melissa’s husband, son, and daughter, though I adore them all from the little time I’ve spent with them — but I can’t imagine not being out here to pay my respects.
I’ll miss you, Sissy Missy. Rest in peace.