[Now Playing: “That Place” by The Lion’s Daughter]
“Our earthly bodies will surely fall
But the love we share outlives us all”
– “Only Memories Remain” by My Morning Jacket
Yesterday I stood at the gravesite at Rest Haven Memorial Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky in the pouring rain and said goodbye to one of the dearest people that I’ve ever had the privilege of calling a friend.
Melissa Witt was smart as a whip, quick-witted, funny as hell, curious about the world and how it worked, a brilliant artist and designer and a kind and loving friend. She could pick up new languages and their accents at the drop of a hat. When we went to Tulum, Melissa’s accent was so impeccable that people thought she was a local.
I met Melissa in the parking lot of Oglethorpe House, lovingly referred to as O-House, which was the dorm that Savannah College of Art & Design assigns to transfer students. My roommate Brittany and I were huddled by the SCAD bus stop like little ducklings waiting to go to our 8 a.m. Color Theory class at Wallin. From across the parking lot I heard someone shout “Y’all want a ride?” and Melissa strode toward us in her tan Rainbow flip flops, plain white T-shirt, hair a little damp and wild, and a coffee in her hand.
We piled into her car and headed to class together. Afterward she took us to go check on Skeeter, her Uromastyx, which is a large spiny-tailed lizard. She also had a host of poison dart frogs which she was keeping at a friend’s apartment off-campus. It was easy to see how much she loved them because her whole being lit up when she explained their breeds, characteristics and the science behind the poison. I thought to myself, this girl is super interesting. The next week I watched her shred on her electric guitar and her badass status cemented.
Melissa and I played Guitar Hero in her giant dorm room and at parties so often, that when Brittany made an illustrated Christmas card of our friend group that first year, you can guess which ones we are:
During the spring quarter of 2008 I was still floundering as an illustration major so Melissa and I decided to take Drawing III together, which was a really fun course in which we experimented with a multitude of drawing concepts, techniques and materials. We were asked to bring in an object from home to serve as the subject of our drawings. I brought in a rubber ducky and sketched it out with charcoal on the 18×24 in. drawing tablet propped on the easel.
The day’s technique involved using wet charcoal, so I brushed some water on my piece and dripped a bit from the duck’s eye and Melissa came over and started watching. After a few minutes we were both drawing and brushing away and we were just about done when Melissa said “Wait, he’s missing something.” Then she flicked the compressed charcoal on the paper a few times, and in an instant, the duck had bangs and Emo Duck was born.
With Melissa’s love of AFI and my penchant for screamo bands, it just made sense for us.
Melissa was one of the very few people in my life who got me, completely. And after talking with Stephen and a few other folks this weekend it seems that Melissa was that person to a lot of people which is an incredible thing if you think about it.
At the cemetery, when it was my turn to pay last respects and say goodbye, I said the things I wanted to say to her, told her that I loved and missed her and rested my hand on her rectangular urn. But that didn’t feel like enough. Knowing Melissa and the kind of friendship we had, I knew I had to get one last fist bump in, so I did.
In October of 2017, Melissa and Carl came and stayed with me in Atlanta so they could go see The Xx. I picked them up from the airport gave them each a big hug, and we all started immediately joking about the Atlanta airport’s “plane train.” It felt like I had already known Carl for years. We got to my house and I found out that Carl owned his own marketing business, so we talked shop and I was impressed by Carl’s depth and breadth of knowledge.
He knew I was freelancing so we talked about MailCharts’ blog and his content needs. We also talked rates and the day after he got back to New York, I had an email from Carl to get a trial blog post in motion. Over the course of the next four months, Carl gave me as much work as I could handle, paid promptly and was generally a delight to work with: a freelancer’s dream. At one point I was talking to Carl more than Melissa. And in her Melissa way she just said, “Yeah what’s up with that, mang?”
To quote Melissa’s service, Carl was also the gold standard of boyfriends. Melissa and Carl loved each other deeply, respected one another and made each other better. I like to think that they are spending eternity together, exploring the rainforests and savannas of the afterlife and having a blast doing it.
I mentioned that I said goodbye this weekend, but I really didn’t. I talked to Melissa the whole walk home from her favorite Louisville karaoke bar. And I continue to talk to her. It feels good because I know she’s listening intently like she always did.
My most profound condolences to the families, friends and loved ones left behind in this horrific tragedy. Nothing could ever prepare you for something like this, yet everyone from Melissa’s family that I had the pleasure of meeting this weekend were full of grace, graciousness and gratitude for the outpouring of love and support.
If there ever was a gold standard of friends, it was Melissa Witt.
Stay gold, Melissa, stay gold.