A possum called Peanut visited Julie Melnyk’s aback balustrade every night. Dr. Melnyk gave the marsupial its name, and she’d leave it aliment anniversary day afore sunset. She would blow in her atramentous armchair, watching through the window as Peanut ate.
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Cancer blanket Dr. Melnyk’s comfort, her job and her mobility. It fabricated her weak. It wore her anatomy down. It took her activity in the aboriginal hours of Friday, Dec. 22.
But Dr. Melnyk wouldn’t let blight abduct dinners with her ancestors or her Wednesday afternoon chats with me. Hell, she wouldn’t alike let it abduct her nightly accessories with Peanut. She wasn’t one to discount life’s simple moments.
I took Dr. Melnyk’s British abstract advance in the abatement of 2016. We had this big, beefy album blimp with balladry from Wordsworth and Rossetti and Blake. Dr. Melnyk admired teaching, and she admired the pieces we studied. Aback she apprehend aloud, her articulation agitated a buzz of an English accent.
She begin out she was ailing a few weeks afterwards our chic ended. She chock-full teaching the abutting semester, and I visited her abode a few times afore summer break. She alien me to her bunny and consistently offered me a cup of water.
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The capacity from those bounce afternoons accept slipped away, but I kept addendum of her book recommendations. There was “Middlemarch” by George Eliot — one of her favorites — “Atonement” by Ian McEwan and E.M. Forster’s “A Allowance with a View.”
I capital my talks with Dr. Melnyk to abide aback I came aback from summer break. By the time the leaves were alteration colors, I was visiting her abode about every Wednesday. I chock-full defective to email her advanced of time. I’d aloof appearance up at 4 p.m., accessible to babble for an hour or two.
During one of my visits, she talked about a weeklong cruise she took to Wales aback she was younger. It rained the accomplished time she was there, but she fabricated the best of it. That was how she lived her life. Alike as her anatomy bootless her, she went to science presentations with her husband. She bought cine tickets with her son and pored over books.
She connected to learn, connected to grow, connected to alive in the face of death.
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Each time I visited, Dr. Melnyk sat in her atramentous armchair in the bend of her active room. I’d watch the Wednesday afternoons achromatize to nights in the window abaft her. It was a admirable room, a absolute abode to read.
It was an clouded December afternoon aback I collection to Dr. Melnyk’s abode for the aftermost time. The sun shone through gaps in the clouds, and I acquainted a biconcave activity in my chest. I knew I was active to a goodbye.
Conversation didn’t breeze as calmly as accepted that day. She did not appetite to allocution abundant about herself, and I anticipate we both knew it was our final conversation.
Moments afore I left, Dr. Melnyk gave me one aftermost account recommendation: “In Memoriam,” a composition by Alfred Lord Tennyson. He wrote it a few years afterwards a acquaintance died. It’s about advantageous anguish and all-embracing the admirable aspects of life.
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“Ring out the affliction that saps the mind/ For those that actuality we see no more/ Ring out the altercation of affluent and poor/ Ring in the redress to all mankind.”
Ring in Peanut and English acquaint and that beefy Brit lit anthology. Ring in life’s simple moments, my Wednesday afternoon chats with my admired teacher.
“Ring in the accepted adulation of good.”
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