26 years ago

Shared by Andrea Drewinko on September 8, 2019
I met Melissa 26 years ago....It was Fall, 1993 and she, Stacey, and I were part of the team of grad students who were to teach Multicultural Education to the undergrad teacher ed students. Not sure why, but the three of us really clicked, forming the SAM club. We had regular meetings, almost always including food. About a month later. Melissa was pregnant (planned it to coincide with health insurance kicking in). She was so excited, she somehow got the heath center to do a blood test and she knew she was pregnant probably 5 days in. She was not one of those people who kept that kind of thing to herself, so we knew she was pregnant seconds after she did and given that she was so overdue, it seemed like she was pregnant for a year
Today, it’s exactly one month since she passed away and I can barely stand it. She was one of those people who was so full of life and I cannot believe she is no longer part of this world. I keep wanting to write stories about her, but it’s just too hard right now. 
Melissa (I know, she always introduced herself as Mel, but I just could never call her that), I miss you so, so much. I cannot believe I will never get to talk with you again, hear your voice, your laugh. You are so missed and I will love you for always.

Thanks, Alexa!

Shared by Sandra Macdonald on August 31, 2019
Thanks to the Echo device, Melissa and I were able to go shopping together even though she was in Moscow and I was in Bloomington, Indiana. Thanks to the Echo device we talked every day if we wanted. We could talk together for a long time while doing things in our own spaces like dishes, cooking, folding laundry, crocheting. We could discuss some piece of writing or project on google docs, making edits as we discussed. Sometimes I would just sit next to the device and listen and attempt to talk her down when she was upset about something. Melissa always gave me credit for that but I think talking through things helped her see a picture and decide how she wanted to be in that picture: did she want to be sad, did she want to be a victim, did she want to be angry...no. She was able to get those things out because through this device it really felt like we were right there with each other comfortably listening, caring, loving. I was sitting in her kitchen and she in mine. We just couldn’t give each other a hug. If it sounds like I am an advertisement for Echo, I guess I am. I am so thankful that we had that time together. It felt like we were never really far apart. I am not sure why Skype or Hangouts never worked for us, but they didn’t. The sound on the Echo is very clear and the volume is controllable. I could crank up the volume on my end if I was moving around from room to room or running water. Melissa could turn her volume way down so she wouldn’t disturb sleeping Pierre and Duncan since the time difference often had us talking in her early morning. 

Some people worry about the risk of using the Echo, that someone might be listening. Some people decry the use of so much communication technology, that it is replacing letter writing or causing depression in our youth. However our society is always evolving. Our reality changes every day. Poo-poo-ing these new technologies might be compared to denying the use of the light bulb. Or the wheel. (I realize that is an undeveloped and an overly simplified argument but that isn’t the point here). Families and friends are now spread out all over the world because of advances in technology.  We need corresponding development in communications to stay connected to those we love. It allows us to reach out when we need support and be reached when needed to support our families and friends.

The time I got to spend with Melissa was worth any risk we took. I will forever be grateful to all the people who developed the Echo. Thank you, Alexa, for giving Melissa and me priceless time together even though we were on opposite sides of the globe.

More Alexa stories:


Document editing 

Emergency during couch delivery

Crochet stitch sharing

The drive to work

Shared by Kris Feller on August 25, 2019
So many good stories were shared and so many idiosyncrasies of life in Moscow were puzzled out in our shared drives to work and back. Pierre and Duncan, the bridge isn’t finished yet but it is getting close. We think ofyour whole family on our daily commute all of the time. 

Bell ringing in honor of Melissa

Shared by Maureen Carpenter on August 24, 2019
On the first day of school in Moscow, we have an opening ceremony with students, staff, board members, embassy members, and teachers. In Russia, the tradition is that bells are rung to begin the new year. Each year, a few members of our community are selected to ring the bells to start the year. It is a great honor to be selected. This year 2 of Melissa's students were chosen. One student in grade 11 (her first year at AAS) and one in grade 6 (her last year at AAS). Here is the video of the opening ceremony. The bell ringing begins around 30 minutes.

Independence, Curiosity, and Resiliency

Shared by Kym DiPaola on August 17, 2019
As kids, my sister Melissa was one tough girl.  She had plenty of self-confidence, and I never remember her being afraid of anything.  In the Macdonald sisters’ childhood battles, Melissa more than held her own, and she always had an independent spirit.  When we reached the teen years, and “fitting in” regularly takes precedence over individuality, Melissa went her own way and did what she wanted, regardless of what others thought.  At the same time, she was caring and sensitive to everyone.

Melissa’s habit of forging her own path, along with a sense of social justice, continued through her adult years.  When a planned track was just not working out, Melissa bravely went a new direction.  This spirit carried her to many destinations in the world, where she was eager and open for new experiences, new food and excited to meet and engage with everyone, especially her students.  Melissa was surrounded by and part of a community of individuals who inspired and supported her when needed.

When her cancer diagnosis turned grim and multiple brain tumors were discovered, Melissa started making travel plans and insisted on traveling to Spain to meet her sister Sandi.  To make it possible, she even set up a chemo treatment an hour away in Granada.  Given a prognosis of only weeks to live, Melissa continued to make lists of things to do, including selecting paint colors for her home in Nova Scotia, buying yarn for several new baby blankets that she planned to crochet, and scoping out the bus route in Halifax so that she could continue her independence. 

I miss Melissa so much.  Getting together with Melissa and her family meant a relaxed and fun time.  Messaging with her about books, which she consumed voraciously, politics, family and life events bridged the geographic distance and kept all of the sisters close.  To emulate Melissa’s sense of wonder and individuality is to keep her spirit alive in us.

Amazing Person

Shared by Alyaana Zaman on August 17, 2019
I remember first moving to Moscow in Grade 5. I was terrified, I didn't know what anything would be like there. The first person that I talked to was Ms. Pellerin and immediately she had such a gentle, warm, loving energy. She helped me blend in so easily and she let our weird little class express ourselves with open arms. She was an amazing teacher with a sense of humor but the right amount of strictness necessary. My entire class loved being with her and we really were a family. I'll forever look fondly at memories of the 3:30 machine, the moving on ceremony and so much more. Thank you for being awesome. Rest Well. 5PM forever

Beautiful person

Shared by MARK MANFORD on August 14, 2019
Although our paths never crossed in adulthood, I had plenty of great times with her as my dance partner in high school. We had many fun times in the music dept. at SDHS!  Lots of dramas, variety shows and musicals not to mention all the Swing Choir performances.  Great times and very fond memories!  Rest in eternal peace Melissa.
Mark Manford 

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