Renaissance Woman

On Sunday, I received this message notifying me that my demi-godmother Melva, who had refused to let cancer mar her existence, passed away.

I had been furiously smacking my Clipper card on an automatic ticket machine at Embarcadero when I found out, but the news propelled me into an eerie calmness. I spent the next two hours listening to John Williams on the train, catching up with a childhood friend, and wolfing down an obscenely large burrito. It was only after she left, when I failed to find the motivation to execute plans (a free sailing lesson, geocaching, and public board games) I had made for the day, that I began crying and cursing so viciously people choose to stand rather than sit next to me on BART.

When people ask me what my relationship with my demi-godmother was like, or what a demi-godmother is, I always answer, “it’s complicated”. Rather than struggling to explain, I’m going to share the reason why she mattered to me instead.

Put simply, my demi-godmother did not have to interact with me at all. I cannot overstate how far apart our worlds were; she was the equivalent of a queen and I — a peasant. It didn’t make sense for her to so sincerely care about me, but she did. However little it may have been, she made time to spend with me. Her love taught me to treat everyone, whether king or common crowd, with kindness.

Last year, I shaved my head to fundraise for St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which sponsors childhood cancer research, in Melva’s honor. If you would like to help me reach the $1000 goal I made at that time, but did not reach, you can donate at: https://www.stbaldricks.org/participants/vshao

The show will go on, but it will be better because of you.

Melva on ‘The Distaff Side’ - an exhibition she curated featuring work from 100+ female artists
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