It is with heavy heart that I write this blog. Melanie Popowich, the most amazing woman and friend to us all here who knew her, tragically died on Friday 11th January 2013 in India.
Mel lived here in Elmina and worked for Global Mamas. We’ve known Mel for over two years now. We first met on Caspar’s birthday (15th Dec 2010) and she has been a part of our lives here in Ghana ever since. Young and vibrant she soon became a key member of the core of young expats who live in Elmina and Cape Coast as well as those who worked for Global Mamas all over Ghana.
She was one of those incredible, genuine, sincere, beautiful people who had the ability to light up a room and to make everyone feel special. Her laugh was infectious and she was loved by all, Ghanaian and expat alike.
She told me how she was going travelling in India on her own and would be spending some time at a spiritual retreat and was really excited about it. She mentioned that she wasn’t feeling too great but was hoping to feel better before she went.
Ironically, as someone pointed out, she died whilst on a trip to discover more about life. From the few details that I have gathered she was at the retreat when she collapsed after complaining of headaches. The hospital were unable to revive her.
It is not known what the cause is yet but everyone I have spoken to is hoping in some small way that it was unavoidable and inevitable rather than being something that could have been treated.
The effect of something like this within our small expat community will have huge ripple effects, of which we don’t know the full consequences yet. I’m sure some major decisions will be made, gatherings will never quite be the same again, some people may move on, some stay longer. She made a lot of very close friends here who will be knocked sideways by this.
The hardest thing I believe for people to deal with here will be their grief. Normally when someone dies not everyone you know knew that person and this can be helpful in that you have a selection of people to turn to. To those who knew the person for mutual support, to those who didn’t for those times when you need to chat to someone who can sympathise and show support without dealing with their own grief.
Grief itself is also hugely personal. People will be angry, sad, shocked, disbelieving, numb, guilty, confused, alone. It can be a very lonely emotion. Sadly it is not the first time I have experienced the death of a friend but maybe being slightly out of the social group due to four kids, being older and married, and not able to see each other as much has thankfully protected me from the immense feelings those that saw her all the time will be feeling. It also helps me understand what everyone may be going through. Back in 1999, I not only had an old boyfriend, but also a best friend from university, die within a month of each other. It was a tough year. I still miss them both very much.
The thing about someone like Mel is that she was a truly beautiful person through and through and because of that you felt close to her as you would with any friend, she had the ability to make you feel important to her, so absolutely everyone is rocked by this. Of those here, my heart goes out to her very close friends and her recent boyfriend, Steve. Their world will have shattered and I only hope one day they will feel that she has gone on a very long holiday and they’ll see her when she gets back.
Whilst the disbelief and the theories are voiced it will take a very long time for things to return to normal. Who knows if it will for some. The time to be there for each other is over the next few months after Mel has gone home to Canada and is buried by her family who adore her. I cannot imagine the pain that they must be feeling. Her parents will be coming to Ghana and a memorial service will be held in Cape Coast for her sometime in the near future.
May this be the only bad news of this kind I have to write about in a very long time.
Here’s to Mel, a dear friend, who’s joy for life was catching. I’m angry on Mel’s behalf, she had far too much life left to live. It really does make the saying ‘only the good die young’ true.
You’ll make a fantastic guardian angel Mel! See you again sometime for that drink that we never managed to get done before Christmas, or after.