Still shining

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Missy's light will illuminate people's lives for many years to come

By Stevie Lowery

“Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.”
That was the motto for “Dory” an endearing fish on the movie “Finding Nemo.” It was also one of Missy Farmer-Spalding’s favorite adages. She thought of it often after being diagnosed with cancer in August of 2011. No matter how awful, how painful and how scary her battle was she just kept swimming, so to speak.
While Dory was the friendliest fish in the ocean, Missy was one of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. And, no matter the circumstances, Dory always remained positive and had a “glass is always half full” mentality. Missy did, too. Until the very end, Missy just kept swimming.
Missy’s battle with cancer ended Tuesday, June 3, the day before her son, Conner, graduated from St. Charles Middle School. She had hoped to live long enough to see him start his freshman year in high school. I prayed she would make it to that day.
And while I’m extremely saddened by Missy’s death, I’m relieved that she’s no longer suffering. She’s at peace now, and I hope that brings her family some comfort during this very difficult time. I’m also extremely grateful that I, along with many more of Missy’s friends, had the opportunity to see her, give her a hug and tell her how much we loved her during a special reception held in her honor on May 18. I’m not sure whose idea it was to have the reception, but it was an awesome one. In many respects, it was a chance for Missy to say goodbye to her friends while she could. And it was a chance for us to do the same. So often, we don’t get to tell the ones we love goodbye. But, Missy gave us that opportunity. That’s just the kind of person she was. So giving. So caring. So genuine. She was always thinking of others before herself.
There was rarely a time I ever saw Missy that she didn’t have a smile on her face. I stopped by her house on Memorial Day weekend, and although she was utterly exhausted and the evil disease was taking its toll on her body, she still had a smile on her face. And she made the effort to stand up and give me a hug before I left. I will forever treasure that hug. I’ll treasure her smile even more.
My 7-year-old son accompanied me on my visit to see Missy, and when we got back in the car to go home he was very quiet.
“Mom, is she dying?” Owen asked, softly.
“Yes, she is,” I replied.
“Does she know she’s dying?” he asked with a confused look on his face.
“Yes, she knows,” I answered.
Owen sat, very still and quiet in the back seat during our ride home. I knew there were a thousand thoughts going through his little brain. After a few minutes, he spoke up.
“I hate cancer,” he said.
Don’t we all. We all hate cancer.
But, instead of focusing on the evil disease, I’d rather focus on the amazing person Missy was during her life. She was a friend to so many. She was a loving wife. She was an amazing mother. And she was a volunteer. For years, she was single-handedly in charge of organizing the Pigasus Parade during the Marion County Country Ham Days festival. Her hard work and dedication earned her the “Outstanding Chamber Member” award in 2012. But, winning an award and receiving recognition was never Missy’s goal. It was just in her nature to give back and help when she could. And the Pigasus Parade was something special to her.
"I call it my parade," she said when I interviewed her about winning the award. "I am so attached to that parade."
In August of 2011, she was forced to hand the reins to her parade over to someone else after being diagnosed with cancer. That year’s Pigasus Parade and every one of them since just haven’t been the same without Missy calling the shots on the Main Stage. It’s my hope that the Marion County Chamber of Commerce will name the Pigasus Parade in memory of Missy. I think it would be an ideal way to honor her memory. It was her parade, so let’s name it after her.
But, there’s something else we can do to pay our respects to Missy.
We can pay it forward.
We can do something nice for someone else.
We can smile at a person we walk by on the sidewalk.
We can reconnect with an old friend.
We can share a laugh with a complete stranger.
We can volunteer our time for a local cause or event.
All too often we get so caught up in our own lives that we forget to give back, but not Missy. She made time to give back and help others. And she did it purely from the goodness of her heart. Missy was an outstanding person. She let her light shine during her lifetime, and that light will continue to shine bright for those who knew and loved her. Enterprise News Editor Stephen Lega said it best last week after reading my column about Missy.
"When we look at the night sky, we are seeing light that is millions of years old from stars that are millions of light years away. Astronomers tell us that some of the stars we observe have actually collapsed on themselves. In spite of that, we continue to see the light from those stars long after they have died. Reading your column makes me think Missy's light will keep illuminating people's lives for many years to come."
Shine on, Missy. Shine on.