A Dedication to Melinda Frisch — Team: The ClASsy Walkers

Kicking Cancer’s Ass/The ClASsy Walkers

Joel:
We would like to welcome all our dear friends and family and to thank the community for honoring the life of Melinda Siegel Frisch. My sister, Hannah, and I would like to tell you a little bit about our mom, and why we loved her so much, while sharing some of our fondest memories of her.

Hannah:
Mom was the true definition of a warrior. Back in the days of no internet and no cell phones, she moved to Spain for a year to study Spanish. Through her studies, she met three of her best and lifelong friends – Magna, Mamie, and Barbara Cohen. I remember her telling me and Joel stories about traveling through Europe, and living in Spain during a period of Franco’s dictatorship. She wrote letters back home to my Grandma and Grandpa, and saved all their letters in an ornate box in her office. Mom’s sense of adventure was never lost.

Joel:
From the time that my mom was born on December 20, 1951, she has always struggled with unfortunate genes. To give an example, if you look at a picture of her at age 8 and me at the same age, we look practically identical, including the same missing tooth. From the moment she was born, she had to have multiple corrective eye surgeries. From there she dealt with stomach issues as a young adult, although no one knew what to call it at the time. My mom and I have always shared a mutual understanding of how to deal with physical pain. I am glad to be able to say that I can support my wife Dana whenever she may have a child because my mom told me that a Crohn’s attack is similar to giving birth.

Hannah:
My Mom and Dad, Michael, met in 1975. My Aunt Lannie’s friend set them up on a blind date. In December, they celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary. Together over the years, they have accumulated two kids, two kid-in-laws, three homes, eight dogs, six grandkitties, and two granddogs. She had a lot of love to go around. Our mom has also studied nine musical instruments.

Joel:
One of the reasons my mom has been so inspirational to me, is her ability to constantly reinvent herself. Although she has always had a passion for music, she didn’t start playing seriously until she was in her twenties. It was at this time that she met another of her now dearest friends, David Holmes. She studied the flute with him for several years. On May 28th 1980, she gave David a call and told him she didn’t feel too well and that she would have to miss her lesson the next day. I’m sorry mom, for making you miss the lesson and for being 9.1 pounds. When I was three, she decided to enroll me in violin lessons which, of course she learned along with me. I hated it, but she stuck with it for quite a while and even played in an orchestra along with high school students.

Hannah:
One of the reasons my mom has been so inspirational to me, is her ability to constantly reinvent herself. My mom stayed at home with me until I was five. I remember her asking me after picking me up from Kindergarten one day, “Hannie Bug, do you mind if I go back to work”? To this day, I am still shocked at my maturity when I said, “of course!”. Throughout the course of my childhood, she taught Spanish to all ages ranging from pre-school to college. Her last stop was at Loyola University, where she taught for over a decade. She has told me, “I knew it was time to leave when college students started to look young compared to YOU” – Thanks, Mom. As it turned out, Yoga was her true passion. She has met so many amazing friends doing what she loves, including her role model and best friend, Jenny Otto. In the last few years, she has earned two additional Masters Degrees in Nutrition and Yoga Therapy from the Maryland Institute of Integrated Health.

Joel:
My mom and I share a deep bond over our mutual love of music and teaching. When I was in 4th grade, the band teacher, Mr. Owens, gave a talk to my music class about how he needed kids to join the band. He said he really needed some good trombone players. Naturally, I ran home that day and told my mom that I wanted to play the trombone. “You don’t want to carry that heavy thing to the bus stop,” she said. She had always envisioned me being a percussionist because I would kick in rhythm to music in her stomach when she was pregnant with me. Being the procrastinator that I am, she had to call Mr. Owens and beg him to let me play percussion because I turned in the forms too late and he already had too many percussion students. When my mom told him of her vision, he didn’t want to stand in the way of fate. She thought she was getting off easy only having to buy me a practice pad and sticks. Little did she know that she would one day end up with a marimba, drum set, chimes, bells, and eight timpani in her basement.

Hannah:
My mom has always said that raising boys is hard when they are young, but raising girls is hard forever. She also joked that I gave her all of her grey hair, which she should thank me for, since she had the most beautiful grey hair I’ve ever seen. Even throughout my questionable choices as a teenager, my mom always made it clear that she loved me. When I became very ill from an eating disorder in college, she drove to Richmond every single weekend to be with me and make sure I wasn’t alone. I remember one time in particular, she and Joel drove through the middle of the night to be with me for a few hours when I was having a panic attack. This comes to mind, because many people have commented on how devoted her family has been to her during her battle with cancer. Well, this is why. We learned selfless love and devotion from the person who did anything and everything for the people she loved.

Joel:
My mom has always been my biggest fan. I can’t think of too many concerts that she was unable to attend. She flew all over the world with me for my music auditions. We travelled to Italy, Israel with my sister, Winnipeg, and many other places. She even flew to Michigan so that she drive with me from Lansing to Buffalo with a van full of timpani. She flew to Korea three times, and once with Hannah to see me play with the Daejeon Philharmonic. She also travelled to New York when I played at Carnegie Hall and to Argentina to see me play a timpani concerto. She has told many people that getting to come to Argentina to watch me perform was one of the proudest moments of her life. Her initial two-week diagnosis came over a year before that concert. I would like to especially thank my friend Pablo, who could not be here today, for making the entire experience possible.

Hannah:
As I mentioned earlier, my Mom’s sense of adventure was insatiable. In Israel, I insisted that we pull over to the side of the road in the desert for a camel ride. That event is now a favorite photo of us together. In Korea, she allowed me and Joel to do Noribong for hours. Noribong is Korean for “Song Room” – yes, she listened to me and Joel belt our hearts out in an enclosed room for multiple hours and acted incredibly proud of us. More recently, Mom and I have cruised to the Keys and Mexico and rode very ride in Disney World. Disney World was one of mom’s favorite places on this Earth. In fact, two years ago we encouraged her to “kick cancer’s ass” so that she could go to Disney World again. In April, Mom and her best friend, Mamie, visited me in Seattle. I am so thankful that my mom was able to visit me before she passed away. I will never forget the look on her face when I picked her up in the Seattle Airport, how she hugged me and told me that she loved me.

Joel:
Many people who know my mom, know that she was heavily involved in community music. She joined the Columbia Concert Band in 1992 and played the flute and piccolo for several years, under the direction of Robert Miller and then Mike Blackman. Soon after, I joined the band and we would go to band together every Monday night. A few years later she also joined the Olney Concert Band and decided that she wanted to learn two brand new instruments, oboe and English horn. I became the music director of the Olney Concert Band three years ago. Some of my favorite memories of my mom will always be that I had the opportunity to direct a band the she played in. I will never forget the last time she ever played her oboe – it was at Maryland Community Band Day just this past June on a picturesque farm in Williamsport.

Hannah:
Mom’s dedication to “kicking cancer’s ass” and “Walking her A.S. off” was a success, because she did. Every day since her diagnosis, she made an inspirational post on Facebook about something she was doing to “kick cancer’s ass”. She led an awareness group every year for A.S. Whether it was going on a trip, having lunch with a friend, or simply indulging in one of her hobbies, she loved life. The last two weeks of my Mom’s life were incredibly difficult. My mom, after all, was the strongest person I knew. I hope that I have her strength. In her final days, I sat at her bedside crying. She asked me, “Why are you crying?” I told her, “Because I’m going to miss you, Mom”. Her response was, “We will still see each other all the time.” Of course, I asked her, “How?” She said, “We just need to get on a really big airplane and cross the Atlantic Ocean.” In summary, even on my Mom’s death bed, she was comforting me. I’ve spent a lot of time in the last few weeks focusing on the injustice of having my Mom taken away from me too soon. The outpouring of love and support from everyone here has only substantiated how amazing my mom was. And, Cancer- Mom kicked your ass. Because you took away her body, but you will never kill her spirit and the memories we have with her.

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Ricky was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis in 2010. Exactly one year later he created Endless Trax, his personal blog about AS, to document his experiences and help inspire others. Living by the motto “your condition may become you life, but that doesn't mean your life has to become your condition”; Ricky has strived to be a positive role model and advocate for people with Ankylosing Spondylitis.

One Comment

  1. Cindy

    on May 1, 2018 at 10:06 am

    Reply

    Hannah & Joel, thank you for sharing your beautiful dedications to your mom. We were just two of her many faithful yoga students but we think about her so often and feel her spirit, especially when we are at the yoga center. Her presence in our lives was a gift.
    Cindy & Denis Read

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