tenir la route
bonne lecture + a newly-released memoir that will satisfy your hunger for France (and maybe even andouillette)

reconfort: a farewell to a reader with ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease

Melanie Olsen
Bon voyage, chère Mélo. If you only knew how much you meant to me--je te garderai dans mon coeur pour toujours.

Our dear friend and fellow Francophile, Mélanie, passed away September 23rd after surviving 18 years with the neurodegenerative disease known as ALS. Melanie will be honored in a ceremony on Monday. In case, like me, you struggle to find words to comfort a family in mourning here below is some encouragement--follow your heart.

le réconfort (ray-cohn-for)

    : comfort, reassurance

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc Download MP3 or Wav file

L’étiquette funéraire est simple; écoutez votre coeur. Observez ceux et celles laissés dans le deuil et offrez votre soutien et réconfort avec des paroles, des mots et des gestes du cœur pour témoigner de votre amour, respect ou sympathie. Funeral etiquette is simple: listen to your heart. Observe those who are mourning and offer support and comfort with words, words and heartfelt gestures to show your love, respect, and sympathy.  -from Etiquette Julie, in Quoi dire ou faire en temps de deuil "What to do or Say in time of Mourning"

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

Yesterday morning I woke up with fresh hope. It may have been a result of the strange and cathartic moment from the day before, when my husband surprised me on our anniversary. The outpouring of tears, and the intense emotion accompanying it, had felt, mysteriously, like mourning--and yet it was one of the happiest moments of our married life.

The release left me with a clear and positive mind as I sat down to another day of work as a self-appointed journalist. I've never managed to land a gig at the New York Times and publishing houses aren't exactly beating down my door, but one never knows when years of practice will pay off again!

The thought suddenly hit me: maybe today good news will come my way? In the eleven years since fueling this online journal, I've received a handful of life-changing propositions in response to it. There was the day when I clicked open my inbox and discovered an email from Simon and Schuster (a publishing contract followed!), then the chance to speak at the historical Parisian bookshop Shakespeare and Company, and recently, I was invited to join the editorial team at France Today magazine: they offered me the backpage column "Le Dernier Mot"! 

And who knew what could come next, when, against all doubts and the condemning voices in your head, you continued to follow your dreams? But first things first--no matter the hurdles overcome, you've gotta continue to do the work. And so, with a rare peace, I settled into another session of writing. At the end of the day, I checked my inbox. And there I discovered one of those life-changing, heart-thumping letters--only not the kind I had hoped for.

The email's subject line read "A farewell from Melanie"....

Mélanie! No......... I sat there with my hand clamped over my mouth. The news was so unexpected, and yet.... she had already beaten the odds by 16 years--living almost two decades with a debilitating disease.

*    *    *

I met Melanie in 2008 through my online blog, French Word-A-Day. Her first note to me came after a serendipitous coincidence (were the previous two words an oxymoron? Melanie would know--she was so curious and had a love of language! In fact, she had been looking up the word "insouciance" when--poof!--my mot-du-jour newsletter appeared in her inbox). The word of the day was souci

Dear Kristin, I have been intending for quite some time to tell you how much I enjoy receiving your email.  Many things you’ve written have struck a common cord with me, but when I saw that you had posted the word souci, I knew I could put it off no longer.

Melanie added, almost as a post note, a modest word about herself:

Thank you for all you do!  I love escaping to Provence through your adventures. I now have ALS or Motor Neuron Disease so typing takes time and energy but one day soon I hope to send you a message about my experience in Provence and other connections I have had to what you have written

I had goosebumps reading Melanie's letter and immediately looked up ALS, learning the heartbreaking reality of a horrible illness also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Most people die within two years of coming down with ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

There began a tender correspondence. One hundred and two precious exchanges (including the comments Melanie left at my blog). Piecing together her letters and friending Melanie on Facebook, I learned a little, each time, about this beautiful, athletic, and funloving character who one day, at the age of 30, had the wind knocked right out of her sails.

In 1995 on returning from France--where she had passed the most exhilarating and inspiring time of her life--Melanie was diagnosed with motor neuron disease.

It was difficult to believe, even for the friends she would later meet. Poring over her Facebook photos, taken before she learned the news, I witnessed her joy via the scenes of her European adventure: there was Melanie, kicking up her boots on the dance floor, and there she was in Cannes, all dolled up (I wrote to her asking if she modeled, but she quickly downplayed her God-given beauty: "You are too kind!" she wrote, immediately changing the subject).

Melanie in Cannes, France
If I were a talent scout, I'd have snapped up this beauty, illico -- in no time at all!

There were photos of Melanie hiking in Porquerolles, clinking champagne flutes in Venice, and--was that a yacht she was on? I was fascinated by her adventures, lived with verve and a very sweet heart....

Melanie in Monte Carlo
Melanie told me that she loved hearts--collected them (notice the belt), but she admitted that her illness prevented her from sharing her life with someone. I pictured her in her wheel chair, years after this photo was taken. At the time she had no idea that on her return she would be diagnosed with an incurable disease. But her idealism, which she hinted at in one of her letters, had her beating the odds. More than the 2 years that ALS patients are given, Melanie lived 18 years with ALS.

As I got to know Melanie through her photos and brief notes, I could not help but imagine that once upon a time--with a Eurail pass and backpacks on our backs--we would have made wonderful complices, or partners in crime! She'd be the daring one, and I'd gladly tag along--sharing her zest for life, my own world brightened by her shining light.

"I think we have a lot in common," Melanie said one day, responding to one of my blog stories. What a compliment! The validation that we would have indeed been giggly complices in France--where we would have pinched ourselves again and again, unbelieving of our lucky stars that have sent us there, delighted me.

PORQUEROLLES France, Mehari car, Kristin (c) french-word-a-day.com
Moi--Kristin. Melanie's would-be accomplice--only pretending to be as adventurous as she!

 But such correspondence--indeed, such dreams--were limited. The truth was, owing to an illness that robbed her of her strength to eat or even type, Melanie grew weaker by the day. She had, so far, beat the odds--having suffered 16-years from the disease, though she never complained but remained a smiling inspiration to all who knew her. Yet I sensed moments when her bravery waned. Melanie once responded to a post I wrote, "Brebis", about a lonely shepherd. The last lines of the story moved her:

...Little did the berger know—and little do we all know—that out there, somewhere, someone is trying to comfort us without our even knowing....

"Your last thought was so touching," wrote Melanie, in the comments section of my blog. She went on to admit, "It warms my heart to think that it is so."

I, too, find comfort in the thought that out there, somewhere, someone is trying to comfort us, without our even knowing. And those lines, intended for my brave friend, were the closest I ever came to telling Melanie how much I thought of her and her bravery.

Around 2011, Melanie could no longer swallow. One day, in 2012, she wrote in, responding to this post on GMOs, encouraging me to continue to eat healthfully--no genetically modified foods! Melanie then shared with me her fondness for cuisine and how she had loved living in Chicago and DC, "both great cities for culinary diversity." She went on to say that in the past two years, because of her condition, she could no longer eat whole foods. Melanie had gracefully accepted yet another new fate: Ensure.

And yet, despite the liquid nourishment that she now received, she continued to enjoy reading about food--even her inner foodie (I loved it when she called herself this--a foodie!) could not be brought down by a heartless disease. She would have, with sincerity, wished all gourmands bon appetit! And Melanie's message was clear: we must all continue to enjoy life's bounty.

In our 5 year virtual friendship, Melanie encouraged me to continue to write freely and with an open heart and, little did she know, she carried me through my bout with skin cancer.

"Bon courage," she wrote, after a particularly invasive operation on my forehead. But how could I be anything but grateful, compared to my friend, who probably could not even speak (I never had the chance to hear her voice). Melanie would have traded places with me in an instant, wearing my dreaded scar like a rock star!  (On second thought, Melanie would not have traded places with anybody, but she bravely endured her cross.)

As I sat there with my hand cupped over my mouth, reading the farewell message sent from Melanie's family and remembering our delicate friendship (I never managed to tell Melanie just how much I loved her. I never did dare say Please, tell me all of your fears--lean on me! No, I was too afraid of somehow putting my foot in my mouth. I kept thinking my words might come off as pitying. So we wrote about other things, including coincidence--something that fascinated Melanie.

Coincidence! Yes!.... I remembered back to my cathartic moment at the lunch table, when my outpouring of tears felt strangely like mourning. And the heaving that accompanied them... and the bittersweat sadness that my happiness felt like... 

Jean-Marc! I said. (My husband sat beside me as I learned the news of Melanie.) "Jean-Marc! Remember when we were sitting at the table, just before I began to cry... just moments before I felt this sharp tug in my left hand." I looked at my palm, there, beside my thumb--where an insistant pinching caught all of my attention....  Pinch, pinch pinch. Pinch, pinch, pinch! I had thought it was a muscle spasm, but, looking down at my hand, I saw nothing...

But, at that very moment, before even knowing she had passed away, I thought of Melanie

*    *    *

I can see us now, together in France, me and my would-be complice. France, the only other place besides Heaven, that we'd rather be. The only place that we'd once again pinch ourselves on arriving. Can you believe it? Pinch, pinch, pinch--I'm here! 

I look down at my hand, amazed. I "heard" you, Mélanie! I heard you! I'm shaking now, those tears are back, rolling down my face drowning my keyboard. I believe. I believe. Bless your heart, thank you, Melanie--I believe!

*    *    * 

One of my favorite pictures of Melanie. Thank you Wendy, Melanie's sister, for permission to post these photos. Our hearts go out to Melanie's dear family.

 To comment, please click here.

Walk to defeat ALS
- each September Melanie encouraged friends and family to support the ongoing search for a cure for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Her last wish was that in lieu of flowers at her memorial, donations be made to a cause she fought for with grace and determination. The week before she died I received this last message from Mélo in my inbox.

It must be September because I am sending out my letter for the Walk to Defeat ALS. The ALS Association funds vital research for possible treatments and a cure. The money raised also provides for patient services like assistive technology, guidance from an amazing staff, and equipment loan closet which have been so helpful to me all along from the time I was diagnosed to now, 18 years later.  Here are some numbers: Approximately 5,600 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALS each year. It is estimated that as many as 30,000 Americans may have the disease at any given time. Most patients survive only 2-5 years.   Please make a donation to help support all that the ALS Association does. Thank you so very much!!!

Melanie once wrote to me, pointing out another thing we had in common: the love of the famous prayer by St. Francis of Assisi. 

"Most mornings, as I lay in bed waiting for my help," she shared, "I say the prayer by Saint Francis of Assisi. I was thrilled when you posted it in French and immediately memorized it and now recite it en francais."

This is for you, chère Mélo:

St. Francis of Assisi's Prayer
Audio File: (Hear 16-year-old, Jackie, recite the poem below in French: Download MP3 Prayer-st-francis or Download Wav file

Seigneur, faites de moi un instrument de votre paix.
Là où il y a de la haine, que je mette l'amour.
Là où il y a l'offense, que je mette le pardon.
Là où il y a la discorde, que je mette l'union.
Là où il y a l'erreur, que je mette la vérité.
Là où il y a le doute, que je mette la foi.
Là où il y a le désespoir, que je mette l'espérance.
Là où il y a les ténèbres, que je mette votre lumière.
Là où il y a la tristesse, que je mette la joie.

Ô Maître, que je ne cherche pas tant à être consolé qu'à consoler, à être compris qu'à comprendre, à être aimé qu'à aimer, car c'est en donnant qu'on reçoit, c'est en s'oubliant qu'on trouve, c'est en pardonnant qu'on est pardonné, c'est en mourant qu'on ressuscite à l'éternelle vie.

                              *     *     *
  Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
  Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
  Where there is injury, let me sow pardon;
  Where there is discord, let me sow harmony;
  Where there is error, let me sow truth;
  Where there is doubt, let me sow faith;
  Where there is despair, let me sow hope;
  Where there is darkness, let me sow light;
  And where there is sadness, let me sow joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in forgetting ourselves that we find, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Karen Mancini

Dear Kirsten

I am so sorry for you for the loss of your friend and would be accomplice. also to the family of Melanie to lose thier loved one. Such a sad and touching story.

Kind regards

Frances Ruth Harris

My brother died of ALS on June 21st of this year. The disease is so cruel and so horrible; it speaks to our hearts and the search for a cure continues! Thank you for this posting.

David Navarre

Such a beautiful tribute. Wiping the tears away now. Thank you for sharing this.

Christine Dashper

I'm sending healing thoughts to Melanie's family, and to you Kristin. She sounds like an amazingly brave person.

warmest wishes

Gerry Ventura

Dear Kristin, Your beautiful tribute to Melanie gives all of us much to think about...illness, death, our friendships and the blessings we find in those friendships. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story.

Alyssa Ross Eppich

My deepest sympathies to you, Kristin, as I feel your pain an ocean away; Melanie is at peace now, and that is something for which we should be thankful.

Vicky Dickens

Kristin - I read your words this morning with tears in my eyes. My husband and I have a dear friend who was diagnosed with ALS about a year ago and we are devastated. Your tribute to Melanie touched me more than I can say - if only I were as eloquent as you. Thank you for sharing your feelings this morning.

Heather in Arles

Kristin, I am sending my most heart-felt condolences to Melanie's family, friends and loved ones, of which you are a part. I am certain, based on what you have written, that she knew how much you cared for her and appreciated your friendship--it is why she came to tell you so.
As saddened as I am to hear of her story, I am as inspired by it as well.
Thank you for sharing this with us. Sending a hug.

Bill in St. Paul

Such a beautiful tribute to a beautiful woman. Ditto what David Navarre said. (My keyboards all wet...)

Madelyn E

Dear Kristin, What a heartfelt and beautiful tribute to this stunning woman Melanie ! She could be your twin . I am so sorry for her suffering . I believe she felt your caring and affection . My deepest sympathy to you and her family .
Madelyn Etkind

Raisa Mayor Berriz

Kristin, This is such a touching post. As someone who has followed you for over 10 years now....by performing a single search, I don't think there are coincidences, but God given moments and opportunities. I love how you have shown your humanity thorough this loving tribute to a reader/friend. Bisous.

Deborah Haynes

I wept as I read this beautiful elegy for a precious friend. My heart goes out to you and all who loved Melanie.

Riss McGuire

Dear Kristin,

Love and prayers. What a wonderful tribute to your friend.



Kristin, you have found the most beautiful way to say adieu to your friend. As she touched your life, you have touched ours. A tribute to a beautiful and courageous woman, and a tribute to the power of the written word. Thank you.

Susan Williams

So sweetly sad and beautiful. As I read to the end, my heart jumped as I read the familiar words of La Prière. My fourth year French students memorize this very version of St. Francis' beautiful prayer each year! It is truly a réconfort!

Blessings and comfort.



Thank you for sharing your love and loss of Melanie with me yesterday and once again placing all of your thoughts and pain and joy of knowing this precious earth-angel so eloquently here upon the written page. I had the pleasure of knowing Melanie from a distance as Kristi wanted to share her lovely friend years ago when they first met. I remember being struck with the thought that they seemed to be the image of each other the first time I saw Melanie, they were meant to be close even though their lives touched through the keys of their computers. Later on yesterday I sent Kristi a quick note with only these words -


What a lovely exit this precious soul made upon our lives, quietly leaving in peace on my birthday and stopping by France to pinch Kristi´s little thumb...I believe their is a reason for everything under the sun and our dear friend has shown us the way to carry on with all of the grace and love we have been given from above. Thank you God for sharing Melanie with us.



Dad in Idaho

My dear Kristi,
You have done it again...I have tears in my coffee. You are my rock star. Through all of your posts I have come to understand what an intelligent, compassionate, and talented woman you are. We all love you so much for being who you are. This is the most eloquent tribute I have ever read.

I send my love and condolences to Melanie's family.

Leonard Quilty

Very beautifully written, Kristen! And it's a touching tribute to Melanie.

Rina Rao.

Dear Kristin,
My condolences---I can feel what you must be going through and I know exactly what went through you on your Weddind Aniv' Lunch.
This kind of thing has happened to me a few times---each time I get amazed how it happens. If we ever meet--I'll tell you about it. As you 'feel' these kinds of 'connects'--I am sure you will find it interesting.
My prayers will be with Mealanie,her family and friends.
Bon courage and take care.
Love, Rina.


As you mourn the death of Melanie, think of how many wonderful moments she had reading your blog, commenting on what you had written and the thoughts of your other readers. With ALS enjoying life through your experiences must have given her joy and comfort. Sou sisters ... Melo and Kristi.

catharine ewart-touzot

Dear Kristin..Your tribute to your friend..never seen but felt with all your heart, was so touching that I shared it in couple of places for a several reasons...it encourages all of us to respond in any way we can to finding a cure to this dread disease, it recognizes our ability to connect with others on so many levels without having them in front of you..which speaks to so many in our world today and it is a tribute to an incredible human being making us strive to be more like her. It is indeed a time to celebrate her life.

Lucia Sullivan

God bless you Kristin,
A beautiful tribute to your friend and her bravery. Thank you for the translation of the Prayer of Saint Francis. It is my favorite prayer.
With comforting thoughts and sincerity,
Lucia Sullivan

Deborah Carter

Kristin, what a touching and heartfelt tribute to your friend. Genuine in its simplicity and honesty. Thank you for sharing your mark of respect and friendship in honouring her.
Deborah from Melbourne.

Pamela Blair

Dear Kristin,
I've been reading your blog for six months and have enjoyed being able to enter into your life in France, your family and your thought process, and yet I've never felt moved to respond to how much I appreciate your writing until today, as you wrote about Melanie. Thank you so much for all your efforts to write your life down as you do. You have written a beautiful tribute to your friend. My heart goes out to you, now, and to Melanie's family for your and their loss. May all these responses give you comfort as you travel through your own experience of grief.


Dear Kristin,

My heartfelt condolences on the loss of your lovely and brave young friend. Your beautiful tribute to Melanie touched me more than I can say. Life is very difficult to understand sometimes, but I pray that Melanie is at peace in God's loving embrace. My thoughts are with you and the family she left behind



nos prieres a vous et a la famille de Melanie....merci de partager cette histoire tres precieuse...xoxo

M. Hughes

Such a touching story, thank you so much for sharing and helping us to learn more about ALS.

Edie Schmidt


A lovely tribute in memory of a lovely lady.

Edie from Savannah

Devra Long

I was so moved by your tribute to Melanie and also by Jule's post. What a blessing to have someone like her in your life. My heartfelt prayers are with you and her family, may she rest in peace.

Kathleen from Connecticut

You and Melanie were soul sisters, and that is why you felt a pinch. What a beautiful tribute to her and condolences to her family.


Kathryn Ward

God's peace.

Jan  Hersh

A moving account of the mysteries and miracles that touch our lives.
May each day bring new light and love. I send condolences to Melanie's family.
I have always loved the prayer and also thank you for the translation.

Julie Schorr

Thank you for sharing Melanie's story, and yours with us. Yes, I also believe Melanie stopped by to pinch your thumb to say good-bye. You wrote a very touching tribute to Melanie; she touched your heart and you touched our hearts through the sharing of this beautiful tribute. Peace to Melanie and to her family and peace to you too, Kristin.

AnneBarbara Zarcone

Dear Kirsten and Family,

I am very sorry for your loss. Please send my condolences to her family.
Todays post a lovely tribute for a beautiful soul..
And thank you and her dear family for the photos.

Devoted Reader,


So sad, and yet a beautiful story at the same time.
I learned recently of a wonderful librarian (I love librarians) who was my favorite at my local library had died of ALS. I too wish I had told her how I valued her and sought her out of all the librarians when I needed help. Alas, too late to say what I should have said sooner. A sadly learned lesson.


Dear Kristi, The tears are slipping down my face. What an amazing tribute to a friend you have made. But really a testament to reaching out across barriers - and touching people in the most unexpected ways. That is what YOU do and that is what SHE did to you. See, you are kindred spirits. My soul is simply touched - with love, admiration, sadness and finally inspiration. We all have journeys we are not aware of and you know what I am referring to. It is not the challenges that define us, but our actions. You both have lived life to the fullest and touched people more than you both will ever know. And that thought surely must give you, as well as Melanie now in heaven, deep comfort.

Susan Souza

These last two blogs have touched my heart.. You truly have a gift and seeing your beautiful friend shows us how precious life is.


Through you we all go to know Melanie..heartfelt condolences to you and her family, thank you for sharing the story of such a courageous woman. xx

Regular reader

We look forward to the time mentioned in God's word when death is no more... (Rev 21:4; Isa 25:8; Job 14:7;13-15; Psalms 37;11; 29)
With sympathy...


You've written a truly beautiful tribute to your dear friend. Thank you for sharing her story with us. My heartfelt condolences to you, Melanie's family and friends.


I'm so sorry for the loss of your friend, Melanie, but what a wonderful story of friendship and love!


Anne Winner Anderson

It's my favorite prayer, too, the prayer of my beloved father's patron St. Francis of Assisi (and namesake of our pope).
I hope you are comforted a little knowing my Daddy and many others are welcoming Melanie into heaven.

Faye Stelly- Lafayette, La.

Thank you for your post. Melanie was a beautiful person and how fortunate for both of you to have known each other! Another reminder this a.m. that we indeed are never alone. People are god's language, they say. And the Prayer of St. Francis has been a favorite since first I heard it in childhood. A powerful heartfelt prayer and I needed to be reminded this a.m.
My thoughts and prayers to all who knew and loved Melanie.

N, San Antonio, Texas

Oh my what a touching story of friendship and courage. My tears are plentiful. Bless you for being able to write it and share it with all of us. Words do not come to me know just tears and sadness. That wonderful prayer! So now she is free and her spirit can soar.

Georgia Schall just north of San Francisco

Yes, the tears are quite present with me, also, although I do not think I can add much more to all you have written, Kristi, and the many writers in this comment blog. Well said and with loving hearts!

My condolences to Melanie's family and friends.


Coincidences are God's way of winking at us. Your heart has to be open to notice them. Yours is. Thank you for sharing your experience. Much love to you, Melanie and those close to you both.

joie in carmel-by-the-sea

Find the joy in being allowed to have the privilege of of getting to know this wonderful person. You two were soul mates in a very beautiful way.


Your story is beautiful. The closeness you and Melanie shared through words and transmitted again through waves of love hit and soothed me. Then-LOSS. Yet, not loss but another dimension given that cannot be taken. I believe the love-connection between two like souls remains forever intact. Thank you so much for sharing.


Our dear Kristi,
What a moving,eloquent and beautiful tribute to a dear friend and cherished friendship.
How blessed you were to have been part of each other's lives!
THANK YOU for the privilege of sharing this with us.How fortunate we are to be part of FWAD.
Illness is a cross to bear,and one which you can only ask God for help and comfort.
This year has been particularly trying for my family;sickness and surgeries.
Socrates said it so well: There are many things which I do not want.
Love, Natalia XO

Eileen deCamp

I'm so sorry Kristin. I feel like people are brought into our lives to give us strength sometimes. When we see someone like Melanie with such a debilitating disease but we see how she somehow triumphs and thrives even though she is fighting such a terrible battle, it gives us strength to get through our day. Thanks for sharing and I will say a special prayer for Melanie.


Kristin Espinasse

Quietly reading these messages. Deeply, deeply touched by your thoughtful and loving words. I am about to send a link to this story to Melanies family. May they find comfort in your words and may this celebration of Melanie bring a smile. Thank you for reaching out and honoring Melanies lovely soul.

Bettye Dew in St. Louis

My husband and I observed our 25th anniversary at a lovely restaurant over delicious food. What a happy occasion it was, for we had much to celebrate. And yet, I had a spell of crying that was similar to yours during your anniversary lunch. "What's wrong?" asked my husband, puzzled. "I'm just thinking of all the people who started out with us who are no longer here," I said through my tears. For me, it was a bittersweet evening, a jumble of joy and sadness. I'm afraid I distressed my poor husband, however, for he would have preferred only the joy. "I didn't think it would be like this," he said as we were leaving. The feelings that came over me that evening were unexpected, but, in retrospect, I feel grateful to have experienced that little "visitation" from dear ones who lived only in my heart.


Thank you for writing about inspirational Melanie. Every person that God sends into our lives is the perfect preparation for a future that only He can see. Melanie has now touched my life through your words and I am grateful.
Denise in NJ

Candy in Colorado

Tears have captured my words. Sending you light and love, chere Kristin.

Joan Simon

Dear Kristin,

Heartbraking. Tears. What a beautiful tribute to someone who touched your life. You made her "come alive" for us, too.

Thank you.

nancy in anchor bay

Beautifully written, touching, inspirational and generous in the sharing of your relationship with this amazing woman. Pinch, pinch, pinch!

Rosemary Deshaies

Early this morning I read your touching tribute to Melanie, and it has haunted me all day. What a treasure your relationship was!
My sympathy at this loss.

Trina, St. Petersburg, Florida, USA

Thank you for sharing. What a beautiful tribute to a beautiful friend. My condolences to all of you whose lives she touched. I believe.

Joanne Ablan

What a terrible loss for Melanie's family and friends. We are all
diminished by the loss of our loved ones. John Donne expressed
it better than I in his poem, For Whom The Bell Tolls:
"No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the
Continent, a part of the maine, if Clod bee washed away the Sea,
Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Mannor of thy Friends or of
thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am
involved in Mankinde, And therefore never send to know for who
the bell tolls; It tolls for thee."

Posting Melanie's photos and telling her story helps not only in the
search for a cure for ALS, but also will help those of us who are left
behind to give thanks for Melanie's life and our own lives. Thank you for the opportunity to reflect on the gift of life and what we can do to better sustain this gift in ourselves and others. Joanne , Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA USA



You have a rare gift of moving people (and their tears :-). Yours is the best tribute to a friend departed I have ever read.

Blessings to Melanie on the new for her Path, and thank you to you for your wonderful and sentient heart highly attuned to the lives of others.

Mary Jeanne , Florida

Chere Kritin
What a beautiful tribute to your friend Melanie! You could had been twins, the same figure and the same beautiful smile that reflects on what beautiful souls you both have and had...She is at peace, God brought her home...I will pray for you and Melanie's family that God will bless them with Faith and courage to go on with their everyday lives...I pray the prayer of St. Francis everyday, thank you for sharing the french version...Keep writing and sharing chere Kristin! God give you a special gift ...Lots of Love, Hugs and mille bisous comming your way from Florida!
Mary Jeanne


What a powerful and beautiful post you wrote about your friend - prays to you and her family. And also, thank you for educating the public about how horrible ALS is. My mother died of it and it is an awful disease. So you both educated the public about it as well as shared the beauty of your friend. Merci.

Karen from Phoenix

What a beautiful post and tribute to Melanie. My heart is heavy for her family. I send them prayers of comfort and thank you for sharing your wonderful friend with us.

Leslie in Portland, Oregon

Dear Kristin,
I am so sorry for Mélanie's suffering and for your loss. I hope that in lifting up all of us through telling the story of her incredible life, you have found some measure of sustaining comfort. You, and Mélanie's indomitable strength, have redoubled my determination to do all I can to support the search for a cure for ALS. Je t'embrasse à tout coeur, Leslie


RIP, Melanie


For Kristin and Melanie --

I can't say anything that hasn't been said already 100 times in these Comments. Kristin, you made me feel, without ever having met Melanie, as though I, too, have lost a friend.

Melanie's story is both heartbreaking and inspiring, and it deserved telling. Thank you so much for doing that -- and with such love.

On a completely different subject, congrats on your new-ish gig with France Today!


Kristin -

I was traveling today across the US. Read your post early this morning before my flight and had to hold back the tears. I thought about it throughout the day as I soared through the clouds. Your words and your thoughts about your friend, distant as she might have been, were so powerful and moving. You are an amazing writer and clearly, and even more amazing friend....


Karen Marsh

Kristin, thank you so much for sharing your feelings. My thoughts are with you, and with Melanie's family.

Cynthia Lewis (Eastern Shore of Maryland)

What an exquisite and yet most natural tribute you have written for your lovely friend, Melanie. I send my very sincere sympathy to you and to Melanie's family. Life brings us much joy and much sadness, too.

Lisa Kiely

This tribute left me in tears and I continued to reflect upon it throughout my day. Even though I never met Melanie, your words brought her to life for me. What a courageous, graceful and beautiful woman Melanie was. We can all learn from her. Your heartfelt writing is so eloquent. Don't stop writing!!

Judi Miller, Lake Balboa, CA

What a beautiful tribute to your dear friend, Melanie. Her passing is so very sad. No one could have honored her more than you did today with your wonderful words, thoughts and prayers. Thank you for once again sharing yourself with us all! You are a warm and sensitive, and very loving woman and your love shines through. This post reminds us all to be kind and loving to one another and to treasure every moment we have together!

Ellen from BH

And what a shock when we first realize that our virtual friends are truly...friends - surely as much as our friends at work, at book club, even as dear as some of our childhood friends. They are on this journey with us, and when they leave, we are so affected. Kind Kristin, thank you for sharing Melanie and her story with us. Let's defeat ALS in the next decade or so: "where there is despair, let me sow hope."


Would it be possible for you or for your family to do the mp3 recording of the French version of St Francis prayer? It is one of my favourite prayers as well, and I am sure many of us would enjoy listening to it, and maybe memorizing it and being able to eventually recite it by heart with your (recorded) help. Thank you very much for all your efforts.

Rosalind Mustafa

Dear Kristin
You have written words of comfort and love for your friend and for us. I thank you for reaffirming for me how very close friends in cyberspace can be. Sometimes I feel slightly guilty that I've become attached to so many that I've never met in person or perhaps met only once. But friends we are. I remember when we first 'met' years ago, so I completely understand how attachments happen.
I offer condolences to you for your loss. You have the sweetest of memories and inspiration from her life. Roz


Beautiful. Touching. Holding back the tears. Thank you.

Pat Cargill

Dearest Kristin, thank you for sharing this amazing and beautiful tribute to Melanie, a friend in heart, more encompassing than time or space allow. It is with the heart that we truly know another and your friendship was a miracle. Sharing this eloquent story today you have brought us into the sweet circle of your friendship with this beautiful and brave soul, so inspiring--Inspiring us to wake up, breathe into this perfect day of possibility and open our minds and hearts to the miracle of another day, to live well and fully. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Nancy Radoslovich

Thank you for sharing the story of your beautiful friendship with Melanie. I hope that you find comfort in the fact that doing what you love has brought such joy . I love to read your blogs and newsletters.. Thank you!!!

Donna Grieder

Kristin, thanks for sharing the news of the passing of brave and beautiful Melanie. Your friendship and her participation in the life of your 'family' of readers surely gave her joy. How right that she would thank you with a touch to your hand...
My condolences to all whose lives she touched.


Mes condoléances, à la famille de Melanie!

Kristi, tu as rendu un bel hommage, et si émouvant à ta belle lectrice.

Sandy Maberly

Kristi, How difficult it must have been for you to piece together your thoughts and memories of Melanie at this sorrowful time. Even though it was a memoire filled with such sadness, there was also the underlying current of hopefulness and love of life which you both share. She is at peace now and rests in the loving arms of those who have gone before her. My hope is that you, as well as Melanie's family find strength in this knowledge and in the many happy memories that you shared. I offer my sincere condolences to you all.

Alli Geary

Dear, Dear Kristin,
Your tender post about Melanie touched me like no other. As a society, we take for granted these online relationships. Week in and week out, you are a familiar part of my world, yet I have hardly thought about how you relate to us.

What a love-filled, compassionate tribute you have written about a wonderful person. May your memories of her be a blessing to you, as you are a blessing to all of us.

Stacy ~ Sweet Life Farm

Once again, you have moved me to tears, dear friend. From the bottom of my heart, my deepest sympathy to you, Melanie’s family and each and every heart saddened by her loss. Melanie’s passion for life is evident in these photos. Wow, her beauty radiates from within! May we all strive to live with such grace and courage.

I have recently learned of the death of a friend who, like Melanie, left this world much too soon. Though we fell out of contact when I moved out of state, I thought of her often. I tried to get in touch with her the last few years wishing to let her know how inspirational she had been to me. I wonder if it would have changed things for her.

I look forward to reading each and every comment. It gives me “goose bumps” to know you were in tune to her loss before hearing the news. I love that she “visited” you to say good bye. I had a very similar experience though it was months before I understood its significance.

I have a copy of Saint Francis of Assisi prayer tucked in my checkbook; it will take on greater meaning as I recite it now. I marvel at how we are all connected and how deeply we touch each others lives. My sincerest thanks for sharing your beautiful friend’s story, to borrow your words, it is life changing.

Ps. Love the inclusion of the photo of you --- Melanie’s would-be accomplice!


Kristi, you have allowed us to all be touched by your friend Melanie who was such a very brave, spirited, beautiful woman. Her story, through your words, has deeply moved me which is such a wonderful gift you have given to both her family and to your wonderful friend Melanie. My thoughts are with all of you at this time and I know she will never be very far away from your hearts. x

Jennifer in OR

So moving and honoring. Ditto the request by Francesca for a recording from Jean-Marc of St. Francis' Prayer in French. Love Jen

Bill Facker

Kristin, you've posted many wonderful writings, but for me this posting is the pinnacle of the writers art ... complete giving of your thoughts and emotions in honor of the subject matter. Prayers for Melanie's family mixed with thanks and congratulations to you for your ability to open yourself completely to your readers.


Such a deeply moving and genuine story, had me crying in no time. What a great blessing that you found friendship and love in each other. Big condolences on your loss of a special friend, bises de New York, xo

Julie Farrar

I'm late to the post, Kristin. Things were too hectic to read it when first posted. As I sat in my car in a parking lot waiting for a friend I had tears streaming down my cheeks and I don't know why since I had never met Melanie. Your writing in this post was powerful and evocative. You have always had a great talent for writing profiles, and with this one you made me realize what a hole is now in my life because I never had a chance to know this amazing woman. You served your friend well with your unique writing gift.

june furey

Kristin such a moving and beautiful story you have posted about Melanie, reading it made the tears come to my eyes also. Isn't wonderful though how just one person comes into our live to put all other problems into perspective. I have told you so many times how much joy you bring into my life with your stories so I hope once more you are uplifted with the knowledge of how much your stories mean to all your friends. love you June, Gold Coast Qld

Connie Sponheim

I was emotionally affected by reading about Melanie. She inspires me. How could she
know what her life would mean to people...With heartfelt thoughts to her family...Thank you...Connie


Powerful tribute, Kristin.
Sadly, my dear sister-in-law passed away this year only 18 months after diagnosis of an agressive form of MND. I don't know which is worse: having only 18 months, or only 18 years.
We all carry this pain in our hearts and carry on, as best we can.
Every moment in life becomes more precious when you carry the timetable of MND in your body. More precious for you, and more precious for your family and friends.
Je compatis à ta douleur. Tears from across the oceans flow to join yours and our WOTD community.
Valé Mélo.


...thank you, kristin...you write so heartfully well...and thanks for reminding me of the st. francis prayer, my favorite of all time, which in these past months of self-pity, i completely forgot...i send kind loving thoughts to melanie in heaven and her loved ones on earth, and to you, kristin and yours...:)



I, too, thank you for the loving tribute to Melanie. I did not read it until this morning and am fighting back the tears at my desk. My thoughts and prayers to you and her family.


Such a delightful tribute on such a sad occasion. I had to write and let you know that I so thoroughly enjoy these snippets which arrive in my inbox.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Helen, and to all who have written in, or read the story and comments, and shared loving words or thoughts. 

Francesca, I will try to get a recording to share with everyone. Warmest wishes to all who are reading.


I echo the other comments...this is one of the most genuine tributes I've ever read or heard. I'm so glad that you and your "complice" found each other, if only online. Thank you for the reminder of the prayer of St Francis, and thank you to the universe for the life of your most exceptional friend.

Stephen M Jaeger

Thank you for posting your heart-felt word about your friend. Although it never really happened, I can't help picturing the two of you as girls travelling together across Europe. A vivid what if...


Paul Alexander

Dear Kristin,

As busy as I seem to be when your post arrives, I have to admit I don't usually find the time to do much more than scan what you write. However, your description of how you reacted to Melanie's death struck a chord with me -- one human being to another, and I read every single word this time. And once more. In fact, I forwarded your post to a friend of mine in Texas who lost her 20-something-year-old daughter Robyn to ALS in 1999. I'm now in a quandary whether I should forward it to a 60-year-old friend here in town who is facing the same sentence of ALS. I would appreciate your opinion whether someone who has ALS would want to read how someone withOUT ALS reacts.



Chere Kristin,
Melanie's beauty was indeed transcendent. I am deeply sorry. Thank you for sharing with us (just seeing this today) and for reminding me of the prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi. Is it a coincidence that I needed to read this today?
May God be with you and with Melanie's family.
Cindy de Louisiana

Linda R.

Thank you for the lovely tribute to a beautiful person,Kristin. My friend of 40+ years died of ALS July 11 of this year - Carole's struggle and her faith-centered life was an inspiration to all who were fortunate to know her. The same can be said of Melanie - thank you for honoring her and sharing her story with your readers.

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