|Marna and Don Biederman
A true heroine at the young age of thirty-five, Melissa has helped her family through almost unbearable agonies. She is a woman who has proven time and time again that family, love, and loyalty takes priority over everything else.
In 1997 Melissa’s father found a tiny spot on the end of his nose. When it was removed by his dermatologist, he was assured that it was nothing. In the week that followed, we were told that we needed to consult with a micro surgeon. The next year and one half was a trail of thirty-one surgeries. Melissa managed to make the trip from Law School in Iowa City to our home in Los Angeles for almost every surgery. Hour after hour she would sit curled up in the hospital waiting room, reading her law assignments. When we would bring him home, she would take on the burden of care that would send most loved ones racing from the scene. Her dad had no face on one side. The gaping hole that had once been his cheek and nose were now vacant space. Patiently and with great, good humor, Melissa would dress the wound every day. She knew how important her education was to her father. She did very well in law school, and yet never failed to appear to help here at home.
After two more years when the cancer was supposed to be gone, Don began his reconstructive surgery phase. There were twenty-five more surgeries to come. When they rebuilt his face and his nose using a rib, we all rejoiced that the worst was over. However, in April of 2002 we began to notice a “downhill” trend. He could not walk well, so Melissa prevailed upon him to use a wheel chair. He lost the ability to use his jaw and his eyelids, so he could no longer drive, and food had to be pulverized before he could eat it. He persisted on finishing the grading of his final exams for the law school where he was a professor. Melissa never once gave up hope.
In July, when we were all very frightened, we were forced to take Don to the hospital. It was there that the doctor tried to tell me this was the end of Don’s life. I couldn’t process this information. He was my love and life partner for forty years. It was Melissa who sat with me and patiently explained all that we had been told. It was Melissa who made me understand that I was going to lose my husband.
Don died peacefully on August 8, 2002. We were all there gathered close to him, holding him until the very last minute. With a broken heart, Melissa continued to practice law and be my strength and my best friend. She is never too busy with her own life to speak with me and to cry with me. Often, we share memories and laugh together.
I have been teaching for thirty-two years, and I have often told my students that a hero or a heroine is someone who perseveres and lives life each day. That a hero is sometimes someone who gets up in the morning and gets dressed and goes to work. Melissa has done so much in her young life. She grieves for her dad, and reaches out across the miles to me every day. A brilliant, beautiful girl who reaches out to help her family and enjoys their love and their respect. She is my daughter, but she is also a heroine. I am glad that I am her mother.