I learned this beautiful poem:
Say this when you mourn for me:
There was a woman- and look, she is no more.
She died before her time.
The music of her life suddenly stopped.
A pity! There was another song in her.
Now it is lost forever.
I and everyone who knew her felt sad when we learned that Dr. Melinda Wilding passed away from cancer on January 20, 2023. She was almost 55 years old. I first met Melinda at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) in the Bioethics department. I used to be the Director and Melinda was hired to create and organize the Master’s Program. We used to speak frequently and shared our thoughts about our likes and dislikes at the university. We respected each other and valued our common love for bioethics. Melinda helped me to organize the first bioethics conference at the UTRGV. She was a speaker at one of the panels, as well.
Melinda earned an undergraduate degree in philosophy from Youngstown State University, and later earned a Master of Art in Biomedical Ethics from Case Western Reserve University and a Doctorate in Bioethics from Loyola University Chicago. She taught bioethics for several years at the University of Colorado, where she also served on the IRB. Since joining UTRGV in 2017, she served as Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine/Bioethics and Director of the MS in Bioethics program. She created, designed, and instructed most of the courses in the program. Her students would often describe her passion for the field as infectious and would say she was an empowering mentor that helped them reach their potential.
Melinda was a dedicated professor that tried to improve the Rio Grande Valley. One colleague, Dr. Jay Morrow, who used to be the Associate Dean for Clinical & Translational Research and Chair of the Department of Population Health, shared with me how passionate Melinda was about ethics, the Valley, and our students. He remembers how Melinda arrived to UTRGV naive to academia, with eyes wide open and excited to meet the challenge. Her number one concern was our students. Dr. Morrow knew her approach was not one of just a teacher, but of a co-learner with the students. Melinda had a genuine belief that for every concept she taught, she gained rich experience from the students that drove her own personal growth. Melinda was a lifelong learner and saw everyone in the world as her teacher.
Melinda had a genuine concern and passion for UTRGV to do right for and serve the population of the Valley. She had a strong sense of service and mission for which she took great pride. Our colleagues always wondered what drew her from Colorado, which we always felt was her comfort zone of friends and home. She was obviously drawn to the Rio Grande Valley. Dr. Morrow believed that Melinda was here on earth to serve a higher purpose. She touched many students and faculty colleagues’ lives with the fire within her to do right for the population, to give, to learn, and to treat everyone she touched in her life with equal respect and dignity.
Another colleague Dr. Candace Robledo Associate Professor of Population Health & Biostatistics at UTRGV, shared with me Melinda’s final words. The following words express the compelling person that she was. She is greatly missed.
Death narrows your lens.
As life unfolds humans have access to a kaleidoscope of experiences. Humanity also has access to a telescope and doors open to travel and all means of learning, appreciation for beauty and awe.
As death approaches, we are left with a small kaleidoscope that is empty of colors and still has shape and reflections. The lens is narrow. The heart and spirit become full if you invite them. Amidst the failing body becomes a connection of the soul to yourself and all things.
Simple things mean everything, as they always did—snowflakes, birds, sun, and flowers.
Melinda was a compassionate human being and always will be missed by the bioethics community. May Melinda’s memory always be remembered as a blessing. May her soul rest in peace.
Rabbi Claudio J. Kogan, MD, MBE, MEd, is the Director of the Bioethics Program at Baptist Health South Florida.