My own recent family struggles kept me from being there for a man who was my co-worker and friend for decades.

John I. Carney
5 min readApr 27

David Melson stands next to a table full of snacks and finger foods at a newsroom birthday celebration in his honor.

A little more than a month ago, in my job as Bedford County’s media/PR person, I attended the donation of a home to a deserving young veteran and his family. It was a moving event, made possible by a partnership between a bank and a not-for-profit agency. Several of our county officials were in attendance and the county mayor was participating in the ceremony, so I was going to get photos which could be posted to the county’s social media accounts.

There were several different photographers, some representing media outlets, some no doubt representing the bank and the charity. But I did not see anyone from the local newspaper, the Shelbyville Times-Gazette, where I had worked for nearly 35 years, until March 2020. That surprised me.

After I got the photos I needed for the county’s social media, I decided I would go ahead and slip out and beat the crowd. It was a residential neighborhood, and I was parked on the street a good way away from the home. As I was walking back to my car, I got a text from David Melson, the Times-Gazette’s copy editor.

Dave explained that he was working from home, in a lot of pain, and asked if the newspaper could use my photos of the home donation. I was happy to let him have them, and would probably have sent them over as a news release anyway. He didn’t specify what exactly was wrong that day, but the next day he sent a followup text saying that he’d been having ongoing severe back pain, which he said developed after a minor car wreck in February.

A day or two later, Lakita Victory from the newspaper messaged me to say that David was at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Later that night, she messaged me again, to tell me it was cancer.

The past few months have been stressful for my siblings and me. Our father has Alzheimer’s, and over the past couple of months we’ve been trying to get him into memory care — and trying to keep him safe while we were waiting for everything to come together and he was still living at home by himself. That struggle occupied each of us on a daily basis, and as a result I didn’t check in with Dave the way I should have. I texted him a few times.

John I. Carney

Author of “Dislike: Faith and Dialogue in the Age of Social Media,” available at http://www.lakeneuron.com/dislike