Nicholas Orion Mealey
May 25, 1988 – February 5, 2020
Nicholas Orion Mealey
The light that shines twice as bright burns half as long.
Nicholas Orion Mealey, born 25 May 1988, passed away suddenly on 5 February 2020, age 31. Nicholas loved the colors purple and red, the smell of coconut, the red rose, books, history and philosophy, superheroes and video games, Bernie Sanders and all he stands for, his dog Dakota, Isis and Zadi, two feral kitten he rescued a decade ago, vegetarian cooking, Lawrence of Arabia, Les Mis, and Star Wars, old Soviet-era jokes, Swedish fish and Skittles, espresso, punk music, fashion, and Camus.
He was a scholar and a gentleman, kind, brilliant, and witty. He held a Masters degree in History, and had also studied French and Arabic. He was fascinated with North Africa, especially Carthage. He did not belong to this time.
He was a certified master coffee barista, had worked for his universities’ history departments, taught English to immigrants and for Korean businesses, worked in a group home for troubled youth who were wards of the state, and had applied his History passion and education, working as a tour guide/historian for the Battleship Cove Museum in Massachusetts and for the George Washington Masonic Memorial Temple in Alexandria, Virginia.
He blogged, wrote, and performed poetry. Nicholas will be laid to rest in the family plot, with several of his ancestors, including his beloved grandmother “Nanny,” in Liverpool, England. He is survived by immediate family in Virginia, his fiancée in Tunisia, godparents in North Carolina, and extended family in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Australia, and England.
This is the eulogy Marion prepared for Nick's ceremony on 22 February:
Thank you all for coming today to remember my son, Nicholas Orion Mealey. As many of you know, Nick was planning to marry later this year and join his fiancée Yosra in Tunisia, where they would make their home together in Bizerte, by the sea. The sea always brought him peace. Yosra went from planning her wedding to helping me plan this memorial. She is, as expected, devastated and could not be here today. My son’s heart belonged to North Africa and to Yosra. Here are some of the things he wrote of her:
For those beautiful deep Moorish eyes have stolen my heart. My desert saint, I’ve loved you since before I knew you. For this child of Elissa I have boundless love to share.
My heart aches across the distance between us. The world is a wide chasm that holds us apart.
I will sail…across your memories as I drift, Waiting for the wind to carry me into your heart.
Yes, my cherub, I will always cherish you, Our love is the immortality the very gods covet. Your love is ruby of immeasurable value
When I think of those deep beautiful Moorish eyes, I lose myself in dreams of Carthage, and love everlasting.
Yosra asked me to read her final letter to Nick. English is her fourth language, and I will read her words verbatim.
My Love, my one and only:
I used to tell you this every day, feeling the happiest, the luckiest in the whole world. You left us, I won’t’ deny it. But not receiving your response makes it real. No more Nicholas every day, I won’t look into the most beautiful eyes again. I’ll miss you; I’ll miss your shadow.
I thought you were getting ready to start our life together. But you were getting ready to leave.
Your existence made sense to mine. We found each other as lost souls. You called it “serendipity.” We became as one. We were meant to have a distant love, a daily suffer. My heart was burning for years anticipating you. But now my heart turned into ashes.
We thought we’ll have 50 years, but we only had 5. We planned for every day together. Our wedding was finally this year, I’m choosing my dress, he has the ring. But it wasn’t meant to be.
We had a surreal love that I always felt life won’t handle. He is the gentlest soul. He taught me how to love and not hate, he says, “Hate is weak.” He taught me to forgive and never judge, how to be giving and generous. He only seeks knowledge like no other in his life. Nicholas is a unique historian, writer, philosopher, and very smart. He smiles when I tell him. A unique human.
He carried the world’s issues on his shoulders every day, hoping that poor helpless people will be helped, hoping that the world will be united, hoping that humans will stop hurting the planet.
My angel, I know you’re in a better place and you’ll always be remembered. I feel you’ll always be around us, checking on us and talking to us. And I promise you until the day I reach you, I will commit to pursuing what we dreamed about
You left me with so much love that you planted and kept growing inside my heart. It’s enough for me and for every creature who needs it. You left me with values that I will embrace and only thank faith for meeting and living with you. As I will cherish our memories and pray to join you, when my time comes in a beautiful place. A place in heaven where we’ll have a family and fulfill our dreams forever and ever.
My sunshine spent his last months with Mom, Zidi and Iziz. Your most beautiful months with our beautiful mom, Marion, all the thanks goes to you for your continuous love and support, you held us in your palms with care.
My heart, you left us happy and knowing that you’re happy now, surrounded by your ancestors and with Dakota, relieves the pain of your loss.
My God rest your soul in peace and in heaven.
I love you. I’ll always do my first and last.
I named my son after my favorite constellation, Orion. Astronomers have recently noted that the bright red supergiant star Betelgeuse that makes up the left shoulder of the constellation has suddenly dimmed. Some believe it may have gone supernova, ending its life in a spectacular explosion. Supergiant stars burn their fuel more quickly than smaller stars. Other astronomers think the dimming is only temporary and it will soon return to its full brightness.
The light that shines twice as bright burns half as long. That was my son.
As a child my son loved dinosaurs, ninja turtles, power rangers, He Man, Star Wars, the Lion King, and Aladdin. When he was three, in his closet he kept a box of “junk parts” he’d collected to build a time machine. He always felt misplaced in time. As a toddler he discovered Robin Hood and would loudly sing phrases from the Disney movie on the public bus, much to the amusement of the other passengers.
“…Robin Hood and Little John walking through the forest. Reminiscing this and that and having such a good time. Oodillally oodilally, golly, what a day…and a pox on the phone king of England.”
Nick’s preschool asked me to come and see them about a finger-painting he had done. The painting resembled a typical three-year old’s work, but when they’d asked him what it was, he had told them it was white blood cells attacking the bad cells—he’d been helping me study for my college biology exams.
At five I was called into his kindergarten teacher’s office. Apparently, he’d “disrupted” teddy bear picnic time by bringing a stuffed animal that was not a teddy bear, and correcting the teacher in front of the whole class when she called it a dragon. He’d said, “Dragons are not real; this is a Pteranodon.”
At about age 11 I’d sent him to Catholic school because the local public school had no gifted program. Pulling into the parking lot of the school I saw my son standing atop a picnic table like some prophet, with a circle of students at his feet as he educated them about the Egyptian pantheon of gods, resulting in a phone call for me to come in and speak with the priest.
For high school homecoming my son wanted to wear his Scottish ancestral kilt, but his football coach felt it would foster the wrong image of the football team. Nick wore his kilt anyway, and doused himself in glitter. That was my son.
Nick loved the colors red and purple, the smell of coconut, pizza, veggie burgers, salt and vinegar chips, macaroons, skittles, coca cola, coffee, pickles, jalapenos, and hot sauce. He enjoyed ethnic cuisine, Thai, Indian, Middle Eastern, Mexican, and loved to cook. He was a vegetarian. He loved clothes, world travel, and Bernie Sanders, superheroes, punk music, history and strategy video games, and his big black “Scooby Doo” dog, Dakota. He blogged, wrote, and performed slam poetry.
My son did not belong to this time or place. He was well read and well-traveled. He was unique, he loved history, especially that of North Africa, France, ancient Carthage, Rome, and Egypt.
He was a Renaissance man, a scholar and a gentleman with manners. He was deeply devoted to his grandmother, whom he called “Nanny.” He studied French and Arabic, and earned a Master’s degree in History with a focus on Abd al Kader, the 19th century Sufi emir of Algeria. Some of his favorite authors were Camus, Sartre, Fanon, and Wilde. He liked to tell old Soviet-era jokes and dad jokes, and he loved dogs dressed in historic period outfits. He loved the movies Casablanca, Les Mis, Zulu, Lawrence of Arabia, and Scott Pilgrim versus the World.
Some of the places he’d traveled to were the UK, Ethiopia, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Nova Scotia.
He was a certified master coffee barista, had worked for his university History departments, and was a graduate TA for a course on Islam in the Netherlands. He taught English to immigrants and for Korean businesses, and he applied his History passion and education to work as a historian/tour guide for the Battleship Cove Museum in Massachusetts and for the George Washington National Masonic Temple here in Alexandria. He also worked for St Vincent’s in Massachusetts in a group home for troubled youth who were wards of the state.
Nick felt a duty/affinity for, a burning loyalty to the poor, the underdog, the outcast, wanting to give a voice to the voiceless. One of his favorite quotes was by Camus: “Silence is not consent.” He truly cared about the downtrodden, those on the margins, in the shadows of society. He was deeply bothered by the lack of universal health care and the prevalence of poverty and homelessness in the US.
I’ve asked John to read one of his poems, dated April 2013, titled “Speak, Write, Say, Hope, Do, Move:”
Speak, write, say, hope, do move. Say there is still something left to fight for. Write these few lines a sad tribute. Hope that every second I’ve spent has not been in vain.
Say, that each day I feel a little stronger. Write that my convalescence is nearing its end. Hope that I have enough strength in me to fight again. Do not fail, do not fall.
Write that I see myself reborn in that reflection. Hope that those cold blue eyes will be rekindled with fire. I do still believe in all of this I swear I do. Move forward, once more to the barricades.
One more time I will speak, I will say I crossed the long chasm of despair. Say I knew there was something on the other side. Say that there is always more.
Write that I don’t have all of the answers. Write that my revolt is far from over. I have so many days left to live so many fights left in me. Write these lines down as I feel my heart pump.
And I hope I will keep up the fight. And I hope that my words will not fall on deaf ears. And I hope that I am not alone. And I hope that you have not forgotten who I am.
In Burma, long before Buddhism there was a sacred temple where 100 cats resided, guarding the “blue eyed goddess,” Tsun-Kyan Kse, who guided the consciousness of the deceased to rebirth in their next body. When a priest died, she ordered his soul transferred to one of the cats where it would remain until it could pass on to paradise. The cat’s eyes would then change to blue and the fur would turn an ashen color. Nick was not alone when he died. The two feral kittens he rescued ten years ago were there at his side, one of them the color of earth, with ice-blue eyes.
My son was brilliant yet troubled, and suffered from mental health issues. He was quirky and witty; he was a good son and I was always proud of him. He knew I loved him, and I will miss him every day.
Think of my son as you gaze up at the starry night sky and the constellation Orion, and when a blue-eyed cat should pass your way.
My son now walks with his ancestors and his soul is free to finally travel across time and space.
- Family Gathering Saturday, February 22, 2020
- Memorial Service Saturday, February 22, 2020
Nicholas Orion Mealey
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February 22, 2020
Words fall short in times like these, but Nick’s memory is not one that will soon be forgotten. There are so many beautiful moments that his presence brought to my life, so trying to narrow it down is very difficult, but for brevity’s sake, I’ll try. I will remember lovingly handcrafted vegetarian sushi dinners with too many bottles of red wine, laughing until our sides were sore, but all the while talking about life, love, and literature. Platonic slow dancing in the kitchen just because a pretty lady in a dress deserves to be danced with. Nights on the phone when I needed sage counsel because he’d always take the time to listen to a friend. Visiting his grandmother because he was so proud to show her off. Mostly I’ll remember a friend who I will miss for the rest of my days because he was once in a lifetime, and we were all so very lucky to know him.
February 22, 2020
For the last 18 years you have been my best friend. Together we earnestly studied history and philosophy. Dedicated always to better understanding ourselves and humanity as a whole. Because of this I feel your loss so deeply; the lessons learned and the bond we forged. Wishing you peace the same now as always before. You're a shining star.
February 19, 2020
The youth and staff from Saint Vincent's would like to share our support and deepest condolences to Nicholas's family. You are in our prayers at this difficult time.