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DANA PARSONS / ORANGE COUNTY

Megan got her 30 minutes of wonderful

May 15, 2008|DANA PARSONS

It's funny how some stories stick with you. Like cops and doctors, reporters meet a lot of people in their moments of triumph and tragedy, but it's impossible to attach yourself to all of them. More often than not, you tell their story as best you can and move on to the next one.

For whatever reasons, though, the story of Megan Bosselman and the Belldini brothers clung to me after I wrote about them in August 2005. She lived in Omaha, my old hometown, but the column was more about her mother and the two California brothers.

This week the sequel came.

Megan, then 24, had adrenal cancer in 2004. Looking for any way to cheer up her daughter, Valerie Bosselman showed up in the ICU one day wearing a sweater with the Belldini label that Megan, a bit of a clothes horse, had long admired.

Coincidentally, the Los Angeles-based Belldini company kicked off a $1,000 giveaway contest some time after Megan's surgery. Megan, by then home from the hospital, told her mom she wanted to win it.

She didn't, but a mother trying to cheer an ailing daughter isn't always daunted by such things.

On a whim, Valerie wrote a letter to Belldini in July 2005, laying out Megan's infatuation with their clothing line and her recovery from cancer surgery. She said the family was throwing a party in August and invited Belldini Executive Vice President Joseph Esshaghian.

To Valerie's amazement, both Joseph and his brother Benjamin accepted. Unbeknown to Megan, they brought with them from Los Angeles the entire new fall line of Belldini sweaters.

At the appropriate moment at the party, Valerie announced to the group of 120 people: "And now, I'd like to present to you the Belldini brothers."

The Esshaghian brothers -- their father had dreamed up the company name -- rolled out a rack of about two dozen sweaters. Valerie says the house was awash in tears.

I loved the story then, because of the confluence of the mother's love and the Esshaghians' kindness.

That feel-good memory was pierced this week, however, when Valerie wrote to tell me Megan had died on Easter Sunday. She was 27.

But a line in her note cheered me. "Joseph Esshaghian (of the famous Belldini Brothers) remains my lifelong friend." She said he'd been a rock throughout her darkest days.

"He not only continued to care about Megan," Valerie said when I phoned her this week, "but he'd do fun things for her. They'd be working on a catalog for the spring or fall line and they'd send her a slide show on her computer in advance. But he also looked out for me. He'd ask if I was taking care of myself and how I was doing. So many friends dropped us like hot potatoes because they didn't know how to deal with her illness, so it made that relationship all the more special."

They'd talk maybe once a month but then at least once a week toward the end of Megan's life. "Megan battled so long," Valerie says. "Forty-four months, apart from a brief time of remission. It gets tiresome for a lot of people. Joseph didn't get tired of it. It was and is intense, when Megan's life was on the line. There was no room for nonsense in my life. It had to be real or I had no time for it."

Esshaghian, who just turned 32, says he took the news of Megan's death hard. With his wife giving birth to their fourth child around the time of Megan's death, he wasn't able to see her before she died. I ask why he had stayed in touch with people who were total strangers and who lived 1,500 miles away.

"When I was at the gathering and they were talking about Megan, her father, who had been acting the macho part the whole time, just broke down in tears," Esshaghian says. "It brought me to tears. Valerie was so generous and kind to us when we were there. I made a real connection with her."

I don't know if I can or even need to articulate why this story moves me. It starts with a mother's fervor in doing whatever she can for her daughter, and it's made whole by Esshaghian's good heart. That doesn't balance the scales of a woman dying young, but it adds some texture to Megan's life and says something about human nature's better instincts.

As Megan grasped the seriousness of her illness, Valerie says, she'd refer to the moment in the movie "Steel Magnolias" when the Julia Roberts character says, "I would rather have 30 minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special."

Megan came to realize she would die young. But, Valerie says, she also came to realize she'd been given her 30 minutes of wonderful.

I hope her family takes solace in that. Megan's story chokes me up. Partly in a sad way because of her struggle, but also in a more heartening way while pondering the beautiful union between a fiercely doting mother and the kind and mythical Belldini brothers.

--

Dana Parsons' column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

He can be reached at (714) 966-7821 or at dana.parsons@latimes.com.

An archive of his recent columns is at www.latimes.com/parsons.

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