Donna had been around all my life. For the longest time, she was the lady who could not walk. She was the lady who had to be carried into church by the strong young men and set down carefully into her lounge chair at the back of the room. She was the lady who loved to call my mother and talk for three hours as my mother sat and wondered what she could say for an excuse to get off so she could get supper started. To a little girl of eight, Donna was that poor lady who was paralyzed from the neck down and could not do anything by herself. I felt nervous around her and was scared to talk to her. I did not know what to say so I often avoided her.
As I grew older and became a teenager, Donna saw a need in our church and began to organize activities for the teens and young adults. I am sorry to say there were not too many that were enthusiastic about her get-togethers - some even felt it was a bother to try to fit her plans into their busy schedule, but for someone like me, they were a welcomed change in my life. I had a desire to find a close friend; someone who I could share my hidden thoughts with; someone who would help me bloom into becoming the lady God wanted me to be.
Donna organized hikes, canoe trips, horseback riding, and whatever else she could think of that young people would enjoy doing. Personally, I think she was simply living the life she wished she could have through the people around her. Watching them enjoy themselves brought pleasure to her and made her feel like she was a part of it even though she was confined to her bed. There were even nights when we would all meet at the convalescent center in Burlington where she lived, and we spent hours playing “Dictionary”, “Guess Who?," and eating pizza.
As I began to see that Donna was just a normal lady, who, even though she could not walk or move around freely, was bright, stubborn, loved to read, enjoyed talking, and dearly loved the Lord, I began to find a good friend. Donna knew what it meant to be lonely. She knew what it meant to have nobody to talk to and I could relate to that and our friendship grew. I would often go down to visit her after church on Sundays and stay for a few hours as we ate lunch and chatted. She had her nurse friends do my hair and we looked at magazines of pretty dresses and hairstyles. We talked about boys, and books, and she often talked about her quiet times with the Lord that almost made me wonder if God spoke audibly to her. Slowly she pried me out of my shell and I began to open up to her.
She always enjoyed having the younger children surrounding her so she began to organize 'just girl’ get-togethers when I would bring along my three sisters, and lots of other girls would come hang out as we ate pizza and watched movies. I can still remember one Saturday evening when all the girls were on Donna’s bed, using it like a jungle gym. Another gal and I pushed the bed around the room like it was a racecar, while the little girls clung to the siderails and screamed. Donna loved every minute of it and was all smiles as she laughed with the silly girls.
Donna always seemed to be positive in her attitude and always encouraged me to go with my dreams, as well as seek God's will in my life. She always understood me; she even defended me when others said I could not think for myself because I never said anything. She taught me how to voice my thoughts and opinions and she was never too shy to say what she thought. After having lived 26 years inside a hospital after her car accident when she was 18 years old, she had many unlived dreams and did not want to see anyone else have to go through the ordeal she had been through. Even though she hated having others do everything for her, she still amazed me with her strength and abilities even with the limitations she had. She always had a hope that one day she would walk again and get to do all the things she only dreamed of lying in her bed.
I was shocked the day I came home from work and heard the news, "Donna passed away this morning." I could not believe my ears! How could this have happened? I had only seen her a week or so before and she had seemed fine. She had been through bouts of pneumonia before and always had the will to make it through, but this time, she had not wanted anyone to know. It was like she had given up, which was so unlike her. Maybe she knew it was time to go and did not want to fight it. All I knew was that I would never again receive another call from Donna, or ever see her lying in her bed, her long braid hanging down the side of the mattress....her advice and friendly chatter would be greatly missed.
The one thought that did comfort me was the image I had of her seeing heaven for the first time. My, how her eyes must have lit up with joy and tears as she stood looking at the pearly gates, with her two perfectly healed legs. Gone were the twisted, bony sticks she used to have; gone were the curled fingers and hands that could only scratch her nose if she had an itch - in her new body, she must have walked through those gates and looked into Jesus's face for the very first time; she much have tenderly touched his nail-scarred hands and then knelt at His feet in worship and reverence. I could imagine her running, leaping, and skipping all over the streets of gold. In heaven she did not have to depend on anybody to feed her, dress her, or brush her hair. Never would she cry or feel pain again. She was with Jesus. The wonder and peace that comes with knowing a dear friend is safe in heaven is such a sweet thing. And someday I will be reunited with my dear friend who had come to mean so much to me, and that will be a glorious day indeed.