For Donna on my 42nd Birthday
When I was 20, I was a student in art school in Savannah, Georgia. I also worked as a bartender.
The bar was my home away from home and the owner of the bar was my mother away from from my mother.
Donna and her husband ran the bar and they became my friends. Closer than friends.
They became my family.
When I think about Donna, I don’t remember what she wore, what kind of stuff she had in her house, or any presents we ever exchanged.
I don’t remember her busy schedule, how well known she was in the community, or how many awards or accolades she had earned.
I only remember…
- The look in her eyes when she talked about her daughter.
- How she insisted on driving me home at night so I wouldn’t walk alone.
- The adoring display of public affection for her husband.
- How she made everyone around her feel a little taller, and a little more important.
- Her no nonsense advice on life and business.
- Her no tolerance for bullshit.
- How at home I felt in her home.
- The potential she saw in a self absorbed 20 year old.
- The way she tried to comfort me when she was dying.
While we are here and when we are gone, we aren’t best known for how many hours we work, how much stuff is in our house, how many cars are in our garage, or the letters that come after a name on a business card. Instead we are known for our lovely lives and how we treat people.
Our hearts and our character will shine over our accomplishments and completed to do lists every time.
Donna died from bone cancer was she was 42. I only knew her for 3 short years. I share that with you so you know that it doesn’t take much time to change someones life or to be changed by someone else. Be open to the idea that everyone has something to offer you, and you have something to offer everyone that you meet.
I have thought about her often in the past 22 years. Donna’s last name became my daughter’s middle name. I wanted to honor her. I wanted to give my daughter a part of this extraordinary woman.
So today, on my 42nd birthday, I am blessed to live out a part of life that Donna did not. With the lessons I learned from her and other extraordinary people, I hope to live it with grace, hope, determination and kindness.
Not only do I want to be the person my dog thinks I am, but I want to be the person to you that Donna was to me.
The very best way I can honor her life is to..
- inspire with my words and actions
- speak from my heart and soul
- get silly sometimes
- stop pretending I can control anything
- love without judgement
When someone close to you dies, and someone else tries to comfort you by saying, “She’ll always be alive in your heart.” you might not believe them.
You should. It’s true.
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