Donna Has Left the Building

I have been to two unexpected memorials this week – two people who died earlier than anyone was prepared for. It has been a week full of lessons in saying goodbye.

The first one was due to a young boy’s suicide, which I won’t go into much detail about for the sake of his family’s privacy, but his memorial celebrated his short life beautifully. He was (and is) so loved.

The second was a celebration of my good friend Donna’s life. I have never been good at finding the right words in the moment, so I didn’t stand up and tell a story about her at her memorial. If I had been brave enough, this is what I would have said:

I first met Donna while working at Hallmark part time in the evenings. The first thing I noticed about her was the way she threw back her head and held her stomach when she laughed. It was such an incredibly rare and unpretentious action, unlike anything I had ever seen before. I was drawn to her sense of humor and her positivity, and always looked forward to our shifts together. We bonded over our shared love of Elvis and enthusiasm for Christmas ornaments, and Donna became a trusted confidant. I could tell her anything without fear of judgement, which is rare in any friendship.

Donna was one of those people that brought out the best in others, without intending to do so. She was a fastidious worker, and even though she suffered from Fibromyalgia, she lapped all of us around the store, tidying and cleaning. Donna frequently talked about her work with a local non-profit, and how much she loved her volunteer days. She didn’t brag about the people she helped or how much good she did working there, but instead lit up as she talked about their ministries. She truly believed in God and in helping others, and she lived what she believed. In a world that seems increasingly fake, Donna was genuine and true.

It didn’t matter to Donna or I that she was in her sixties and I am in my twenties, she was my friend and I loved her so much.

The memorial was more painful than I had imagined, but I somehow managed to smile more than I cried. They played the music of our people (Elvis) and I could almost see her smiling and dancing along. After the memorial, as I walked to my car I couldn’t help but think, “Donna Has Left the Building” as I smiled like a fool.

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