The Loss of Donna
I started writing this on October 6, 2021. It has taken me all this time to finish because I have needed to grieve, process, sit in the quiet, remember, and honor those I have lost that was so dear to my heart.
I have been doing and posting a lot of reviews and having a ton of giveaways lately. It has been good to see some positive, heart-changing things on the big and small screens. Yet, it is also a way for me to dissociate and remove myself from being vulnerable or sharing anything that is truly painful.
So, here I am, not posting a review or giveaway. I am sitting in my new dining room, listening to a fan dry the mud from the drywall where we had a flood in our new kitchen, looking at my cat, who appears to want to murder me, and pondering on how this month has been affecting me.
Fall. I love this season. With the cooler weather and the changing of the leaves, the world is preparing for everything to die in the winter, only to regrow with beauty and new life in the spring. I love it. Yet, this month, in particular, brings tremendous sadness and grief.
October 1 is the fourth anniversary of my Lady’s death. That day never passed without me reflecting on our friendship and what she meant to me. How I miss her and how I have never really mourned her loss. I just push it down, push it down, WAY down. Thankfully I had a sweet distraction on that day. CM was here to love me and keep me extremely busy. I simply can’t wait until my next grandbaby makes a grand entrance next year. Grandchildren are God’s way of saying, “you survived raising children, now enjoy the fun part.”
Yet, today, I find myself struggling again. Today is my friend’s 62nd birthday and her first birthday in heaven. We met years and years ago; she was Leigh Ann’s mom, my friend that passed away a few years ago. I would not have made it through Leigh Ann’s death if it weren’t for Donna. I should have been a rock for her, which I was when she needed me. Yet, she was my rock in coping and reminding me of the fire that was Leigh Ann. A few years before LA’s death, Donna lost her husband to cancer. David was a sweet man. Quiet in nature unless you ticked him off, and then BOOM, he would explode. Those episodes were few and far between. He was the love of her life. Donna and I became incredibly close after the death of her daughter and my friend.
She was in the thick of raising LA’s kids and her grandchildren, and I was raising kids around the same age. We bonded over the silliest things. There were things we disagreed on, there were things we debated together on, yet our foundation was strong. We could love regardless of those differences. That is what friendship means.
We talked every night or every other night. I would watch Detail Geek and describe it all to her. She watched it vicariously through me. We would solve the world’s problems, discuss our day, and she would make fun of my suppers. She called me the Casserole Queen. That woman never made a casserole, and I made one every night.
Donna had not been feeling well since her granddaughter’s hospital stay. We both thought it was just stress, exhaustion, and adrenaline from what we thought was cancer which ended up being a severe kidney infection. The kidney infection led to the removal of her granddaughter’s kidney. She wasn’t eating well, drinking anything but soda, and smoking. Man, we mama’s can live off of anything in a stressful situation.
I encouraged her to go to the doctor, but she refused. She had a fear of doctors. You go in and never come back out was her mentality. We talked about her quitting smoking, which she did because the cough got to be too much. She began having dizzy spells and not being able to keep food down. All of these symptoms started in about March, I would say.
We thought maybe it was Co-Vid and that she just had a horrible case. Still, she wouldn’t go. She was just going to wait it out. Then, when it didn’t go away, we thought grief was beginning to settle in her. She never really had time to grieve her husband and daughter’s loss. Grief can, quite literally, kill someone.
She lived with the age-old question, “Is it better to know someone has something terminal, so you can prepare yourself and say all the things you need to say? Or, “Is it better for it to be quick, so you don’t have to see your loved one in pain?” She experienced both in a very short amount of time. Frankly, they both suck.
Then, she began losing weight. She had no appetite. She would say that nothing tasted good and she was just so weak. Nothing her son, her grandchildren, or I could say to her could get her to eat. She quit smoking and mainly just slept. There were times I could not understand her talking on the phone. That’s when I knew. I knew something was wrong, and I had to try again to get her to the doctor.
On her birthday, I surprised her and popped by her house. I knocked on the door (much to her dismay) and heard the dogs. Then, I heard Lexi running to the door. She opened the door, and I hugged her sweet little neck. Lex quickly disappeared back to her dungeon (LOL). As I walked in, my heart sank.
One thing those closest to me know is that I do not show emotion. Also, I’m a rockstar in stressful situations. When I am alone, that is when I process and stuff emotion. Healthy? No. What I do? Yes.
I turned to look at Donna lying on the couch. She was nothing but bones, and she was so jaundiced that the whites of her eyes were yellow. She had lost more teeth and had no strength. I stood in the doorway. Frozen. I put my head down, and the tears flowed freely. I could not hold them in.
She first asked me why on earth I knocked. Family does not knock. I still couldn’t move. Then, I heard her say, “Brandi, come here.” I walked over and sat next to her. I lay across her frail body, weeping uncontrollably. She just stroked my hair and said that things would be fine. She said she drank some that day and hadn’t thrown it up.
That moment froze in time for me. Again, here Donna is, knowing what she knew, and she was comforting me. See that day, she had called me earlier and told me that the good news was she did not have Co-vid, but the bad news was that she had stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
You don’t realize it until you see it. I knew Donna’s time was limited. She was going to fight and do all the right things. She was going to drink more water, eat more, and do whatever the doctor said, but by then, it was too late. She knew. I knew. We all knew. Yet, we hoped that it would be different.
I begged her to let me take her to the ER just to get some fluid. Her belly had begun to swell, and I knew she was hurting from losing so much weight and laying in one position. She refused. Every day I would go over there and stay for as long as possible. Most of the time, it was just us. Sometimes her grandchildren would come in and out of her son. They all lived with her.
With each passing day, she would get weaker. One day, she wanted me to brush her hair. One day she wanted me to rub her feet and legs. They were so swollen, but the pressure of me rubbing her feet made her feel better.
There were some days when her older sisters would come. One lived in Michigan and came home to be with Donna as much as possible. I tried to lift as much of the burden off of them so that they could spend good quality time with her.
Hospice had been called in, and Donna told them to get out out out. She refused them because she knew what that meant. I know David was flooding her mind in the last few days of her life. She knew hospice meant death. She was not ready for that. Her sisters bathed her, which seemed to exhaust her yet refresh her. Her great-granddaughter also came for a visit, which lifted her spirits; plus, she was expecting her second great-grandchild, a boy.
We had some excellent conversations once we were alone. A misunderstanding for a season took us apart for several years. That was the first time that Donna ever said she was sorry. It took me back because I had let that go years ago. She said that she remembered saying all those things, and then Donna looked into my eyes and saw the hurt and pain of what she had just said. Also, she stated that she couldn’t bring herself to talk to me because she was so ashamed of herself. That touched my heart and humbled me.
We talked about her daughter and all the things that come with her. It was so healing. She spoke of David and the plans she wants for her son and grandchildren. I have never really spoken to someone with such clarity towards the end of their life like that. We talked about the worst-case scenario and what we would do when she got better. Everything was covered.
Then, it was the afternoon of chaos. So many people had come in and out. I had found out some things I never knew and made phone calls I never wanted to make. Her granddaughter was overcome by it all and was acting out due to the trauma. I was called, and she was in the back of a cop car. It took me an hour to calm her down. I had to remind her of my love for her. L needed to know who she is in Christ. I am so glad the officers understood the situation and showed her grace upon grace. These kids have been through more in their lives than most adults will ever experience.
On October 15, 2020, As I walked into the trailer, strangers (to me) were there. They didn’t stay long; eventually, it was just her grandkids, her son, and her sisters. Donna was very uncomfortable. I rubbed her belly, legs, feet, head, hair, anything she wanted, but I couldn’t get her comfortable. I begged her to let me call 911 because her belly had so much fluid on it. I explained that I would go with her if she went, and she would not be alone.
Finally, she said yes because the pain was unbearable. I called, and we immediately moved things around to make it easier for the EMTs to get in with the stretcher. They got there and realized that the stretcher wouldn’t fit, so they had it out by the bus and brought in a wheelchair-type thing that she could be safely strapped to. I informed them of her bed sores and her protruding tailbone, and the discomfort that she was experiencing. They were so gentle with her.
As they were picking her up, she was screaming in pain. She was afraid she would fall out of the chair. I was holding her hand and explaining that they were going to strap her in, and I promised her they would not drop her and she would not fall. That I was right behind her, watching and monitoring the situation.
They got her down the three steps, and then I saw her arm fall off the side, and her head dropped. I screamed her name as the EMTs rushed to get her on the stretcher and get her O2. I could hear her grandchildren screaming. Her son with a panicked look on his face. Her sisters. There was no time for me to console them.
At that point, I jumped into my van with Stevie (her son), and we beat the EMTs to the hospital. Her sisters were not far behind. I parked and ran to the bay as they pulled into the bay. I feared that Donna would be gone. She wanted me beside her when she died. Donna didn’t want to be alone. She wanted to be with someone who loved her.
As they backed in and got to the back, I saw them drop her legs to the stretcher. I stood in fear with her sisters and son beside me. I looked up and saw Donna wave at me. At that point, I dropped to the ground. It was like my legs had no bones, and I wailed. That was not crying that came out of my mouth. I felt sick, scared, relieved, and like someone had taken an iron skillet to my body. I couldn’t move. Her sisters just stood there, trying to help me.
Finally, I pulled myself together, got my mask, and ran into the ER. They let me back (only because her family asked me to), and I stood/sat by her bed there. I was watching her. She looked over at me and asked me if she was going to die.
I told her yes. We talked about her salvation, and then we talked about what she wanted for each person in her family. After she had settled all that, and the doctors couldn’t do anything, they left us for a moment. She looked at me and said, “Well, we have got everyone figured out. Now, what about you?” I asked her what she meant, and she wanted to know if I would be okay and who would take care of me. In awe, I just looked at her and told her I would be fine. I would miss her every day and would keep an eye/ear out on her family and always be there if they needed me. I thanked her for her love and friendship. Without missing a beat, she said, “There’s room in the bed…I will scoot over, and you can lay down with me.” My heart. She knew that that was my comfort.
I told her they would probably kick me out if they saw me do that! Then, I asked if she wanted her sisters and son to return. She did, so I went to get them and let them have quiet moments with her without my intrusion.
They released her from the hospital because there was nothing they could do, and she wanted to go home. Stevie and I watched them pull out, and we beat them home again. We got the couch ready. By then, some people had begun to stop by again.
I was trying to stay out of the way and let those who needed to be by her side. At that point, she was not awake. Not long after I had gotten there, it was late into the evening. Bart called and said I needed to come home now. There was an emergency that could not wait. When he explained what was going on, I lost it.
I wanted him to try and explain to the person waiting for me that I was at an end-of-life friend’s house and couldn’t leave. They didn’t care. I hugged and kissed Donna. I told her I would be back shortly, and I flew home.
I can’t even with what happened at home. I do remember, after talking for what seemed like forever and completely losing myself, where I had been. I told her I had to go and she could come back or follow me. She let me leave.
As I was flying back to Donna’s, her sister called and said to hurry. I did the best I could. She took her last breath right before I got there. I walked into everyone sitting around, not knowing what to do.
As I did a week prior, I stood frozen in the doorway. I looked at my friend, and I went and laid down beside her. It was hard for me to catch my breath. She was gone, diagnosed precisely a week before. She went from okay; I’ll fight this to meeting Jesus and being reunited with her husband and daughter.
After I collected myself and the coroner came and took her body, I sat in the big chair. Her sweet granddaughter came and curled up in my lap. Grief had overtaken her, and I was the warm body that she fell on. With me, there has been nothing but love since she was 3. I had been there through it all, and I was again comforting my sweet girl.
I have been faithful to my word. I miss Donna daily. There are days when I miss her more and some days when I don’t think about it until the night. That is when we would chat. I have not watched Detail Geek again. Her son is okay, as okay as he can be. Her grandson is a father of 2 and working. Her granddaughter is living with a relative, and she is doing well now. She is working on school and has a goal for her future. We chat as often as a teenager wants to speak with a 49 yr old woman 🙂
I am ready for this month to be over. I am ready to heal. I am glad to remember the good times instead of the end. One day. Maybe when I see her again in heaven!
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