A Donna tribute from Pam

August 30, 2006 4:33 am

In June of this year, I had the honor and misfortune of writing Donna’s obituary. How do you sum up a person’s whole life in a paragraph? Especially someone you loved? You just can’t. And I think I’ve been avoiding posting any comments here because nothing I could possibly write will live up to what it should be.

This is all I can think to say: Donna was smart, and she was brave.

One could say that anyone who made her living as a nurse — especially a nurse anesthetist as Donna was — must be pretty smart. But Donna’s intelligence was especially obvious because of her quick wit. I remember pushing her wheelchair down a hallway in a medical facility, when she was recovering from one of her strokes. As we neared the lobby, the smell of burnt coffee hung heavily in the air. By then, Donna was already legally blind, so she couldn’t see the sign next to the door where that smell was emanating from. But she turned to it and said nonchalantly, That’ll be the nurses’ lounge. Of course, she was right.

Her bravery is also pretty apparent, given that she left nursing school and traveled to a faraway state where she’d never been (Minnesota) to start her life as a nurse all on her own. But she was brave long before that. I often had her tell me the story of when she was in high school band and had won the coveted position of first chair from one of the boys in her class. Then she came to band practice the next day to find him sitting stubbornly in the first chair spot. I think he must have thought he could intimidate her into taking second chair. Big mistake. She punched him so hard he fell out of the chair.

But my favorite story of Donna’s bravery is one that I didn’t hear until just before she died. I was on the phone with her schoolmate Margaret Jean, when she told me that on a band trip to the city (she couldn’t remember where) she and Donna got lost over lunch, and almost didn’t find their way back in time for their performance. I confirmed this with Donna. She and Margaret Jean were from a tiny town called Powhatan Point, OH, and when they went to the city (Wheeling, WV — Donna remembered it!) it was the first time they’d ever been in a town with stoplights. Donna wanted to explore. And so they got lost, but they found their way back.

I think that’s the bravest thing about Donna, and it’s her in a nutshell. She wanted to explore, and she wasn’t afraid to get lost.

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