I can’t believe it’s been six years since my friend Donna Dehart passed away. I love this photo of the two of us giggling, trying to play the Wii (and failing miserably) on Christmas Day, 2008. It’s the only photo I have of the two of us together.
Donna’s daughters were at their dad’s on Christmas Day, so we had the blessing of having her spend Christmas Day with my family. We enjoyed good food, love and laughter, and the fun of playing with Christmas toys! That Christmas, Donna gave me a beautiful gift. I opened a small, delicate ceramic angel box; and what was inside, took my breath away: Donna had written wise sayings on teeny tiny pieces of long paper, and she had curled them around a pencil. Then she had lovingly placed them one by one, into the angel box… just…for…ME! One of the sayings said, “Expect a miracle… Expect a miracle…”
Even though I knew Donna struggled greatly with chronic illness, I had no idea God would take my friend home just three years later. Donna was adamant that Jesus was a great teacher, and that was where it ended. She was stubborn when it came to her beliefs, so I decided to be the hands, feet, and heart of Jesus for my friend; so she could see Jesus living me! We had lunch dates, painted in art class together, met at the Farmer’s Market, shared secrets, and had spiritual conversations on the phone.
Finally, against everything she said she wouldn’t do; she began to attend my church, where some of my friends had been loving on her and ministering to her too. We also formed a team to help her with house repairs, and another friend fixed her vintage car; which was in the garage more than out, and ran on a few bucks and a prayer! My sisters and brothers in Christ let our love speak for itself.
Donna didn’t have much as far as earthly possessions, but she had a contagious laugh and positive attitude that filled me up. She had a fierce love for her daughters, and great empathy for animals without a home; so great, that she gave them a home at her own house! Though we didn’t always agree, our friendship was one of respect, trust, loyalty, and love. Donna did believe in Jesus and his death and resurrection, but she would only let me witness up to a certain point. I had to trust that God would reveal Himself through compassion from our church, other godly organizations, and her Christian friends.
When she lay in the hospital, close to death, and unresponsive; I thought of the silver lining… Expect a miracle. I prayed an intercessory prayer for her. I held her hand and whispered in her ear, and I asked her to receive Christ if she had not. I told her it wasn’t too late, and she could receive Jesus without talking. While still whispering in her ear, so she could hear me above the noisy machines working hard to keep her alive, I asked God in his infinite mercy to let her hear my prayer. I asked God to lead her to say yes in her heart, and to have peace, so she could go to Heaven. I told her I would meet her there, and I kissed her goodbye. And to this day, I… expect a miracle!
We never know how much time we have with our friends and family here in earth. Tell them about Jesus while you can, even if it’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do! People need Jesus, and they are more ready to receive him than we realize. Out of every act of friendship, telling someone about Jesus is the most loving thing you can ever do!
“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 Jn. 4:11).
Here’s how I think of you, up in Heaven, my dear, precious friend! Peace be with you!
This is the poem I wrote and read for Donna’s memorial service:
Dear Donna, this is what I know;
that lots of people loved you so.
You truly had a heart of gold,
so kind to others: young and old,
Accepted people as they are;
It’s why you’re still a shining star.
Down on his luck, you’d find a friend,
Make up a bed, and take him in.
A dog or cat left out to roam
Could find your house and call it home.
I’ll not forget your loyalty…
You named a chicken after me!
Nature, music, animals, art:
Happy passions of your heart.
But even more, you loved your girls,
Who brought you pride and filled your world.
Long black hair, and a great big smile,
Always time to chat for a while.
Your hearty laugh would make my day,
My troubles would just melt away.
A flash of green erased my frown;
Your Ford Galaxy on the town!
When my heart hurts, I’ll feel a tug,
and give myself a “great big hug”.
My friend, why did you have to go?
It’s hard, but now I think I know.
God must have had some extra paint.
He looked until he found a saint.
He thought He’d free you from your pain
And since you loved the sun and rain,
He’d give you something fun to do,
And make you feel much better too.
You’d paint His rainbows with His brush
To be enjoyed by all of us.
When orange and purple clouds roll by,
I’ll know you’re painting in the sky!
~Angela Royse Pelleman