Wednesday, March 30, 2016

It's So Hard To Say Goodbye...


                            "Farewell isn't far away..."
                                         -Traci, Donna Phinney's daughter

Note: Tonight I just heard from Traci that her Mom passed away. They are heart broken, and I am heart broken,  but we know Donna is in God's Almighty arms.

It's spring break at the college, the sun is out and there are harbingers of spring everywhere...small baby daffodils poking up,
buds for leaves forming, and the warmth of the sun penetrating our sun-starved bodies. Yet the weather is volatile, one minute it is in  the 60's and the next minute it is freezing. Not surprisingly, Easter day had hail falling, and the Monday after Easter it snowed. Lots of the expected and unexpected reminders of this time of year.

Similarly, spring break has mirrored the weather. It has been full of some ups and downs, huge blessings and some deep sadness, very deep sadness.

The very deep sadness involves my dear friend, Donna Phinney.

Donna and I have known each other for over 30 years. She is a very special colleague where I teach. A year ago Donna was fine and as always loving her life. Then she gradually started to have a few stomach problems. Initially she thought it was nothing, but when she started to lose weight she went to get the problem checked out. After multiple tests and reassurances that it wasn't cancer, it turns out that she has a rare genetic stomach cancer that is very aggressive. Because it is in the lining of the stomach, she could have chemotherapy, but radiation wouldn't work.

Donna has been so brave and such an optimistic trooper, even when things have taken a turn for the worse. Truthfully, the past few months and now weeks have been heart-breaking. My dear friend is being taken off of all the machines that have kept her alive in the past two weeks. It's hard to know exactly when she'll go home to Jesus, but it's soon.

Let me tell you a bit about my dear friend...

My friend Donna Phinney is just one of those amazing bright lights
that makes the world such a better place by her being in it. She has been the head of our Dental Assisting Program at the college for years and her passion for teaching and mentoring students makes me grin from ear-to-ear. Donna is a dream maker...the kind who finds the best in every student. She believes in them, even when they don't believe in themselves. Over all these years she has positively changed the lives of thousands of students

Not only has Donna been a great teacher, she is one of the most empathic listeners I have ever known. Because she is so selfless, when she listens to me she is completely attentive, her face just echoes such love and concern for whatever I have to say. Donna loves Jesus and I can't help but believe that Donna listens to folks just the way that Jesus did. 

Donna is also so dang funny and such a hoot. She found humor in the craziest things, yet she never found humor at the expense of others. I have never, in all these thirty year of being her friend, ever heard her say an unkind word about anyone. She just plain loves all of us, and she loves us deeply. She counts us as precious, a gift from God to her that we are in her life.

And she loves her family, no...she adores her family, her special husband and her son and daughter. Traci, her daughter, has been keeping us all posted about how her Mom is doing on Caring Bridges. She has been reading her Mom all the posts from so many of us who love Donna and have been praying for her nonstop.

Last night the title of Traci's Caring Bridges post read..."Farewell Isn't Far Away."

How amazing that her dear daughter, in such grief herself, communicated with all of us who love Donna so much. She asked that we write a final message to her Mom so she could whisper those messages of love in her mother's ear. Traci wanted to be sure that her Mom knew she was surrounded by love. 

So I did just that. I tried to put into words all that my dear friend means to me. I said my goodbyes and reminded her that God loves her and so do I. My heart broke as I typed each word.

And my tears just started to flow. They haven't stopped since.
Donna has fought such a tough fight against cancer. She has bravely been poked and prodded and she tried everything the medical experts threw at her. All the medications gave her some extra time, but they made her so sick in the process that it was hard to have the quality of life that she so longed for.

Finally, after being put on life support measures, her family has decided that enough is enough. Her organ systems are failing. The machines that breathe for her will be turned off. It may be days or weeks before she sees Jesus face-to-face.

That's what Donna would have wanted.

Yet while she lives in Spokane, her family took her to Mexico for some last possible turn-around medicines and because of an emergency, Donna was taken to a hospital in San Diego.

She is away from home as all of this is going on, yet surrounded by her dear husband and adult children.

And Donna is surrounded by the thousands of prayers that have been prayed for her. All of us asking God to give her more time. 

What I know for sure is that God is there in that ICU room with my dear friend, holding her close in her transition to her heavenly home. Donna believes that and I do too.

I miss her already. It is so, so hard to say goodbye to my dear, sweet friend. She is the very essence of the title of this blog...
               Live Every Day As If It Was Your Last! 

Love you Donna. I will miss you forever.

God Bless!
Love, Linda


Jackie said...

What a beautifully written tribute to your dear and sweet friend.
My hearts breaks for you and for her family.
To have known her must be a priceless treasure. She sounds like a gentle and fun-loving lady.
She will be with you always in your heart.
Gentle hugs to you, my friend.

On a Wing and a Prayer said...

I thought the same as Jackie..what a tribute. And tears came as I read your heart and who she is. Your love for others is shown in how you write and pray and uphold all you meet and love. What a gift you are Linda. May the happier memories you have with your dear friend... bring you the smile through your tears. love you linda!

Paula Williams said...

Sis, I love your words and agree whole heartedly. Donna was an AMAZING lady, mentor, and human being! My heart aches. Thank you for your words Linda! Love you! - Sis Paula Williams

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