She changed my life

Because my mother suffered from mental illness, things were rarely good between us. That is the sad truth.

Here’s something joyful. When I was about 40 years old, an angel named Donna moved in next door to me, and she took me under her wings.

For nearly 30 years, we were the closest of friends. When we went out to lunch together, she would introduce me as her daughter.

Two days after my daughter was married, I sat on Donna’s couch and cried. I was exhausted from all of the mother-of-the-bride duties, and I was fearful of losing my daughter to her new in-laws. Of course, that didn’t happen.

As our friendship grew, Donna encouraged me to read the Bible every day, and so I did. She led a neighborhood Bible study that was filled with women who had rarely cracked that sacred book open. I remember how patient she was as we tried to find Corinthians, Ephesians and Proverbs.

Because she offered me kindness and love, she changed my life.

She turned 90 last August, and that seems to be when the decline began.

This winter, she went from her home to the hospital and then to a nursing home. When I went to see her, she told me that she had just been placed in hospice care. It was a sad moment for both of us.

The next day, I went to see her early in the morning.

I sat quietly by her bed while she slept. There was a radio nearby, and Christian music was playing softly. Suddenly, a voice came on the air and asked something like this: “Are you losing someone that you care about very much? Do you wonder how in the world you are going to get through it?”

I nodded yes, and I cried.

The radio voice offered this suggestion: Go to the book of Lamentations.

The music continued, and I got lost in my memories.

Then another voice came on the air with these words. “This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.”

I had to smile through my tears. That was the verse that Donna encouraged me to say every morning. Some mornings, it was tough to say. Some mornings I didn’t want to “rejoice and be glad.”

But I had tried; and here I was sitting by her bedside remembering her encouragement.

I sat a while longer. Have you ever talked with someone who has been with a dying loved one? They talk about wishing that person would wake up so they could see their eyes one more time. So they could see them smile.

That’s what I started thinking about. It was very sad to think I would never talk to her again.

I knew it was time for my visit to end, so I gently touched her hand. When I did, she opened her beautiful eyes and looked at me with so much love and kindness. She called me her “precious daughter.”

With tears running down my face, I thanked her for everything she had done for me, and I thanked her for changing my life.

I cried and she cried.

We are called to live as Christ lived.

Donna did.

She knew so much about me, yet she loved me anyway.

She is now closer to me than my heart.