I lost a friend on Friday. One day she was there and the next gone. It was not expected and I know her family, her friends and those who work or have ever worked for her are in shock. I'm sad for them all, and for myself. We'll miss her smile, her laugh, her joy that was so infectious, her love and her friendship. Yet, I am not really sad for her. She had her heart and life grounded in her faith in God and I know, I don't have to think I know, I really know that she is with her Savior in heaven as we speak. That is all the comfort I need.
I was sitting here trying to remember how I met Donna. Nothing is as well developed in a small town as the local "grapevine." It is the best known method of advertisement. She had started a small sandwich shop/gift shop about six months before and the fame of her "homemade chicken salad sandwiches, potato salad and desserts" had finally circulated up to our lab. My daughter and I went in for lunch one Saturday and were hooked. It became our weekly ritual...sleep in on Saturday then lunch around 11 AM at The Front Door. Donna, as owner, was there and she was so open and friendly, she seemed to know everyone. We started talking each week and getting to know one another.
She had a rough life with many trials, setbacks and discouragement, but she felt that her small restaurant was her ministry to the community. She promoted Mississippi artists in her gift shop and included many unique and lovely items of faith. Even when I knew she didn't feel well, she always had a smile and hug for her customers. She treated each one as if they were they were special.
One Saturday after Nyssa and I had been eating there for about seven months, we were running late. We had not gotten our act together and it was about 11:30 AM. My phone rang and it was Donna, "Just checking on you, making sure everything was ok. You and Nyssa hadn't gotten here and I was worried." Another time during the local "Pilgrimage" (her busiest time of the year), she called and asked if we were coming in. That time she put a reservation on a table for us as a crowd was expected. Such is the advantage of a small town and a friend with such a big heart.
After a while, it became known how much I loved her shop and everyone began going to Donna for gift ideas for Christmas and birthdays. She never steered them wrong. But you see, I wasn't the only one she knew this well. That was her talent, her gift; she could make anyone feel special and loved.
When Nyssa turned sixteen, Donna hired her to work at The Front Door on weekends and in the summer. Nyssa could not have had a better introduction into the working world. She may never have another employer that held her workers up in her prayers every day; nor one that actually cared about the person she was becoming.
When my job vanished there and I didn't know what to do, she cried with me. When her daughter moved to South Carolina, I cried with her. She loved her kids. She knew the move was the best thing for Chrissy and that it was God's will so she endured. She wanted to eventually move there too, but that was not to be.
I moved to Virginia a year ago. I went back to Mississippi once when my house sold and we had a lovely time of fellowship together that I will always cherish. Nyssa made the trip back to Columbus from college several times this past year, including her birthday trip two weeks ago. She ate at The Front Door as she always did, saw many of her previous co-workers and hugged Miss Donna. I'm glad Nyssa has that memory.
I don't know what will happen to her "mission". I hope there will be someone else who feels the call to share their life with Columbus the same way Donna did. I hope The Front Door will continue as a testament to her life and the love she gave others. I know she is now finally able to see the fruits of her labor and know how many lives she has touched. I wouldn't be surprised at all if Christ did not meet her as she entered heaven and say, "Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord." (Matthew 25:23)
I'll miss her, but I will see her again, someday.