Pennies from heaven: in memory of my friend Dona

articles Living, Working, Retiring

Helyn Bercovitch

My friend passed away last week. I want to share her with you. But more than that, I need to explore my own feelings around her death. Why? First for me, so I can understand me better and second to perhaps help those of you who have had similar experiences.

A few months ago, my friend, David McLaughlin (many of you know him from came to my office and told me that his wife, Dona, had been diagnosed with cancer. I was stunned. The tumor was under her rib. It was in the place my mother had been afflicted with the same thing. The news brought me back to the time I watched my Mom in agony as the disease broke her bones one rib at a time. “David, what can I do to help?”

His answer was “Just come and see her. It’s really important to her that friends come over now.”

After several calls to them with no answer, I gave up trying to see Dona. Reports from Rita Pomade, a mutual friend, were not good. Now I was staying away out of guilt, embarrassed even to call at that point. This Saturday morning, David phoned, “Dona passed away on Thursday. We are having a celebration of her life on Monday at 4 and we would love it if you and Darryl would be there. If I felt guilty before, you can multiply that by 10. Even with my negligence, David still considered us friends. I felt better knowing that, but the bottom line was I would never see Dona again.

My knees shook as I walked into the crowd that had gathered. The feelings of guilt I had intensified until I felt like my head would explode. Walking through Dona’s rooms, I sifted through her poems, photos and scrapbooks the family had set out on display. Her paintings adorned the wall. Dona was everywhere. I tried to relax.

The service began. David gave us a dissertation on Dona’s life from the day she was born in a small British Columbia mining town to when he lost her and beyond that even. It was clear in his mind, she was still with him. I always admired their relationship. Since I have known the McLaughlins (almost 5 years now) Dona has been a victim of rheumatoid arthritis. Diligently, David took care of her, not because he had to, but because he adored her. In his eulogy to her he said three things that will stay with me forever.

“We are still on our first date. The wonder of that first day never left our lives. Dona made me into a human being. I had the makings of a real British p…., a…… and she taught me how to love. If reincarnation is true, I want to get her again.” That was how it was with David and Dona. They demonstrated the way it could be between mates.

My main association with Dona was in a Native Medicine Wheel we formed a couple of years ago. It lasted about a year. The five of us jokingly became known as the “witches”. In that time, I came to know Dona and the others quite well. The things we discussed and did are confidential, but I will say quiet little Dona stunned us all on more than one occasion. She spoke her truth, without fear of what others might think and I admired this most. Courage was her hallmark.

The memorial continued. Other people came up and talked about Dona. There were stories and feelings. We laughed and we cried. Not able to move, I saved mine for this page. For me the essence of Dona can be captured in one crude sentence. Please forgive my brusqueness, but I know the lady wouldn’t mind a bit. Dona had balls.

(Two of Dona’s poems can be read by clicking on her photo.)

This article appears courtesy of the Chapala Review, a monthly Newspaper published in Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico. The focus is the Lake Chapala area. The goal is to provide quality information about the area, its stories, events, history, culture and people.

Published or Updated on: January 7, 2007 by Helyn Bercovitch © 2008
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