By Rachel Hoeing
Last week I attended the funeral for an amazing woman named Donna. She was 86 years old and lived a life full of the most simple pleasures. She sat with us every Sunday at church, as my in-laws were so kind to provide her transportation each week. My family was always greeted by Donna with a smile, a hug, and more compliments than anyone can absorb at once! Ironically, her son discussed the same thing in his eulogy, noting that his mother would always spend the first two hours of her visit to his home telling he and his wife how wonderful they were! Donna made everyone feel special and was a true lady in every sense of the word. She loved getting to know people and would strike up conversations everywhere she went.
At her funeral, Father Cook discussed all of these wonderful attributes and also commented on how much she enjoyed the simple things in life. It resonated so much with me as I looked back upon a lunch I had with Donna one day. That day taught me a life lesson that I try to remind myself of quite frequently …
A few years ago, I had volunteered to take Donna to a doctor’s appointment. This was going to happen on a summer day when my children were home, but I knew I could find coverage for them, and squeeze in my other errands and work obligations later in the day.
The morning of the doctor’s appointment, life had gotten a little crazy at my home as it does in many families. Right before I was about to head out the door, Donna called to tell me her appointment had been cancelled. My immediate thought was, “Thank goodness. Now I can spend some more time catching up on work and run those errands I needed to get done and still have time to squish in X, Y, and Z.”
But then she said, “But I would still love to take you out to lunch. Would you be up for that? I just love getting to know you and would love to spend some time together over a bite to eat.”
I envisioned my “To Do” list getting crumpled up and thrown out the window as I heard her words, but my heart told me to go. This sweet woman was making time for me, and I should do the same for her.
So, I picked up Donna around 11am, and I think it was 11:30am by the time we walked into the restaurant that was only a five minute drive from her home. Sweet Donna walked very, very slowly. Getting into my car was an ordeal, putting on the seatbelt was an ordeal, finding a close parking space, walking across the parking lot, etc. You get it … major production. Of course I was checking my watch between my smiles and getting a little anxious about the fact that my one hour lunch with Donna was going to be much, much longer.
We sat at lunch and she ate slower than I have ever seen someone eat. Small sips of soup once every 10 minutes. There was no way that soup was even lukewarm by the time she was halfway though.
But gradually, as we sat and talked, I found myself relaxing a bit more. I stopped looking at my watch and instead looked into her eyes. I found myself asking questions about her upbringing, her family, what she has learned in life, and what she may have done differently if she could start all over again. I heard stories of love and loss and my heart just kept growing. I recall thinking to myself, “Why are you in such a hurry? What needs to be done today that honestly cannot wait until tomorrow? Relax!”
We didn’t leave the restaurant until about 1pm, and Donna then asked if I could take her to the grocery store for just an item or two. Normally, I would have done so reluctantly due to the fact that so much of my afternoon had already passed by, but this time, I was happy to oblige. As she scooted out of the car, and slowly, slowly chose the correct grocery cart from the line of carts, I smiled. I was happy to spend time with this sweet woman and happy to be on an errand that didn’t feel rushed.
After the grocery store, she invited me into her apartment as I helped unload the groceries, and my heart filled with a little bit of sadness as I looked around her apartment that was so quiet and lonely. But as she scooted around pointing out little things to me, I realized the simplicity of it was what she loved. Yes, being a widow was lonely for her, but the simple things were what now brought her joy.
It was probably 2:30pm by the time I got home from my “lunch with Donna” but I felt like I had learned a lifetime of lessons in those few hours.
That evening I recapped my afternoon for my husband and declared, “Why am I always in such a hurry? Why can’t I take my time to eat lunch, peruse at the grocery store, stroll from the car to the house just taking a look around me instead of checking my phone or my watch or thinking about the next thing I need to accomplish?”
There was no justifiable reason to my own question. There was no reason for me to be in a hurry and to pack my day with so many trivial things. I knew I wanted to be more like Donna and thrive on simplicity. We always hear the expression to “stop and smell the roses,” but I would be happy with myself if I would at least take more time to even notice the roses as I pass by.
That day I had a realization that sometimes we just need to slow down and enjoy the moment. Be in the moment. Live life simply. Enjoy the simple things. Nine times out of ten, whatever we are rushing toward can wait. Sometimes our unexpected blessings won’t have time to occur because we don’t allow them the time!
Donna will never know that our lunch that day probably meant so much more to me than it did to her. I thank her for a life lesson in simplicity and hope that my words today can resonate with others. Rest in Peace, Donna Marie. You will be greatly missed.
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