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“Of all possessions, a friend is the most precious.” ~Herodotus

July 16, 2022

I received a letter last week in the mail from the sister of a long-time friend. Sadly, the letter was to let me know that my friend Donna had passed away in June. Although I had not seen her in many years I felt a huge loss.

I met Donna as a Junior Nurses Aide at Bridgeport Hospital fifty years ago. There was a program for future nurses to become aides and learn about bedside nursing. We were paid minimum wage and had huge responsibilities. Donna was a year younger than me and was assigned to the same medical surgical unit as me a year later. Instantly, we became friends. Donna was almost everything I was not. She was tiny, confident and a bright star with a constant smile and a contagious laugh. The nursing unit we were assigned to was about 38 beds and often there was only one registered nurse and a licensed practical nurse who had to do all of the medications, treatments, and charting, while the aides, often just two of us on the weekend, would do the physical care, bathing, feeding, vitals, bathrooms, and changing linens for all of the patients. Often we would split the floor and meet in the middle as it was a u-shaped unit. Sometimes, which were the best times, we would tackle the world entire unit of patients together! No matter what the day brought at the hospital working with Donna made it better.

We went to different schools, lived in different towns, and other than work our paths did not seem to cross. Once, she and another nurse aid who had a son and I went camping for a weekend at Hammonesset State Park in Connecticut. I never had camped, never slept in a tent or a sleeping bag, and never had driven farther than New Haven. But I went. It’s one of those core memories that so many years later still brings a smile to my face. The Donna’s kept their weed in my glove compartment which freaked me out as I was certain the police were going to find it and I would end up in jail. I had my first drink at 18 (it was the legal age) and promptly asked if I was drunk, causing both Donna’s to fall to the ground laughing. These grainy pictures which I found in an old album are my only pictures of Donna and are from that weekend so many years ago.

“The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart.” 

~ Elizabeth Foley

Over the years Donna and I became pen pals as our lives changed. We graduated from different colleges and worked at different hospitals. She married her high school sweetheart and later divorced. I got married and had children and eventually stopped working. Throughout the years, however, we communicated and almost NEVER forgot each other birthday’s or Christmas. Donna had unusual handwriting for a right-hander, a recognizable backhand writing in looping script. I used to savor her notes/cards as she moved to Rhode Island and then Florida. Her notes were sometimes difficult to decipher with her handwriting but it meant so much to me that she always took the time to put pen to paper in this day and age of text and emails as a means of communication. Even through rough times she always saw the positive, and she always remembered what I had said in my last letter and asked about me and my family. She cared for her mom before she died and then again for several years gave up her career to move back to Connecticut and care for her father till he passed. She never complained about caring for others and despite some health issues was always upbeat.

Donna and I always ended our letters or cards with “Love, YFF” which meant your friend forever. Thank you for being my friend and making me take chances and smile along the way, I will miss you, Love, YFF, Linda

Farewell to thee! but not farewell
To all my fondest thoughts of thee:
Within my heart they still shall dwell;
And they shall cheer and comfort me.

~ Anne Brontë 

From → Friends

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