Blueberries for Donnie

September 3, 2006 on 7:40 am | By | In Random Musings | 1 Comment

I lost a client today.

After 12 long and difficult months, dear sweet Donnie lost her valiant fight with ovarian cancer. Even though I knew the end was coming, the hurt is still very raw. I knew her merely a year, but she affected me deeply. I only wish I had the chance to make her favorite blueberry pie.

I’ve been cooking for her daughter and son-in-law for almost two years. I catered Donnie’s 75th birthday in January 2005, but didn’t get the chance to meet her because I prepared everything in advance and left before the party started. Last August she called me; she was starting chemotherapy again and wanted her husband properly fed. She battled breast cancer a few years earlier, and knew the all-consuming ritual of her chemo treatments would impede their ability to enjoy a proper meal. They needed some sort of respite for this round.

Despite Donnie’s treatments, we didn’t have to restrict her diet too much in the beginning. I’d prepare a simple herbed baked chicken for the 2-3 days immediately following her bi-weekly treatments — when her palate was the most compromised — but she was able to enjoy most foods after that. She was always sure to tell me whether or not she could “taste” the food; chemo drastically affects one’s taste buds, so foods you once enjoyed could taste completely off.

They were originally going to use the service until her treatments ended in January, but Donnie soon proclaimed she loved the food so much they’d continue indefinitely. To her, her treatments were a minor inconvenience, and she was looking forward to enjoying my meals with abandon. She knew I loved to cook with lots of spice and flavor, and she’d apologize when her food had to be bland.

Donnie made me feel like a five-star chef. She was so complimentary, always making sure I knew how much it meant to them to not have to worry about their sustenance. I’d joke with my husband that if I were ever feeling down about myself, all I had to do was talk to Donnie. She made me feel very special and appreciated; I’m sure she had the same effect with everyone she touched.

Most days she and her husband would be off getting her treatments when I cooked, but there were many days when they’d be home. Those days were longer, as Donnie LOVED to chat. Inevitably this would occur when I wanted to get home early, either because I had a meeting, or I simply wanted to hit the gym. Whenever I found myself annoyed by this, I had to remind myself that Donnie was most likely getting pleasure from my company. Given all she was going through, how could I begrudge her? I now realize these moments brought me so much closer to her. From her tales of the dinner parties she was required to host as the wife of a Boeing executive, to her adventures as a travel agent, I got a much better sense for the woman she was.

Donnie suffered a setback come January — one of many that she’d face over the next 7 months — forcing her to continue with her chemo treatments. Her deteriorating health required several days-long stays at the hospital. With each trip the pain and sorrow were clearly etched in her husband’s face and in his voice, but Donnie remained incredibly upbeat. She was going to beat this, by God.

As summer neared I looked forward to preparing Donnie’s blueberry pie, but alas I never got my chance. Her hospital trips became far too frequent, her ability to tolerate food too diminished. Soon I was just cooking for her husband, as Donnie was back in the hospital for an extended stay. She somehow summoned the strength to make a trip to Hawaii for a family reunion in mid-July, which provided a much-needed respite from doctors and chemo treatments. But I’m sure everyone sensed this would be Donnie’s last.

I cooked for them the day after their return, and it was wonderful to hear the joy in her voice describing their experience. I missed her stories! By now it had been over a month since I had seen her in person, and it was evident that her health was declining. Within a week she was back in the hospital, and a week after that I received the following email:

“Our gallant lady is fading pretty rapidly now and so we are moving her to Evergreen Hospice today. Even with the end in sight, she remains quietly a great lady.”

So simple, yet so poignant.

She held on for two more weeks, but slipped away peacefully holding her husband’s hand. He said in the end she seemed content to go.

Every time I eat blueberry pie I will think of Donnie. I miss her dearly.

1 Comment

  1. What a thoughtful and beautiful tribute to someone you were lucky enough to meet through business, and become a friend. I know they feel just as lucky to have had you in their lives – and I’ll take this bittersweet time to remind you – it takes someone really special to appreciate the extraordinary connection you have with Donnie and her family – so everyone is now richer for the experience. Thanks for sharing this lovely message. Sending love and support your way!

    Comment by Laura — September 3, 2006 #

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress and Nifty Cube with Recetas theme design by Pablo Carnaghi.
Entries and comments feeds. Valid XHTML and CSS.