Wow ~ hasn’t the world changed since I last wrote to you? I pray you are finding this time of self-quarantine filled with a few rewarding experiences. Ha ~ being with family and not killin’ one another ~ that is rewarding! Regardless, a time to read more and watch less TV since we are missing March Madness, the Masters, hockey, baseball and the Kentucky Derby. Perhaps we can use this gift of time to write a much overdue note to a friend or soldier. Garden. Try new recipes. Complete that scrapbook project. Organize family pictures that have been collected over the years. Maybe, clean out the garage, attic and/or basement … one bite at a time.
Cornell’s scheduled spring break was this next week through April 5. However, when the campus announced classes would be virtual for the remainder of the semester, the girls moved out of the sorority house and will not return until August. Without the estrogen-filled chitter-chatter and constant activity, it is very tranquil.
Despite daily efforts to disinfect, housekeeping intends to begin its annual deep-clean of the entire building immediately. The chefs have closed the kitchen, so I am actually going to have to cook for myself now in my suite. Hark … and grocery shop!
You may already have a personal story regarding this virus. Thus far, I do not, other than the closing of Cornell, but I am reminded and amazed in seeing the tireless efforts of our elected officials and the medical field as our country tries to pull together to combat this challenge.
One of my dearest friends, who happens to be the Godliest woman I know, and who is celebrating a big birthday on April 6, is a trained nurse: Donna Habegger. Many of you know her personally. I met her after she moved with her family to Kingsport following her husband, Breck, who transferred within First Tennessee Bank. Their three children — twins Paul and Christian, and their youngest son, Phillip — are all trained and working in the medical community as well. When living in Kingsport, they were members of Northeast Church of Christ.
Donna and I met in the most unlikely of places. It was the annual NASCAR race, first for either of us, at Bristol Motor Speedway one hot August. My husband and I were guests in the First Tennessee suite. Miss Social Butterfly, Donna, made it a point to welcome us sharing all her southern hospitality and grace over the LOUD vroom vroom of cars racing below in “The World’s Fastest Half-Mile” track. We felt an instant connection.
Unbeknownst to me, she carried the little thank you note I had written afterward for being their guests, knowing that she would run into me again one day. And, wouldn’t you know, it would be at Bible study. Upon leaving BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) a couple of weeks later at Colonial Heights Baptist Church, I heard, “Susan! Susan!” as I was leaving the sanctuary. I turned around to spy Donna. Walking out together, we set up a lunch date and were thenceforth often inseparable when we both lived in Kingsport. It’s funny that I recall Donna asking me during that first luncheon together, “Do you think we will become good friends since I am a Tennessee fan and you are a Georgia fan, and I am not so fond of dogs and you have three?” My response, “It could be a challenge.”
It is easy to adore and admire numerous qualities about Donna. She is the most unselfish, encouraging, thoughtful-of-others person I have ever met. She has touched many lives. Being a nurse comes naturally to her nurturing personality and she knows how to get projects accomplished with her gentle spirit. She readily solicited volunteers for various worthy community causes including the Kitchen of Hope and blood drives. Summers found her volunteering in Camp Shiloh, where lower income inner New York City children enjoyed outdoor activities. Once, she brought her sons to The Lodge in White City when I started purging for my move and utilized their young legs for gliding endless stairs.
With both of us being tall, like sisters or good friends, we had a pact between us. You know that flat spot on the top back part of your head that may get missed with the brush … we promised to finger-comb each other’s if noticed or at least alert the other.
Donna has a wonderful sense of humor and we have enjoyed many banters. She always looks on the bright side of everything. I have never heard her say one unkind word about anyone and she always puts others first … except for coveted parking spots. Our habit was to meet with fellow women for breakfast in Perkins Restaurant on Fort Henry Drive before Bible study. Donna and I had this silly juvenile, but addictive, behavior of competing for a particular parking spot on the church grounds. I admit I even started getting up earlier to get that one spot before she did. Temporary parking signs were erected on our birthdays indicating relinquishment to the other. However, if we met in Perkins first, silliness still overcame us. Once, she gave her money to another as I was checking out and ran past me with her long dark hair flying behind her. I thought, “Clever!” To her astonishment, I was able to triumph and pull in before her. “That is a miracle!” she exclaimed. I responded confidently, “God is on my side.”
Once, when traveling together for another special birthday, we visited Daddy’s condo on Lake Oconee in Georgia. I was driving and upon stopping at the guard gate to enter the neighborhood, genteel and unpretentious Donna who was sitting behind me, lowered her window and asked the attendant, “Do you know who this is?” She was speaking of me and thought my father owned Reynolds Plantation. She really did for some unknown reason. What a hoot!
When Donna learned that Breck had been transferred to Memphis, she called me, and I bawled like a baby as she shared the news. Tears flowing down my cheeks, I realized and told her that God had sent her and Breck to Kingsport to plant seeds and it was apparently time to go elsewhere and do the same. Happy Birthday, my cherished friend. We have celebrated several together and this mandatory social distancing will not keep me from wishing you the happiest birthday yet. Please celebrate knowing you are loved by so many and, that when I grow up, I aspire to be like you with a full heart to love everyone!
As I close, the largest snowflakes of this winter season are tumbling from above. Life continues. Interesting that this pandemic happened during the Lenten season, don’t you think? Possibly spend more time with God. Stay safe and continue to lift prayers for our leadership, the medical personnel and our neighbors as we get through this challenge together ~ Amen!
Susan E. Kendrick is a Sunday Stories columnist who shares her insights and Southern humor each month in Sincerely, Susan. To correspond with Susan, email her at [email protected] To share your events for our Out & About calendar, email us at [email protected]