I always feel better after talking to you!

I laughed.

Me, too, I replied.

That was the highlight of my second-to-last conversation with one of Pierce County’s finest residents, Donna Dixon.

We sat in her office at The Sycamore Tree reminiscing on the benevolence ministry’s 10 years of providing support, prayer and comfort for families in need. The ministry was Donna’s heartbeat, one she wanted to share with the whole community.

She learned over the years how to be firm when the situation called for it, but not in a harsh way. Donna was the grandmother everyone wishes they could have. Her whole face smiled when she said hello, and I don’t think I ever saw Donna when her eyes weren’t twinkling, even when she was exhausted from a long day at the ministry.

I always thought Donna would make the perfect Mrs. Claus. But, perhaps a Mother Teresa comparison is more fitting.

Will we ever fully realize the impact of the work Donna spearheaded at The Sycamore Tree and elsewhere in the community? So many have their own story of being helped, loved and prayed over by Donna or her sister, Marian.

Bro. Bill Young, former pastor at First Baptist Church, said it best when I spoke to him a few weeks ago about the founding of The Sycamore Tree for an article celebrating the ministry’s 10th anniversary here. Donna has the gift of ‘helps’, he told me.

Donna and I sat together that day chatting about the state of the nation and our world amidst this awful pandemic  — I hate it  — and bitter political divisions. If only folks could listen, try to understand someone else’s point of view and show a little love, much peace could be achieved, Donna commented. She lived by those principles every time she reached out to help someone in need at The Sycamore Tree.

I don’t know why Donna felt better after talking to me. I’m sure I was the most blessed by our conversation. It was my best interview of the day, perhaps the week. I was encouraged by the ‘good news’ I found at The Sycamore Tree.

My last conversation with Donna was one I’d rather forget.

Jack and I tested positive for COVID Saturday. We’re doing fine, but I wanted to let you know since we met last week.

I told her I appreciated the call and I’d be praying all was well for them.

Everything will be alright, I said.

But, it wasn’t  — at least that’s how I felt about the matter Sunday when I heard the news of Donna’s passing.

I pulled weeds while trying to process the news, burned a pot of beans in my distraction, and shed tears for my friend.

Come Monday, I was still shedding a few tears, and I suspect I will for a while yet.

But, it really will be alright. Donna is resting now, and she deserves it.

She worked hard and inspired us all to give more, love more and help more.

Donna, I want to be like you when I grow up.

• Sarah Tarr Gove is news editor of The Blackshear Times. Email her at sgove@theblacksheartimes.com.