Oh, Dawna: The Sudden Loss of a Person Who Touched Everyone She Knew

Dawna

My vibrant, infinitely kind, brutally honest, confident, smart, best friend from high school and, especially, early college passed away over the weekend.

She was on vacation in Jamaica and, if the pics and videos posted on Facebook are any indication, she was having the time of her life. I am so grateful for that.

Dawna was the person that shouldered everyone’s pain. We all asked it of her at times, and I’m just now realizing how unfair that was.

She earned an M.S. in Mental Health Counseling, and she helped countless people through the various jobs she had and roles she played.

Dawna was not warm and fuzzy in the traditional sense. She didn’t pull punches, and she would offer her opinion–if asked–of how stupid a certain course of action would be … but she would be there to pick up the pieces with you, no matter how sharp their edges were.

If you went shopping with Dawna and tried on a dress, she’d say, “It makes your ass look huge” or “You trying to advertise the fact that you have big boobs?” or whatever. When you tried on the right dress, though, and Dawna said, “Daaaaaaaamn!”, you knew you looked good. She would not lie to make someone feel better, but you knew her compliments were gospel truth.

Dawna deplored my ex-husband on sight. I’d experienced some turmoil in my life and was trying to get myself together, and this seemingly nice, quiet, smart man seemed to make sense. Only Dawna saw him for what he was, and only Dawna was unsurprised when he became a violent and abusive alcoholic and addict.

“How’s Philip?” she would ask. He hated to be called Philip, but Dawna called him Philip anyway.

“Oh, he’s great! We just had a baby, and he is so great with her. Everything’s great!”

“Don’t trust him too much, Kate.”

“Dawna, he’s perfect for me! He is like a vacation after all the chaos. Everything’s great. Why don’t you see that?”

“He calls you Katherine, like he thinks he’s your father or something. He’s super controlling, and there is just something off about him. Be careful.”

A few years later, when her instincts once again proved impeccable, we were getting a drink.

“You were totally right about him,” I cried. “Why didn’t I listen?”

“Because you thought he was nice, you thought you deserved nice. Happens all the time.” She paused. “And you do deserve nice.”

“Why didn’t you try harder to make me see?”

She gave me the patented Dawna “Why would I waste my breath if I know you’re not going to listen” look. I’d seen it many times before. I’m sure everyone that knew Dawna well knows the look I mean.

She said nothing.

“Okay, fair enough.”

“Look, you got Ari out of the marriage. That’s more than worth it. She’s the best thing he’ll ever do, and he has no freaking idea, the moron.”

It is human nature to connect our feelings with others based on our relationships with them. I can share stories of Dawna for days, stories of conversations that lasted for nights on end, parties, spilling red Boone’s Farm all over the white carpet in her bedroom, working at Chuck E. Cheese’s together for years with a crew of people that were like family, the fact that we both had stepfathers we were extremely close to and mine was called “Gordo” and hers “Booby” and neither deserved such rough nicknames but they kind of liked them, too.

However, it is not my intent to share “Kate and Dawna stories”, although I think that’s what we as people do when we grieve. It makes those of us left behind feel better to remember those special memories unique only to you.

My purpose in writing this is to express how special, how remarkable, how one-of-a-kind Dawna was, and for me this boils down to one theme.

I was seventeen when I had my first daughter, Emily. I graduated from high school in June, spent the summer working 60 hour workweeks at Chuck E. Cheese’s with Dawna and many other dear friends (and my coworkers gave me the most amazing baby shower, let me just say), and Emily was born in September.

A year later, I began attending Plymouth State College (I know it calls itself a university now, but it will always be Plymouth State College to me), and Dawna and one of our other friends, Kara, went at the same time.

I lived in the non-traditional student housing because I had Emily, which meant I had an apartment on campus, while Dawna and Kara lived in a dorm. Which means they were at my apartment all the time.  

I was going through the typical challenges of being a teen mother, and I was working multiple jobs. My friends picked up the slack with Emily, and one of my favorite memories is coming home from work to see Dawna blasting Tupac’s “California Love” and holding Emily’s hands as she danced on the table. They were both dancing in … well, let’s just say a way that Tupac would have approved of. Kara was in the kitchen, making this delectable creation called “Meal in a Loaf”, and after Emily’s bath, story, and bedtime, “Friends” would be on.

Those were not easy days, for any of us. I was too caught up in my own drama at first to realize that Dawna and Kara had both experienced very dark things recently, but soon we were working as an incredible support system for each other–Kara cooking and getting us to give “Days of Our Lives” a chance, me trying to raise my baby and do well in school and work, and Dawna the self-described “Man of the House”–she took the trash out and railed on me for being a slob. (I was a slob)

I would give anything to go back and have one of those days with you again, Dawna. Lots of memories before that year, and lots afterwards, but for that one year, Dawna kept me going. She kept me believing in myself. She told me I was doing stupid things when I did stupid things. She took care of my baby when I couldn’t. She loved me unconditionally, something she was especially gifted at.

I have never had a friend like Dawna before. She was wise beyond her years, yet she was the life of every party. She’d tell you stuff you didn’t want to hear because it needed to be said, but she was never mean-spirited.

I am thinking of her parents, her beloved brother and sister, her boyfriend and the battalions of friends she had. I am one of many that had the privilege and fortune to know and love Dawna.

If you knew Dawna personally, please share a memory below.

If you didn’t, think of someone you’ve loved and lost and share a memory in their honor.

Fly high, Dawna … and God will understand.

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6 comments

  1. I have known Dawna since I was 20. She was instantly a best friend, she was the most honest, loving, smart, kindest soul you’ll ever have met, and she always kept it real. No matter what. She was always there for me, anytime. She was close to me in florida and new Hampshire. My son was so close to her as well…she was in his life from the beginning, he will be 13 next month. She was there for me all the time, she was in the room and with me when my grandmother died, there are so many stories and ways she touched my life and the lives of everyone around her. I will miss our talks and visits…sleepovers and all the fun times we had. You will be missed not just by me and Chayse, but by everyone who knew you, your family my heart goes out to them all. You will always be in my heart, my sweet dawna, i love you, rest in peace my angel. I love you, Amy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I met Dawna when worked on a Department of Defense DOD) contract at a company named Ceridian. After leaving Ceridian we remained connected via gatherings at Claire Curtis’ house. Then we worked together again briefly on the same contract but with a different company.

    Dawna was so smart and sassy. She could see after just a short time that the second company we worked for was nuts and she left.

    We remained in contact on Facebook. She loved herself some Nee England Patriots and I can’t stand the Patriots. Dawna would always comment on posts I wrote regarding Tom Brady, Coach Belichick or the team in general.

    Dawna always tried to get me to love or at least like the Patriots. Even though the Patriots never grew on me, I always assured Dawna that while I didn’t like the Patriots, I loved her.

    I believe in heaven and I believe the way we serve others on this earth is rewarded in heaven. I believe Dawna is in heaven reaping her reward for all she served and loved as a friend, relative and a mental health counselor.

    Rest in eternal peace Dawna. 🙏🏽💕

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  3. I first met Dawna When I was a freshman at Dover high school and she was a senior. I was entirely too young to be attending most of the parties that she was also at and she took notice immediately. She always made sure that I was right with her and that I was safe. She always made sure to watch my drinks if I had to go to the bathroom, she made sure to bring me home if I needed to, if the cops showed up at a party she would either Stick m in the backseat or in the trunk to make sure I didn’t get in trouble LOL, that was always fun and exciting! She made sure that any of the guys that were entirely too old to even be thinking about talking to me stay the hell away. she truly was a big sister I never had an always wanted. Over the years as we both got older, we always stayed in touch. We would get together every time she would come home and go out to eat and have drinks and reminisce about our crazy fun times when we were younger. She guided me when I needed guidance the most and gave me the best advice anyone could ask for. She encouraged me to go back to school and get my nursing degree, which I did and she couldn’t have been prouder of me. She talked me off the ledge a few times when I was ready to give up on life and if it wasn’t for her I don’t know if I’d be here today. She always knew what to do and what to say to help somebody weather they were in crisis, need a little guidance or just a shoulder to lean on and an ear to listen. I am proud to say that she was one of my closest and most cherished friends in the entire world and I am a better person for knowing her.

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