Sunday, November 01, 2009

'Donna was singular.' ...

In 1987, days before our high-school graduation, Sheila signed my yearbook. She included a P.S.: "If I don't see you sooner, I'll see you in 10 years."

I didn't go to our 10-year high-school reunion. Nor did I go to our 20.

In early September, Sheila found me on Facebook. I was happy to hear from her. I asked about her life.

She replied, "Life kind of sucker punched me a couple of years ago. My daughter, Donna, named after my Mom who died of a brain tumor when I was pregnant, was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2007. She's 4 now and on hospice. That's the extreme Cliff Notes version. Other than that, pretty damn good."

"Well, that knocked the wind out of me," I wrote in response. "But I so admire you for living life every day to its fullest. What an amazing lesson for all of us."

Oh, I had no idea.

In the ensuing weeks, I would visit Donna's CaringBridge site and look at the pictures and videos her parents posted and read the posts they wrote.

Sheila was the editor of the yearbook she signed for me. She has always had a way with words. And she married a man, Jeremy, who writes with equal eloquence.

They began their CaringBridge journal on March 25, 2007, two days after Donna's diagnosis. The first sentence reads, "Donna was diagnosed with a brain tumor on Friday."

On October 19, 2009, Donna's Daddy, as he is known on the site, wrote, "This morning, sometime between 12:30 and 2, her parents sleeping on either side of her, Donna's heart stopped and she died. Her death was very peaceful."

But Donna's story continues in all who came to know her.

I asked Sheila for permission to write about her daughter and share the information about the charities to which donations can be made in celebration of her life.

Sheila replied that she would be honored to have me write about Donna.

But the honor is mine, entirely. I have been moved beyond measure by the life of this little girl. I never had the honor of meeting her, but she has inspired me to do more, to be more, to love more, to dance.

In celebration of her love of dancing, her parents, extraordinary people by all standards, are establishing a scholarship in her name. As Sheila has written, "If Donna can't dance, others should, and money should not be the obstacle to this."

Those who would like to contribute may send checks to:

Donna Quirke Hornik Fund
2649 W. Greenleaf Ave., 1E
Chicago, IL 60645

In addition, the family is encouraging donations to two charities that meant a great deal to Donna. The first is Children's Memorial and Dr. Stewart Goldman – Dr. Stew – who treated Donna with such care:

Neuro-Onc Research Fund
in honor of Donna
Box 30
Children's Memorial Hospital
2300 Childrens Plaza
Chicago IL 60614
Or their website:

In the field marked “My gift should benefit…” please type in, “Dr. Stewart Goldman.”

The second is Jill's House in Bloomington, Indiana, where they stayed for three months during radiation treatment.

Jill’s House
751 E. Tamarack Trail
Bloomington, Indiana 47408

As her parents so lovingly wrote in her obituary, "In her too brief life, Donna danced on the stage of the Auditorium Theater, consumed a mountain of macaroni and cheese, worried the winter trees were lonely and cold without their leaves and finally enjoyed the big girl swing all by herself. Donna was singular."

Photo credit: Joel Wanek


Blogger Doreen said...

Thank you for again being the blog of reason and reminding us all that on our absolute poitive worst day ... they are others who have much more to bear.

10:44 AM  
Anonymous Alison said...

What a beautiful tribute to a beautiful girl.

11:17 AM  
Blogger Mercurie said...

That is such a wonderful tribute.

11:54 AM  
Blogger Jeremy said...

If anyone would like to visit our site, the address is:

And thank you for the lovely words.

Jeremy Hornik

7:30 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Thank you, Jeremy.

I'll add a link to the site within the body of the post, too.

7:32 PM  
Blogger OneMan said...

We learned the dance move she is pictured doing at the memorial service.

It took until the third verse of You are My Sunshine to be able to sing along...

and for me now Liverwurst will always be Liverbest...

10:20 AM  
Blogger J. Marquis said...

Oh my God, what a little angel.

7:14 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

What a sweet comment, Henry. Thank you. I'm glad you were there.

And J.: Indeed. In every sense of the word.

7:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just reading this now. Beautiful.

Miss Shawn

9:24 AM  
Blogger abby jenkins said...

That smile, brighter than the brightest comet.
Brief and bright.
What an inspiration to enjoy life and celebrate each day.

10:04 PM  

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