Hey y’all! Thank you for clicking to even consider reading this post!! I’ll go ahead and warn you… This is a long ‘un. Probably my longest post ever on the blog. But here is how this post even came about: I had the amazing and challenging opportunity to share at a women’s retreat for my church last month about Eucharisteo, and how the loss of my little brother changed my outlook on life. (More on what eucharisteo means in just a sec.) I knew that this would be really hard, and public speaking scares the heck out of me, but when I was asked to speak at this conference, I just felt the Holy Spirit’s nudge to say yes. So I did.
That didn’t mean my fear of speaking went away! It actually got worse! ha! So I decided to do what I am comfortable with — writing — and simply give myself a script. When it was my turn to go, I sat on a stool in front of a mic and read what you’re about to read. How’s that for a boring presentation!? 😉
The reason I feel led to share it here is because I had several people mention how they wished they’d known about the retreat sooner, or were unable to make it for whatever reason, or heard about this story later from a friend and wished they’d heard it too. It is my prayer that Jesus speaks to even just one person who reads this. The only way I was able to get up on stage and read this without blubbering through the entire thing (which is what I did when I read it to Price the night before, which just added to my fear!) is because of Jesus. Miraculously, I only cried like twice! Much better than the 8 to 10 times the night before 😉 Jesus DOES still perform miracles, y’all!
Ok without making this post even LONGER, I’ll shut up with the intro and just share! Here ya go:
Hi y’all! My name is Laurel Donahoo and I am so honored to be here tonight getting to share a little bit about my discovery of eucharisteo and how God has shown himself in my life, particularly over the last 16 years.
And let me take this moment to share that I am not a public speaker — that was by far the hardest class I took in college. It was terrifying! I much preferred the writing classes! — so please pardon my script up here! 🙂
But first, let me introduce myself! I know some of y’all, but not all of you! I was born and raised in Madison and Ridgeland and have gone to Broadmoor since I was in utero. I married my best friend Price, who I met at Mississippi State, in 2009 and we have a 3 year old boy named Wilson, a two year old girl named Lily Ryan, and a third baby due in November! I work part time at SummerHouse as the social media director, part time as a blogger and freelance writer, and full time as a mom! 🙂 I am beyond thankful for the blessings God has provided for me and our family!
So now that y’all know a little more about me, let’s switch gears!
Now, I realize not everyone has had the opportunity yet to read the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, so I’ll give you a snippet of what that crazy word eucharisteo even means! (Quick note: The retreat was based on the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. The word Eucharisteo has heavy meaning throughout her book. You’ll learn what it means soon, I promise!)
Ann talks about her discovery of this word, eucharisteo. In her reading of the scripture, she realized that from the very beginning, Adam and Eve fell prey to the sin of ingratitude. Think about that. They were surrounded by a beautiful garden of PARADISE, yet they found themselves wanting something they couldn’t have. They weren’t grateful for what they did have and dwelled on what they didn’t have: The forbidden fruit. Because of their desire to just have an apple, the first sin was committed, and here we are! We women are having all these painful childbirths and our men are working these crazy long hours!
As Ann said in the book, ingratitude leads us to emptiness. We may feel full on the apple for a minute, but after we are filled, we’re right back to empty again. She mentions how losses have the tendency to empty us and make us feel less than thankful. I know we all know what she’s talking about to some degree. Small losses, big losses, and everything in between. They can all lead us to feeling empty.
So! Continuing with Ann’s discovery of eucharisteo. When she was very young, she lost her little sister to an accident on their farm. The accident haunted her for years. She was lacking in joy. Then, as an adult, a husband and six kids later, the tragedy of cancer hit her family. This began her dive into the scripture. One scripture that stopped her contained the words, “he gave thanks.” Before everything, she found in scripture that Jesus gave thanks. The root word for “he gave thanks” is eucharisteo. The root word for this word is charis, which means “grace.” A derivitive of this word in greek, chara, means “joy!”
Grace. Joy. Thanksgiving. These are all things we could have a little more of in our lives, right?!
So when Melinda asked me to speak at this retreat on this topic, she had in mind an experience that my family endured when I was in high school. My twin brother, Jordan, and I have a little brother named Ryan (but everyone really knows him as Dooley! Long story— ask me when this is over! And our little girl Lily RYAN is actually named after her uncle!) One October night in 2002, my parents Lee and Mary (many of y’all probably know my fun parents!) had some friends over to our home to just fellowship and eat dinner together. I’ve always loved all of my parents’ friends, so this was a really fun night for me! Jordan had gone to dinner with school friends and Dooley wasn’t staying very long, so I had some fun ahead with me and all the “grown ups.”
Around, I want to say, 7:00 that evening, my little brother Dooley left to drive himself to hockey practice. I remember hearing the phone ring about 30 or so minutes later. My dad answered the phone and it was one of Dooley’s teachers from school calling to brag on what a great student he was! During that call, another phone call came in. One that we missed because my dad was on the phone with Dooley’s teacher. Shortly after my dad hung up with this teacher, another call came in. Whoever this person was, we could see in my dad’s face that something was horribly wrong. He had just been informed that Dooley had been in a horrible car accident. The call that had come in during my dad’s talk with the teacher had been someone else calling to tell us what had happened.
The night goes somewhat blurry at this point in my memory, but one thing I distinctly remember right now is my dad walking into the living room, telling everyone what he’d just heard, and saying the words, “Let’s pray.” In a massive family crisis, the very first thing my dad did was hit his knees and talk to God. I already respected my daddy and thought the world of him, but that right there just made me even more thankful for a God-honoring father.
My mama and I hopped in the car with my dad and went as quickly yet safely as we could to UMC where Dooley had been taken. His car accident had been on Lakeland Drive right in front of River Hills, if y’all are familiar with that area. Jordan had been at Primos on Lakeland for dinner with friends so we called him on the way and he met us at the hospital. Because Primos is just down Lakeland Drive from River Hills, Jordan had to drive right past the accident scene to get to the hospital. I just cannot imagine what he thought when he saw that.
I remember getting to the hospital and seeing Dooley all wrapped up. From head to toe. In something white. I guess it was gauze or something. (I have no clue. I am not medical!) We learned that he had T’d into a car that pulled out in front of him while he was zooming down Lakeland and both cars caught on fire. Dooley had burns on 80% of his body.
Like I mentioned earlier, this night is very fuzzy to me. I kept trying to wake myself up from the bad dream. Do y’all ever do that when you’re having bad dreams? Only I couldn’t wake up. This was realer than real. I remember hearing my dad ask one of the doctors the question, “Is he going to live?”
My heart jumped up into my throat. Of course he is going to live! We are the Miller family. We are a family of five. We can’t be anything other than a family of five because that’s how it’s always been. It had honestly never occurred to me that Dooley might not live through this.
When I heard the doctor respond with a realistic, less than uplifting response, I remember just walking outside to cry. I remember sitting down to just sob, then after a minute or two, I felt someone’s arm around my shoulder. My friend and basketball teammate Sara Tyson McDaniel had taken a seat right next to me, holding me, telling me that everything was going to be okay. Then she prayed for Dooley and for our family. And then I looked up, and I saw almost my entire basketball team there. And all of Jordan’s best friends. Word had gotten out really quickly (this was before the days of group texting! This was Nokia era.) that something had happened. I remember feeling SO blessed by our community of friends and teammates in that moment. I even remember my sweet friends getting me to laugh for just a second about something.
From UMC, Dooley was transferred to the Greenville Burn Center up in the MS Delta. He was taken up there late that same night as the accident. I remember the four of us driving up to Greenville and staying with Dennis Morgan’s mom, who lived close by.
My basketball team had an early practice that next morning, so I remember my precious teammate and Broadmoor bestie Morgan Brister (now Hegi) calling me at about 5:45 asking me what specifically they could pray for us and Dooley about. My team had decided to have a time of prayer instead of practice that morning. I told them some of the specifics that they could pray for and just remember falling back to sleep for a few minutes feeling so comforted. That was all God.
I remember going to the Greenville Burn Center later that morning and seeing Dooley in what looked like a head to toe cast. Everything was covered except for his face. Somehow, his beautiful face had not really gotten burned! And his hair hadn’t been burned either, so my mom says he was wearing the “helmet of salvation” mentioned in Ephesians 6:10-17, which had become one of Dooley’s favorite scriptues. I like that 🙂
I remember trying to make lighthearted one-sided conversation with him in his room at the Burn Center when I was given a few minutes to myself with him. The doctors told us that he could hear us, but that he wouldn’t be able to communicate with us. At this point, I knew he wasn’t going to make it. But I certainly didn’t want to tell him that! So I remember trying to joke with him about whatever I could. I actually had seen on a board in his room that he still had all of his teeth, so I told him his pearly white smile, which he had always been so careful to keep as white as possible, was completely intact! I think he wanted to laugh because I could see a small change in his vital signs on the machines when I would say silly things like that. As you could image, those few minutes, as hard as I tried to make them happy, just weren’t. My little brother was about to die. I just remember telling him how much I loved him and how thankful for him I was before walking out of the room and just falling into the arms of whoever was in the waiting room to catch me.
After Dooley passed away that day, I remember coming home to our house in Ridgeland and Vicki Watson greeting us at our kitchen door with love and hugs and tons of food. The Broadmoor family had shown up for us the night we got home, showering us with more care than we knew how to handle. And more food than we could handle. My parents had to rent an extra freezer for all yummy grub! Don’t y’all just love the South’s love for good food at all times?
Dooley’s funeral, although really hard, was the perfect remembrance of him. His goofy, happy-go-lucky, God-honoring life was highlighted. I had never been more thankful for our incredible church family.
Once life without Dooley really began, which for me took several weeks to really sink in, our lives were just completely different. The meaning of life, the brevity of life, and the meaning of relationships just came alive. It was a wakeup call for our family’s friends. Particularly Dooley’s friends! Wow. Without me even knowing the word Eucharisto, or ever having even heard it, I began noticing things and perceiving things differently, with a broken, yet more thankful heart, and realizing important vs. non important things.
I became even more thankful for my Godly parents. The divorce rate for couples who lose a child is alarming, so I became extra thankful for the strong marriage of my parents. It made me want to look for husband one day who I knew would weather heartache alongside me the way my mom and dad did with each other. The Lord has fulfilled that for me, by the way! 🙂
I became extra thankful for photographs. iPhones weren’t a thing in ’02, so having a billion photos of your people at your fingertips wasn’t really possible. Dooley and I had actually been playing with a film camera gifted to us by my grandmother (it had been my grandfather’s years earlier) a few nights before his accident, so of course I was itching to get those photos developed! None of them were all that great because we had no clue what we were doing, but boy were they special.
I began noticing how quiet my nighttime routine had become. Dooley’s room and mine shared a wall, and Dooley was all about some music. He loved listening to it, and he loved making it. I think he played like five different instruments! Anyway, I almost never went to sleep in silence. I could always hear him enjoying some kind of music on the other side of that wall as I drifted off to sleep at night. So when my bedtimes were hauntingly quiet, I began to value other little things like that. Annoying habits of friends and family all of the sudden weren’t that annoying anymore. I began actually clinging to the “isms” of my people, knowing that I’m not promised to have them here with me tomorrow.
I’m thankful that, because of Dooley’s accident, one of his best friends came to know Jesus. Dooley’s accident and this friend’s parents’ divorce happened all at the same time, so my dad was able to walk our precious friend through the sinner’s prayer during a time of deep heartache for him. I actually just talked to this sweet friend earlier this week and we talked about how Jesus just meets us and captures us wherever we are, no matter what.
As far as how Dooley’s death has affected me today in my current life stage of marriage and motherhood, I would say there is one main way.
It makes me love hard who I have today. We are not promised tomorrow with any of our people. We are not even promised five minutes from now. And that is okay! God’s timeline is more than perfect. So I’ve made it my mission to love my people hard every single day. I don’t want to go to sleep with any regrets about how I treated my husband or my kids, my family, my coworkers, or my friends. Now, I’m definitely not perfect at this, and some days I flat out fail, but it’s always on my mind. I think, “If I wake up tomorrow without one of my people, did I love them well?” And on the flip side, “If my people wake up without me tomorrow, do they know how much I love them?” I know this might sound morbid to some of y’all — I totally get that! — but honestly it’s not a morbid thought if you’re secure in your eternity! To me, thinking about — and not DWELLING ON, but thinking about — death actually sparks more life!
I think about the manna that the Israelites gathered every day they wandered in the desert. God sustained them with new manna every morning. There was no way to store it up for future days because any extra would go bad overnight. What was gathered today was only good for today. I try to ask God to give me love manna every morning so I can shower it all that day. Then He and I start over the next morning 🙂
After Dooley passed away, his Bible became a very special keepsake. Right inside the front cover were these words scribbled in his handwriting: “Why ya here?”
Why are YOU here? What is the purpose of your life this earth? Why does God continue to fill you with breath? I hope you find yourself extra thankful, extra joyful, and extra loving because your life DOES have purpose. You’re not here just to fill a space. You mean something to the kingdom and to those around you. Make the most of it! Ask God each and every morning before your feet hit the ground to fill you up with manna for today. Then start over tomorrow! And feel free to scribble in your own bible, “why ya here?” I promise it’s a great reminder and a great mental reset for whenever you’re feeling like you might not have much purpose.
Thank you so much for listening to my story. I hope you are encouraged and ready to go love well!
// The above pictures are of the scrapbook I made my senior year of high school. I documented EVERYTHING from that year, so of course there were pages all about Dooley! 🙂 //
Ok y’all. Thanks so much for reading today. Really means a LOT! Love y’all!