Donna is probably the most significant person in my life outside of my immediate family. I remember the first time I met her at a small mid-week church group - she had her red glossy hair in a bob to the chin and I remember her smiling face! She was 18 – I was 13. She walked into the room with such a warm and confident presence –and a laughter that rose frequently and easily – I immediately loved her! At that time she had just become a Christian, whereas I had been one for as long as I could remember – but that night, and the following weeks, I grew excited about this weekly meeting as this girls enthusiasm became infectious in my life. I knew God personally, yes, but this was someone who was totally unashamed about God’s place in her life, and that made me more confident at school, and more excited about the possibilities of this God we both shared. Donna was the one person who taught me about a God of grace who I didn’t need to hide parts of my life from – but rather someone I could take every aspect of my life to – a God that loved me no matter how messy life became. I found this God hard to grasp and accept - but whenever I was with Donna and saw how she treated me, and my family, without judgement or expectation – I could begin to see a God who could love me unconditionally too. I don’t remember quite how our friendship developed from this point onwards – only that Donna soon became my hero and closest friend. The honest truth is that nobody has quite impacted my life like she did - I thought she was amazing. I watched how she talked to people, how easily she gained the friendship and trust of many, and I wanted to be just like her. I saw how kind she was to people of ALL ages and backgrounds, whether it be a prostitute or a dying patient, she wanted the best for all those who she considered friend. She was fiercely protective of those she loved – and it made me all the more passionate about my family and my friends. She was SO insightful - just SO perceptive, and I know that my own opinions and perceptions have developed through the many insights she has offered to me. I saw Donna all the time, she made herself available to me whenever I wanted – she never said no - I sat with her during every church meeting, and afterwards for many Sunday lunches around my family table. I spoke to her most days on the telephone. She invited me round to her flat regularly for girly nights, or she would invite herself round to my house! - And I would cuddle up with her under that patchwork quilt she had and watch the video she had bought and eat and drink the food she had provided. Donna taught me many little things too – she taught me that there is no shame in walking to Jackson’s corner supermarket in pyjamas - and even with bare feet on occasion – should the urgency of Pringles, chocolate and wine require it. That making Coffee is a serious matter - Always put the milk in before the hot water to ensure coffee beans are not burned! When it came to friendships Donna taught me that there is no crisis that could not be greatly diffused with a gentle voice and stroke of the arm! To write a card for someone, even if it is for no particular reason, could mean so much – or even just a phone-call. Little gifts cost little but time – but could mean more than anything to the person it is intended for. I remember so many times when she would bring me flowers, or chocolate, or give me a card for my bedroom wall. She was like that towards everyone. Many a time she nursed my wounds as I cried over all the things teenagers do. She never made me feel stupid, however silly the trauma – she never put me down or showed the impatience she must have felt at times – in fact, throughout my A-levels, she would phone me every day for endless hours of talking, continuing to do so even when she moved down south. I never kept anything from her and she was the first person I turned to. She was also very generous – I remember being so surprised when, one December, she gave me £100 to spend on myself because she knew I was using all of the wages from my first Saturday job to pay for Christmas presents – our little secret. She insisted on paying for my train ticket every single time I visited her in London to this very day – even 3 weeks ago. She never made a fuss and gave so much of her time, her money and her love to just this one girl. She never tired of my stories, my family, my problems, or my company. Throughout the years I have known Donna, she spoke her mind with spirit and challenged everything she wanted to along the way. She was not afraid to be honest. But when it came to my life, she spoke so gently, never fierce, never judgemental, almost unnoticed, she would influence me for the better. Donna accepted me for who I am but always believed in my full potential. She never rejected me, even when she hasn’t agreed with some of the choices I have made – even when I have let her down. Her opinion meant a lot to me but her love means even more. Thank-you Donna.  I can see so many examples of how my own experiences and ambitions have been shaped by the amazing role model you have been. I love you so much and missed you from the moment I heard and knew that I could no longer pick up the phone to hear your voice, and no more see your beautiful face. Thank-you Jesus for putting Donna in my life.

Charlotte Littlewood