In Memory of Donna Marie Mosley
Matthew 5:1-9 NRSV
Perhaps the worst thing we can do on this day is to do what we instinctively believe we should do; do the thing that comes most naturally for us today. One of the worst things we can do is put what we have been doing these last few days, and possibly doing throughout Donna’s life, into some sort of formal expression. I believe that the worst thing we can do today is to feel sorry for Donna.
Born nearly blind and with cerebral palsy, to say that Donna struggled throughout her life would be an understatement. But if you ever asked Donna if she thought people should ever feel sorry for her, she’d shake her head and emphatically say, “Naaw!”
But, against her wishes, that is exactly what we are inclined to do. Oh, poor, poor, poor Donna. Born with disability, she struggled to finish high school and attend Pitt Community College, only to never have a career, an IRA or own a 401-k.
Poor, poor, poor Donna. She never got married. She never knew the joy of parenthood. She was to never be a grandparent.
Poor Donna. She never really lived on her own, never owned her own home, never possessed her own car. She was never self-supporting, self-sufficient.
Pitiful Donna. She suffered with so many chronic health problems; she was never able to be physically active. She never hiked a mountain, swam in a river, cycled in the country or ran a 5k.
Oh, poor, pitiful Donna. She suffered so much loss in her life: the tragic death of a father, the untimely death of a mother, and just recently, the slow and painful death of her beloved brother, Albert.
Poor, poor Donna. She suffered so much these past few years and even more these past few months, and she died, so young, just days shy of just her 54th birthday.
This is our natural inclination: to pity Donna, to sympathize with Donna. Because according to the world’s standards of success, Donna simply did not measure up. But if you ever asked Donna how she was doing, even in her final hours when she was barely able to say a word, Donna would always respond: “Doing good.”
I would visit her during these last few months confined to a bed, her body unable to absorb any nutrients or electrolytes, on oxygen, broke out with a rash from her medication, and immediately after she told me she was “doing good,” she would ask: “How’s the preacher? How’s Carson and Sara? What is Ms. Lori up to?” Just like her beloved brother Albert, I never once heard Donna utter a single complaint, regret, or resentment.
“Donna, should anyone feel sorry for you?”
“Naaw! Don’t feel sorry for me. I have had a great life. Yes, I was born with disabilities, I have had my share of struggles, maybe more than my share, but I was born into a family and into a community that gave me everything I ever needed and wanted.
Yes, I was born with disabilities, but ask anyone who remembers me as a child, walking all over this town, even with cast on my leg! Yes, I was born with poor vision, but if I hadn’t been, the Lion’s Club would have never given me my dog Brandy who traveled to New York City with me.
No, I never had a lucrative career, but I was able to finish school, even go to college and work a little. I was able to fulfill a dream of teaching in a classroom. I was able to work some in the public library and even able to help out Bro in Avon on the fishing pier. And no, I have never had any money. But the good things in life, the truly important things in life, do not come with a price tag.
No, I never got married, never had children, but I have had many priceless relationships. Because of my friends and family, I have never felt unloved or unwanted. Because of these relationships, I have never once doubted that any of my needs would not be met. And, seriously preacher, who can really ask for anything more?
I never owned a car, but I went anywhere I wanted to go. I have never been able to run like you Jarrett, climb a mountain, or swim in the sea, but I bet I have been to more concerts and met more famous people than you. I think it surprised my nieces when some of the members of the Cravin’ Melon group called me by name and spoke to me at that Michael Jordan golf tournament!
I have been so many places, met so many people, some of them quite famous, from NASCAR and golf celebrities to Coach Dean Smith.
And yes, I have experienced loss, even tragic loss. But I have always had a strong faith and certain hope that I would see my loved ones again. My faith and hope was so strong when my daddy died, I was somehow able to console my brothers and sisters. You can ask Puddin’ about that.
I think that is why I always loved the song, ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’ by the Band of Oz. I have always believed in a land and a life that is better than this one: One where the skies are always Carolina blue and all of your dreams come true.
And, although I may not have been ready to leave all of you so soon, I think this is why when Dan asked me on the phone in the hospital early this week how I was doing, although I could barely breathe and could hardly talk, I said, “Doing good.”
So, please whatever you do, even if you are attending my funeral, please do not feel sorry for me.”
I believe Donna Marie Mosley was a living testimony of Jesus’ first recorded sermon. Whereas some may look at her short life of struggle and draw the conclusion that she should be pitied, because she didn’t appear blessed or favored by God like some, in reality, as Jesus reminded us in the Sermon on the Mount, God looked upon Donna with favor, and truly blessed her in ways that few of us here have been blessed. And I believe this is the real reason that no matter her circumstance, no matter how bad she felt, or how hard it was for her to breathe, she said: “I’m doing good!” Jesus said:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Whereas we may look at those with whose spirits are allowed to soar to achieve success as the world defines it as blessed and favored by God, the reality is that God looks with favor and blesses not those who are born with perfect bodies, 20/20 vision, and silver spoons, but those whose spirits have many challenges and obstacles. And notice that Jesus uses the present tense. Not they will be blessed. Not might be blessed. They are, right now, right here, on this earth blessed. And their future is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Whereas we may look at those who have not suffered the tragic or untimely loss of loved ones as blessed and favored by God, the reality is that God favors and blesses the mourners who have experienced great loss, and God promises them comfort. This is the only explanation how Donna was such a comfort to so many of us during our times of grief.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
The meek and the gentle are favored. Not the strong. Not the ones with the physical strength or the confidence to overcome all sorts of adversity and make it to the top. Blessed are the ones who have never made it to the top, never conquered anything, not even their own fears. Blessed are the ones who are dependent on the love and support of others. For it is the weak, the disabled, says Jesus, not the strong, who survive and inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.
Not the ones who are righteous, but the ones on whose behalf the prophet Amos preached: “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24). Blessed are the ones who thirst for justice. These are the ones, like the mentally and physically disabled, who have been unjustly judged, mistreated, shunned and even bullied by society. These are the ones society looks upon and says that they haven’t quite measured up. Jesus says that they are blessed. Jesus says that they are the ones who will not only have their thirsts quenched, but they will be filled, their cups overflowing.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed, says Jesus, are the ones who are always putting the needs and welfare of others ahead of their own. Blessed are the ones who are suffering, yet when you ask them how they are doing, they immediately ask you how you and your family are doing. Blessed are the ones whose hearts are full of mercy and compassion, for God will give them mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are those who have the heart of a child: Those who see only the good in others; those who, even in their sufferings, have no bitterness, no complaints, and no resentments. Blessed are the ones who see not only their misfortunes, but see all of their blessings, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Not the ones who have necessarily found the world’s peace for themselves, not the self-sufficient, the self-reliant, not the ones who own their own mortgages, have secured their own peace and security through material wealth and assets, but those who seek God’s peace, because they will find a home, a place of security, a place of rest and a place of peace that is beyond all understanding.
No, whatever you do this day, however you mourn, wherever you hurt, whenever your cry, whatever your inclination, please do not feel sorry for Donna. Because she is doing good. She is blessed beyond measure. And because she’s doing good, because she is blessed, although we may not feel like it, so are we.