You know how you need to do something but you'll find any and everything to avoid it? I've been writing this for three months now. I'll start then stop.
Scared of how the waves of grief may pull me under.
Frightened that my words cannot remotely capture the richness of Danielle's impact on my life.
Devastated that I'll never talk to her again.
This is definitely one of those do it afraid moments.
I first laid eyes on Danielle in April of 2006. She was on stage at Central High School as she & her line sisters were being presented to the campus as the newest members of Delta Sigma Theta. Honestly, I was jealous. Not of her specifically but of them as a whole. I applied but had not been picked. I had still had shown up to support friends who had made it & lay my eyes on the others.
Facebook was over a year old so I went on a "friending" spree to learn more about the girls who had been named D.E.S.T.I.N.Y.
I was intrigued by Danielle. She was smart, really a genius. Her line name was Prodigy. Danielle traveled abroad, pledged and received her bachelors and masters in the same year all with her toddler Amaya by her side.
I met Danielle when I crossed Delta. Her spirit was warm and her smile infectious. We'd like each others stuff here and there on Facebook. She got married & had two more children, Isaiah & Carter Mackenzie.
Danielle sent me DM in January of 2013 asking me about the women's ministry, Beloved, that I started back in 2011. She was interested in getting something similar started in Memphis where she was living. Our mutual friend April had been talking to both of us about each other for years so it felt like we already knew one another. After messaging one another for a few hours, we exchanged numbers. I had just gone through a divorce. Danielle was at the tail end of hers.
We were both trying to make sense out of our pain.
We both knew that if we kept pressing, we'd emerge into light.
By the end of the conversation, we'd decided that her women's group would be an extension of what I began in Birmingham, Beloved Memphis.
When you are always a rock for everyone around you, people expect you to have it together. Especially in ministry. I didn't have to be that with Danielle. We esteemed one another even in our not so pretty humanity.
There was an incident that had me looking like a straight up mad woman, kicking trash literally through the yard of the house my ex-husband and I owned. Although I didn't realize it at the time, Danielle saw that I had fallen into a depression.
I came home one day to a prayer box she made for me. Every scripture was personalized with my name in it. I sobbed as I read each and every slip of paper. I wasn't feeling loved by God because of what I was going through. Dani knew I needed to SEE it.
Her kids are precocious, funny, and beautiful inside and out. We often joked about it sounding like Animal Planet in her home. Isaiah would get up early before his sisters & watch Danielle get ready for work. He held doors for us even when he was a little bitty thing. Amaya read along with us in her bible during our studies. Carter's charming personality shined even while she was praying our food. Anyone that spent any time with them knew that Danielle was a present and involved mother. She made parenting look effortless. I know it took a lot of work but she was just graced to be their mama.
Life happened, focuses changed & we didn't talk as much as we used to. I was trying to get my book done & Danielle began doing missions work overseas. We were happy that the other was doing what sparked joy within our hearts. Videos + messages from Priscilla Shirer, our girl crush, stayed in our texts & "I'm proud/happy for you" were constant in our conversations.
I found out around 11 am on December 21st that Danielle died in a plane crash the day before. Five days before Christmas. Three & four days before Carter's & Amaya's birthday. I had to call to tell April on her birthday that Danielle had died. I didn't want her to find out on social media. Holidays are such tricky time for me because I'm already dealing with the weight of my mom being gone. I cried here & there but I could not fully acknowledge Dani being gone until her funeral.
Her parents lost their child.
Three children lost their mother.
Brothers lost their sister.
Her fiance lost the love of his life.
As I began to process her death, I just kept saying that my friend, as young as she was, didn't deserve to die that way. One reality we all have to face is, as surely as we are born, we are going to die. And we have no say so on how & when we leave here.
My heart wonders if she was scared, what her last thoughts were, & if she knew how much she impacted those who knew her. I hope that God gave her a supernatural peace in those final moments. And I hope her children always remember the sound of her voice.
As the oldest daughter of a deceased mother, my thoughts are constantly on Amaya. It's the oldest's instinct to protect & take care of the little ones. I often ignored how I felt to make sure Jessica was okay for years. It didn't matter how tired or mentally exhausted I was. My prayer is that Amaya allows herself to feel & that as they all get older, that she can communicate that her needs with Isaiah and Carter. I hope they can recognize the words that are not spoken when it gets unbearable & always take care of one another equally.
I've been able to make an impact an others because Danielle made an impact on me. When you see the "I Am" Series, it's because Dani's writing inspired me to do it. She told me that women who had been through divorce deserved the voice that was given to them through the Divorced Women's Chronicles.
When you see some of my most recent accomplishments, it's because I've had this angel as a cheerleader.
All these memories, too much to lose
No one ever leaves you
I don't need faith, I don't need truth
No one ever leaves you
-Lianne La Havas
No one. Ever. Leaves. You.
Dani I know where your spirit is but this still hurts like hell. I'm a better writer, visionary..... a better person because of you. I'm glad that God brought us together when He did because I needed you so much. You've made this world a much better place & I thank you for every piece that you gave of yourself. Rest well. Goodbye my sweet friend.