They say that a person dies three times; the first time when their heart stops beating, the second when they are buried or cremated, and the third time when their name is no longer spoken.
We all want to be remembered. We all want to leave behind a legacy.
When someone knows that they have been diagnosed with a terminal illness they begin to think of what their friends and loved oves will remember about them when they are gone. My husband did not have this luxury. Donald died in less than a day. He woke up healthy and vital and before the next sunrise he was gone.
We had no goodbye.
Maybe that is why it is so important to me that his story be told, because to tell his story, is to keep him alive,
Donald fell in love with Drew almost as much as he fell in love with me. We lived on the campus, a scenic, serene, and at times breathtaking one hundred and eighty seven acre oak forest preserve. We walked hand in hand from Seminary Hall to the student center, the library, the bookstore, the mailroom, the undergraduate “Brothers” college, and the United Methodist Archives.Our dorm room apartment was three hundred and fifty square feet including the three square feet that housed the shower, when I say it was small I don’t mean that it wasn’t spacious I mean it was miniscule. The playground was outside our windows and every afternoon we would be serenaded by the laughter and cries of the many toddlers and children that enriched our life there. Donald knew the name and purpose of every building on the campus and he loved giving visitors a tour.
We made the most of our time at Drew in every way we could. Lunches and dinners in the Student Center, with the undergraduates that graced our lives by sharing their lives with us, quickly became one of our favorite activities. Musical productions in the Performance Center allowed us to experience operas, comedy, plays and classical performances by just sharing our Drew I.D. cards. Donald went to all of the sporting events held at the university, he wrote in his journal about the baseball games and lacrosse matches, he went to the tennis tournaments and swim meets, his enjoyment of the sports at Drew was so complete he never once mentioned bringing our television out of storage where it sat ignored until I finally gave it away not long ago. Lectures made possible by the Drew Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies allowed us to meet speakers that we could have never met on our own. Educational programs put on by the Undergraduate Student Groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine opened our eyes and our hearts to a part of the world we knew very little about. Dinners in our tiny dorm with fellow classmates from places like Tanzania, Burma, Mexico, Puerto Rico, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, South Africa and South Korea widened our world view in ways that were never possible before we came there. When I say we showed our I.D. cards I mean we were both students. Donald enrolled at Drew as a Community Fellow in the Lifelong Learning Program. He audited classes right alongside me so that when my education was complete he would not be uninformed.
I would be remiss, however, if I did not mention what Donald loved most about Drew and that was Chapel. We have Chapel services three times a week at Drew and Donald attended every service he could. Many times he would attend Chapel on his own because I would be working on an assignment or paper. He wrote in his journal more often about Chapel than any other topic. He would record who the guest preacher was and how the service filled his soul. He loved the Black Ministerial Caucus Chapel services best of all. He wrote that we “the white church” need more JOY in our celebrations!
Donald had grown up in the United Methodist Church. The United Methodist Church had always been a place of welcome and acceptance for Donald, something he had not always found at home. Donald and I met at our church and it was at church that we deepened our connection to each other and to God. Giving back to the church by supporting Drew Seminarians was something Donald did during his life at Drew so deciding to support Drew Seminarians in Donald’s memory was a natural decision for me. The Donald K Baxter Prize for Community Engagement will be awarded for the first time on April 20th, 2016. The prize will go to a student who is graduating from the Theological School who has made the most of their time at Drew by engaging in the wider University Community in much the same way that Donald did during his time at Drew. The prize will be awarded annually in perpetuity. My deepest gratitude is extended to the staff of the Alumni Relations Department at Drew for helping me honor Donald in this way. I know that he will be smiling above us when the prize is awarded.
They say a person dies three times; the first time when their heart stops beating, the second when they are buried or cremated, and the third time when their name is no longer spoken.My gratitude goes with this prize for assuring that Donald’s name will continue to be spoken.