Miss Donna's Homecoming

I am not a mom—I’m speaking only on speculation here—but I can imagine that one of the most memorable moments in a mother’s life is the first opportunity to visit one of her children at his new home.

Particularly a visit following nearly ten years of anticipation.

Close your eyes and let your mind picture it.

Mom strolls slowly toward the gate. “This street is beautiful,” she marvels to herself. She is confident this is his residence; everyone living along the street—for that matter, everyone in the whole area—knows her boy and his lovely wife by name. “Right down there on the left side,” the neighbors had pointed, “with the shady yard.”

With a poignant pause, Mom places her hand gently on the gate but doesn’t push it open. Her heart is racing. How will he react? It has been nearly a decade, after all. He might not even recognize her. “You’re being silly,” she tells herself. “A son knows his mother just like a mom knows that son.” Still, a slight feeling of uneasiness rattles through her mind like driftwood in turbulent seas.

What will she say after so long? The mother’s thoughts float mystically back to the days of his youth. She changed his diapers, doctored his cuts, cooked his meals, and hugged away his nightmares. She always knew what to say then. Why are the words fleeting now?

The sound of the front door opening brings her back to the reality of the moment. Her little boy—she could pick him from a crowd of millions—leaps from the front stoop and sprints down the front walk toward her. He throws open the gate and wraps his arms around her and she literally melts into his embrace. The tears flow like a late spring shower. She dares not let go. And then her son says the words she has waited ten years to hear.

“Mom, I can’t tell you how much I have missed you!”

Is there a word to describe a reunion so sweet? Exhilarating? Heartwarming? One word only?

Heavenly. Just heavenly.


In the wee hours of Friday, June 18, Donna Shields received her call from the Lord, a call to go home. Though not unexpected, her passing was not without tremendous ache and deep sorrow to those she touched in her years on earth. And touch so many she did.

Miss Donna (as she was known to me and countless others) was one half of the duo of Mr. and Mrs. Tommy Shields, one of the most gracious and giving couples anyone might ever meet. Legally, Mr. Tommy and Miss Donna raised four sons: Tom, Bart, Rhea, and Jess. Realistically, however, hundreds if not thousands of young men and women—some now in their 40’s—were part-time children to the two of them, perhaps a little out of necessity but mostly due to sheer respect and admiration.

Mr. Tommy, a long-time local agriculture extension agent in southwest Louisiana, spent thousands of hours in direct contact with 4-H and FFA students across the region and throughout the state. Of course, that is the nature of a job like that. But Mr. Tommy brought such a strong human touch to his role, far exceeding the metrics of a job description. If an FFA member could not secure transportation from a local livestock show, Mr. Tommy would carry her home. When a 4-H project contestant forgot some of his equipment, Mr. Tommy would make sure—by begging, borrowing, loaning, or leasing—that the contestant was equipped completely by show time.

Miss Donna picked up the baton from her husband at any critical juncture. On innumerable occasions, a group of students would arrive back from a state competition far too late to expect parents to drive out for pickup; so, Miss Donna would wake up to a living room full of hungry kids sleeping soundly. Without fail, she’d whip up a great breakfast and ensure that no one left without a completely full belly. She never missed a beat, either. Always moving, it seemed her biggest fear would be to run out of time to help someone out.

Miss Donna touched students in the classroom, too. A long-time educator and counselor, many a young man owes some measure of his success to the challenges laid before him by Mrs. Shields. Many a young woman has broadened her life goals based on encouragement received from Miss Donna.

It is said that the best people seem to be faced with the biggest obstacles in life, and Mr. Tommy and Miss Donna have certainly had their share. Nearly ten years ago, their second son Bart lost his life in a tragic aircraft accident, as did his wife, leaving behind a toddler son. A short few years later, their youngest son Jess informed them that he had been diagnosed with cancer. And then came Miss Donna’s diagnosis.

To say she fought would be an understatement. The gleam in her eye, the spring in her step, and the energy in her speech never failed her. Through it all, she remained positive, optimistic that her healing was near. Oh, how right she was!

That final breath drawn shortly after midnight on June 18 may have represented the end of an earthly life. But the joy of the moment can only be realized and appreciated in knowing with confidence what met Miss Donna on the other side. Her body is healed. Her cancer is gone.

She is restored.

Considered alone, that is a beautiful mystery. A truly heavenly mystery.



“Mom,” gushes Bart with a teary-eyed smile, “I am so glad you are home.”


Popular Posts