Dear Donna

Dear Donna,

I am still in shock, I cannot believe you are gone. As much as I tried to plan for this moment, rehearse how I would cope with it and process my emotions, I find myself with blank thoughts between bouts of sadness, anger, rage and happiness. I am happy you were not alone. I am happy that mom courageously stood by you every second. Though you showed no signs of fear, I couldn’t imagine the thoughts going through your mind. We all knew this was going to happen, but no one ever thought this quickly.

I am happy that you continued to live on your terms. Even bedridden over Christmas you were scolding Brooks when he was acting out of line. You were able to travel when possible and made a difference in so many other disabled and non-disabled people’s lives. You spoke about your illness with bravery and allowed doctors to try and find news ways for alternative care. Throughout it all, you never thought about yourself, only making sure you were taking care of others. I am happy I got to witness that.

I am sad because I am selfish and want you still here with me. I want to have mom yell at us to close your bedroom door because we are shooting the shit at 12:30AM. I want you to continue your relationship with your nephew and I wanted you to meet Seth. I wanted to take you for a ride in my truck god-dammit. The last moment I had with you, you seemed super pumped that both of your cars had started. I thought someday you would be driving them again. I know how hard you fought and I know you are in a better place right now, but it’s hard not to be selfish and still you want you here with me, with us.

I am angry and outraged at cancer. Ever since 2010 when I was walking in downtown Milwaukee and mom called to notify me of the news, I was devastated. You lost your arm shortly thereafter, but gained an insight and a presence felt by many around you. I always told people that if it were me, I would have been gone by now. The will that you displayed, the bright smile, the different wigs, your being as a whole was a testament to everyone who knew you.

I am angry and outraged at cancer. I would tell you how I think there is a cure, but in today’s society it’s all about the almighty dollar and curing cancer would shut down a billion dollar industry. You would always just brush my thoughts aside and say ‘there isn’t much we can do now.’

I will never know, nor be able to tell you exactly what you meant to me. A big brother is always supposed to be there to protect his little sister and for the last six years, I have felt hopeless. I would have taken every bit of cancer away from you and placed it on myself if I could. This wasn’t as easy as driving from Houghton to Marquette on a Saturday night to walk into a party where some jackasses were picking on you, this was much greater than that.

Through it all I watched you grow in a crazy way. You always had an entourage of friends, but the person you became after the cancer is a person I have yet to see anywhere else in my life. My FaceBook feed has been blown up by the many people reaching out and posting statuses about you being gone. I have had numerous people reach out and send me their sympathies. Most people say you are in a much happier place now and that I agree with. Some people say that Heaven has gained another angel, but I beg to differ. You were an angel since January 5, 1988 and were given an opportunity to prove that to people over the last 29 years. You were chosen for reasons I will never know and put in a situation where most people fight to survive yet, you thrived.

Every single person that crossed your path over your 29 short years on this planet has their own ‘Donna Story.’ Last night while Emily was sleeping and I was wide awake, I asked you to give me a sign. I worried about where you had gone, what you were doing. I wanted you to be OK. I wanted you to be safe. You responded immediately as Seth started kicking and punching like crazy. I knew that was you and I thank you for that. I smiled knowing you are safe and I no longer need to protect you. I know you will be protecting all of us from here on out and I promise to continue to strive to be half the person you were.

As much as I don’t want this letter to end, I know it has to. I am honored to be your brother and know that you would want me to not be sad about your passing, but rejoicing the memories we have together.

The next time I see you, I will make sure to wear the American Flag suit.


I love you,


14 replies
  1. Tracy Dairo
    Tracy Dairo says:

    This sweet girl has shown us so much bravery and strength and I am so blessed to have known her. She is with your uncle Tommy now and they will look over upon us from up above in heaven. Use her story to help others and know you are loved. ♡

  2. Emily Carter-Draper
    Emily Carter-Draper says:

    Beautifully written! I can’t even begin to imagine what you are feeling right now, but please remember that when you’re unable to lift yourself up in prayer, others are doing it for you.

  3. Jakki Lloyd-Lee
    Jakki Lloyd-Lee says:

    Micheal,Your letter is so eloquently written.Donna would be so proud of you and your family.She has touched a lot of lives in her 29years.May she Rest In Peace.My prayers and healing thoughts are with you and your family. Jakki Lloyd-Lee

  4. Tamara Andersen
    Tamara Andersen says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss, but reading your letter shows you gained so much more. I never met your sister, but through you and everyone else, she sure was a beautiful soul. Rest In Peace Donna ❤️

  5. Lisa Cory
    Lisa Cory says:

    Donna was such a light here on earth, now she will light up the heavens! So very Sorry for your loss. Hugs and prayers!

  6. Jen Cain
    Jen Cain says:


    Josh and I were so sad to hear of this news! We will continue to keep your family in our thoughts and prayers! Such a beautiful written tribute to your sister.

  7. Rick Cormier
    Rick Cormier says:

    I am so sorry for your loss, it is never easy to say goodbye, but from what you wrote she fought to the end and lived her life the way she wanted. I have such fond memories of your family and those are the memories that last and make me happy I was a part of them, much like the memories you have with Donna, they will live on and will bring you happiness and joy some day. Know that you are thought of and in our prayers.

    • Kelli Spitza
      Kelli Spitza says:

      Mike,, I am so sorry for your loss,, I remember u guys when u came in the spot,, my mom & dad owned it, my daughter used to dance with Donna,, at dawn dott dance studio, I remember Donna as a very nice sweet girl,, prayers to all of you,, ?

  8. Kelly December
    Kelly December says:

    So sorry for your loss. I was just thinking of Donna the other day. My heart goes out to your family as you adjust to life without her but know that she is with you in your hearts and memories. Thank you Mike for the beautiful tribute.

  9. Chelsea
    Chelsea says:

    I’m so sorry Mike. I’ve been thinking of you and your family since I heard the news. Sending prayers and love ❤️ What a beautiful letter and amazing bond you shared.


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