Donna Elizabeth Day Begley. On Jan. 31, 2022, a few days ago now, I went in to give Donna her morning meds. With just a little of dawn's light illuminating the room, I looked at her and knew she was gone. I sat next to her, put my hand on her chest and just sat there.
In that next hour, I thought of our three boys and their families who, just the days before, had been all around her. My/our son Jim, with Kelley and grandson Owen, her/our son Jeffrey and grand kids Stephen and Marin and our son Michael and grandson Graycen. All had been by to hold her hand and whisper to her. I thought of the impact she had on our many foster children, especially Lisa Smith and granddaughter Elizabeth.
I thought, what a full life this woman had. Donna, born on Sept. 1, 1947, was the oldest of three sisters. Her two sisters, Susan Smith, who passed away several years ago, and Wendi Rogalski, who lives with her husband Paul in Tennessee, were U.S. Air Force kids all. They and their parents Harry (Bill) and Mary Ellen Day, both deceased, found themselves relocated, due to service reasons, often. A favorite for Donna was moving to England. This allowed her to experience her middle school years in Sheringham, UK. She loved to tell folks that while there, she was a classmate of Beatle, George Harrison. The Air Force finally settled this Portland, Maine born family in Murfreesboro, Tennessee where she finished high school. She moved back to Maine in the early 1970s.
I thought of how we met in 1977. After a fiery romance, we married and lived our first few years in Portland. We found a big old house in downtown Gorham, Maine. She opened Gorham Headquarters and for 20 years, this effervescent redhead, cut hair, laughed, did nails, pedicures, laughed, and met everyone in the town. She went to every sporting event, every musical, cheered, and laughed some more. She was the ride to away all events, she traveled and escorted the Chamber Singers. MaBegs was always with a trail of adored and adoring Gorham school kids.
I thought of our move to Boothbay Harbor. More hair, nails and laughs for the locals and seasonal clients she gathered. She loved winter traveling and working winters in St. Croix with Jeff Teel at his B&B on the island.
I thought of how our church family at St. Columba’s Episcopal Church in Boothbay Harbor provided and received gifts of grace to and from Donna.
I thought of how moving to Brunswick brought us a bit closer to our boys for support. The move brought clarity to some of the curious signs of dementia witnessed in Donna. Still funny, still warm, still loving, still a fiery redhead, still a Day girl, still a mom, still a grandma but caught in the inescapable grasp of Alzheimer’s. As Donna’s dementia consumed her, I learned how to be a caretaker by watching her friends at Bath/Brunswick Respite Care. I watched her companion Jen Hayes, I watched so many brilliant aides and nurses from Androscoggin Hospice Care. Finally I saw the tender ways of nurse Nicky Peltier, and how with her and my sons, we helped Donna finally rest easy.
A celebration with friends and family will be held noon to 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 19 at DiMillo’s Restaurant on Commercial Street in Portland. Please come join us there. Arrangements are in the care of Funeral Alternatives, 46 Bath Road, Brunswick, ME. Condolences may be shared at FuneralAlternatives.net