The Many Lessons I Learned From Helen McDonald Exum

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Helen McDonald Exum was my friend and mentor. As I think of her passing I can only imagine the celebration that is happening in heaven as the news of her arrival is being told. I am sure that there is a party that not only has she organized but that there is not a detail that has been left to chance. I am sure that it is the grandest of events, for you see, she has been planing it all of her life.

Helen was the best friend that any of us could ever have. She was not just caring, she genuinely cared. There was never just a note or phone call she was present. By this I mean she loved her friends enough to hold their hand, feed not only their bodies but their souls as well as telling us when and how to pick ourselves up and "make something happen." 

She was a great listener. She was kind and generous. She was easily able to see the beauty and goodness of those around her. She always made people feel special.  She taught me enthusiasm as when I would call to chat with her she would proclaim "oh let's plan a party!"  I often compared her to Auntie Mame because she did see life as a party and we should rejoice and celebrate each other and celebrate each day.

Helen taught me many lessons. One of the most profound was the "quick prayer." This is a prayer that can be said upon entering a room full of strangers and praying that everyone be receptive and opened to one another. It is a prayer that is said when being seated by a person on a plane and asking to be able to communicate on a friendly basis. It is a prayer to say when walking to a podium before speaking to a group, it is a prayer to be said when you are about to have a disagreement with someone and it is a prayer to be said when your teenage child walks into the room to ask for help in communicating with them.

She taught me many reasons to offer up a "quick prayer".   Helen also taught me that life sometimes can be overwhelmingly tough but that those are the times that mold you into becoming a stronger and wiser person. She taught me to always see the joy and humor in the most simple of events. I am fortunate that I had the opportunity to learn from Helen.

Helen and Mr. Roy McDonald gave me the amazing gift of believing in me. The two of them encouraged me and convinced me that because they believed in me that others would believe in me too.  They gave me confidence to reach for the dreams that I had for "sick children".  Helen was a friend that would hug me in times of trouble and celebrate with me in life's triumphs.

I cherish the times that I had with Helen. I loved her and I look forward to the day when I meet her again and I can only imagine that she will greet me with her ever-present smile and twinkle in her eyes and say "Oh Judy, I am glad you are here I have planned the most fun adventure that you have ever had."  Until then, my friend.........................

Judy Bellenfant


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