When God Speaks and Your Heart is Broken

To the world it was one small village but to one special person that village was the world. There we stood in the middle of the Daniel Boone Village, tents erected around us, people bustling about, music filling the air. And I saw it, a small tear trickle down her cheek. It wasn’t a sad tear, it was a happy tear, and she whispered, “My daddy would love to see this. Thank you.”

A Tribute to Ms. Donna Freeland of the Daniel Boone Village

At the time, I had no idea the impact that my little dream had on her life. She would later tell me stories of her father building the Daniel Boone Village, and I would see for myself the values of hard work and dedication that he instilled in her. She worked hard to keep the village alive and thriving after her father’s passing and was one of the biggest supporters of Rusted Roots from day one.

I got the keys to my very first shop on September 10, 2014. She gave me a chance not knowing what Rusted Roots was about or what we would do. She believed in us. When she handed me the keys, I timidly asked if it would be okay to cover the walls in the shop with barn wood and old tin. She said, “of course, you do whatever you want”. She had no clue exactly what that meant but she believed in me and the transformation began.

A Tribute to Ms. Donna Freeland of the Daniel Boone Village

On November 1, 2014, the doors opened to Rusted Roots. We had a line of about 20 people waiting to see what this shop would be all about. Third in line on that rainy Saturday morning, there she stood, her purple raincoat speckled with rain, a smile on her face. I think she was just as excited as we were. She believed in us.

A Tribute to Ms. Donna Freeland of the Daniel Boone Village

From that day forward every time the shop was open, she was there. Aside from our family, she was by far our number one supporter. She went to bat for us more times than I can count and did more behind the scenes for us than anyone could ever imagine. Then… after only two months of being in business, we were getting requests to consign in our shop. With limited space, we knew that wasn’t an option. So I approached her with the idea of holding an outdoor market at the shop; vendors, food trucks, music, the works. And she was ecstatic! She believed in us.

A Tribute to Ms. Donna Freeland of the Daniel Boone Village

It took us about three months to get things in order and the first vintage camper rolled in for Rusted Roots very first Junk Market. There we stood in the middle of the field, tents erected around us, people bustling about, music filling the air. And I saw it, a small tear trickle down her cheek. It wasn’t a sad tear, it was a happy tear, and she whispered, “My daddy would love to see this. Thank you.”

A Tribute to Ms. Donna Freeland of the Daniel Boone Village

From that day forward, there wasn’t a time that went by when I didn’t see her and she would hug my neck and thank me for ‘bringing the village back to life’. The place that her father had worked so hard to build was bustling again and that’s all she wanted, to see her father’s dream once again take flight.

The months passed and so did the markets. We had three under our belt. It was nearly a year later. We stood there at the old truck admission booth. The market bustling behind us. She introduced me to her daughter and granddaughter Lana James. She didn’t waste time sharing that her granddaughter was named after her daddy, James Freeland. She loved her daddy and was so proud of what he had built. We laughed. We talked. We reminisced about the old days here at the village. Although I never got to see the village in its prime, I had lived it through her eyes and the stories she would share about growing up here, the trials and the victories of building a business, the successes and the struggles. She was a wise mentor, a kind-hearted encourager, a selfless supporter, and a friend.

A Tribute to Ms. Donna Freeland of the Daniel Boone Village

Eleven days after that chat in front of the old truck at the market. God spoke…

‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.’ Matthew 25:23

And with that, she, Ms. Donna Lynn Freeland went home to be with the Lord.

A Tribute to Ms. Donna Freeland of the Daniel Boone Village

My heart aches. I have no words. Our friendship may only be one year strong, but in that year she became so very special to me, to us, and to our business. Rusted Roots will never be the same. Never. We wouldn’t be where we are today without her. Really. And I can’t quite process that she won’t walk through the door in November for our Christmas open house. I can’t quite process that I won’t receive any more of her uplifting texts for no reason at all. I can’t quite process that she won’t come around the corner to chat with me when I swing by to pay rent. I can’t quite process that she’s gone. She was always there.

A Tribute to Ms. Donna Freeland of the Daniel Boone Village

As we all do in times like these, we are reminded of what’s important in life. We aren’t promised a tomorrow. But those sentiments quickly fade as time passes. I want to encourage you today, friend, to let this be a message to anyone who should read these words…

Love those around you and love them hard. Don’t let the day pass without telling that special someone that you thought about them today. Tuck your tongue when you feel sour words creeping in. Hold near the ones that love you and let go of the ones who bring you down. Hug them. Love them. Pray for them. Create a legacy that you would be proud to leave behind. And do it. Just do it. Don’t put it off until tomorrow, whatever it is, because, my friend, tomorrow may never come.

To Ms. Donna,

You have touched my life in a way you may never know. You leave a hole in my heart that I’m not sure will ever be filled. Thank you just doesn’t seem like enough. You believed in me, that rainy November morning before you even knew what our little shop would bring to the village. You believed in us and for that we are eternally grateful.

A Tribute to Ms. Donna Freeland of the Daniel Boone Village

I am reminded of one of our last conversations via text one evening following her visit to the shop.

Donna: Hi Candace. Hope all is going well there. So glad YOU are there. I admire YOU for all you have accomplished there. You have made Daniel Boone alive again!! I appreciate you and Bill!! BTW you looked beautiful, loved your eyes and earrings. Bless You.

Candace: You bring tears to my eyes Miss Donna. You are a gem and I thank you so much for your support in this little dream I have. Thank YOU!!

To which she responded: 0:)

And today with tears in my eyes, I pay tribute to my forever angel of support and encouragement… Ms. Donna. You will be missed.


(Arrangements can be found here.)

Until next time, let us remember..

Beauty Stems from Rusted Roots

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  1. Oh my Candace, you are so blessed to have had such a friend in your life, I am so deeply sorry for your loss. I am positive Ms. Donna will be watching over you and, Daniel Boone while admiring the heck out of all of it. Hugs to you!

    • Thank you, Laurie!! I am loving that you said she would be ‘admiring the heck out of all of it’! Ha ha!! That made me smile! I would like to think so. We are left with a mission to complete! ALL of us!! Live our dreams and live them loud!! Thank you for your condolences.

  2. nancy roemer says:

    Candace – I am a firm believer that God puts people in our lives at particular times. Often we may not understand why until much later. How fortunate you both were, to have had each other for the past year? As much as you gained from the relationship, I am sure she also had wonderful memories and valued immensely what she had received in return. Thank you for reminding us all to revel in each day we are given, love more than we believe possible and never take anyone or anything for granted. It sounds like the world was a better place because Ms. Donna was in it.

    • Thank you, Ms. Nancy!! I, too, believe we are all on our given paths for a reason. We are placed in the paths of others to serve a purpose. Often we may never know what that purpose is. I thank you for your kind condolences. I know I have definitely been more aware this past week to love and love hard. Her legacy lives on in those of us who knew her! We have a mission to complete!!

  3. What a beautiful story! I live several hrs from your store but one day I am going to get by there! Your posts are uplifting, funny, positive and make me smile. Keep following your dream, lady! ???????? ????

    • Oh thank you, Jackie! I am so happy that my posts can bring a positive vibe to your day and make you smile! That’s the type of person Ms. Donna was… I strive to be like her. The dream lives on because of supporters like Ms. Donna and YOU!!! Thank you for your kind comments!! 🙂

  4. Demetra Kontos says:

    Candace – I was one of Lana’s 2nd grade teachers, Ralitsa graduated with my son and of course, Nondas and I share that Greek connection. Your tribute to Donna will bring each of them and especially Nahale, who shares her mother’s inner and outer beauty and soul, great comfort. Be well and your tribute is beautiful.

    • Thank you, Demetra. It was the least I can do for someone who has done so very much for me. Donna’s spirit was infectious and lives on through her family and friends who knew her best. I am honored to have known her for the year I did and am blessed to have walked alongside her in the pursuit of keeping a dream alive! Thank you for your kind words.

  5. Oh Candy girl, such a moving, touching, heartfelt story. What a great friendship and testament to what true relationships are all about. And doesn’t it teach us that doing whatever you do straight from the heart is the only way to be successful in anything. Wishing you much success going forward!!

    • Thank you, Candace! And yes, having heart in our business and our lives is the only way to move forward! We all have dreams. We NEED to live them! Make them real! And do it with heart! Thank you for your kind words. I pray that Donna’s spirit and story will help even one person take a leap of faith and go after what it is that their heart yearns for!!

  6. Susan Cogdill says:

    Candace, you have moved me to tears. Such a beautiful tribute to Donna. You have described her so perfectly. Her heart of gold was shared with many. I grew up in Hillsborough and as her cousin love Donna dearly. She often told me about your shop and yes she loved Rusted Roots. Thank you for the beautiful words.

    • Thank you, Susan. I continue to pray for you and your family everyday. I know how much Ms. Donna meant to me after only having known her for one year, so I cannot imagine the impact that she must have had on you, the rest of your family, and those who knew her for much longer. Her heart was infectious! And I know that it lives on in those who knew her best! Thank you for your kind words. It means the world to hear people say that she spoke so highly of Rusted Roots. It really does mean the world!!

  7. Sharon Rexroad says:

    its one year ago today that my mom passed away. So your beautiful words especially touched me today. Thank you.

    • Oh, Ms. Sharon. I am so sorry for the loss of your mom. I am honored that my words would have crossed your path on such a special day and I pray that it brought you even a small sense of comfort, even one year later. I know the heartache never goes away, but I hope that you are able to feel a comfort in knowing that she lives on in YOU, much like Ms. Donna and all of those who knew her best. My condolences to you.

  8. Candace, I am reading your beautiful tribute to your special friend Donna, with tears streaming down my cheeks. I am so sorry for your loss. As I was looking at the pictures of this beautiful woman, I couldn’t help but be touched by the picture of her surrounded by all of the sayings – “Let whatever you do today be enough.”, “You are loved.”, “Hello sunshine.” ,etc. A perfect tribute to your sweet friend. How lucky you are to have had someone so special in your life and hopefully your wonderful memories of her will get you through the difficult days ahead.

    • Thank you, Lindy. I wondered if anyone would notice the quotes around Ms. Donna. I read them all as I posted the picture and especially love the ‘Let whatever you do today be enough’. Sometimes we stress so much about doing more, doing more, doing more. But I think Ms. Donna would want us ALL to slow down, appreciate life, take in the special moments and the special people that are on our paths. Thank you for your kind condolences. It means more than you know.

  9. Such a beautiful friendship you had. My prayers are with you. Your tribute to your friend was so touching. ~Sonya

    • Thank you, Sonya. I am honored that this tribute to Ms. Donna touched so many people. She would LOVE that! It’s one small way that her legacy lives on! I am honored to be a small part of that. Thank you again for your kind condolences.

  10. Connie Clements says:

    She was and is such a beautiful lady. You are Blessed to have had such a wonderful friend. As her friend you wrote such a beautiful memorial and tribute. I know she will be watching over you from Heaven………. R.I.P. Donna Freeland

    • Oh thank you, Connie. Like I have said to many, I know how much Ms. Donna meant to me after only having known her for one year. I can’t imagine the impact that she on on people like you who knew her for much longer. She truly was a gem. Few people walk this earth with such grace, kindness, and humility. She was one of a kind. We have an important job now of spreading the love that she had for people and carrying her spirit with us in all that we do! Thank you Ms. Connie for your kind condolences. You are in my thoughts and prayers as well.

  11. Jennifer Spainhour says:

    Oh my goodness what a beautiful tribute Candace & knowing that God put y’all together for such a short but meaningful time….how awesome is that! Prayers & hugs ❤

    • Thank you Jennifer!! She LOVED that market… and I thank YOU for helping bring that dream to fruition so she could see it! Ms. Donna would love you! You have the same go-getter entreprenuer spirit, but with a heart of gold and a kindness for people!! We got this!! May her spirit live on in all of us, even those she never met!! Hugs!

  12. I have tears in my eyes after reading this heartfelt tribute to Ms. Donna. Thank you for introducing me to her…and for this sobering reminder to love on the people God puts in our path right here, right now. You have and continue to teach me so much. Thank you for being God’s mouthpiece. LOVE YOU.

    • Barbara Mccall Cappd says:

      The Freeland’s were my neighbor, in my childhood years. I have such fond memories. Jack Donna’s brother was my first boy
      Friend. I was 6 yrs. Old it seems as if it was yesterday. Jack would alwzys bring me gifts. A baton, straw purse, flowers, etc. Mr. Freeland was a wonderful man. Jack and I would go to work with him. He had this station wagon Jack and I would
      Sit in the back where all of his tools were. He had these staples I guess for a staple gun. Jack was always getting us in trouble. We started pulling all the staples apart. When we got to our destination we had completed our job. Mr. Freeland
      Got out opened back of the station wagon. Need less to say he wasn’t very happy with us. Jack remained my life long friend.
      Mr. Freeland always had his vintage vehicles in the Hillsborough Christmas Parade. I was always with them in the parade.
      I was always treated as family. Donna always babied Jack, she always made sure he was taken care of. 3 yrs. Ago my Mom was in a head on collision. When Donna found out about it she sent her a card on a weekly basis. My heart is sad, she will be missed so much. I will hang on to the good times and fond memories.

      • Ms. Barbara… what sweet memories you have of the Freeland family. The story of you and Jack tearing apart the staples made my smile. I bet Mr. Freeland was so upset and yet, I imagine he had a smile in his heart because of you youngsters! I am not surprised that Ms. Donna would be so protective of Jack. It was her nature to care for people. I think she learned that from her loving and selfless parents. I know she meant so much to me after only having known her for a year. So, I cannot imagine the void that will be in so many people’s lives who knew her far better than I did. She was a precious gem that will be missed, indeed. I pray that her spirit lives on in those of us who knew her well!! Thank you for sharing your sweet story.

    • Oh, thank you Miss Lauren! Ms. Donna would have LOVED you!! Y’all shared the same spirit, kind-hearted, thoughtful, and uplifting in every way. I never heard a negative word come from Ms. Donna’s mouth. And I can say the same for you. I truly believe we are all on this journey, blessed with special people at just the right time. I thank God that he put you on my path. You say that I have taught you, but my friend, the sentiment is mutual. Thank you for being a friend!! I love you too! XOXO

  13. Candace, your story really touched my heart. I just heard a quote today that seemed fitting.
    “The broken hearted are the bravest among us because they dared to love somebody”. Brene Brown
    Sending you a hug!

    • I love that, Colleen! And it oh-so-true. The harder we love, the harder it hurts. But it is more than worth it to live life ‘abundantly’, as Ms. Donna would say. Love big! Live big! And make every moment count! Thank you so much for sharing this quote. It indeed brightened my day. And I pray that others will find comfort in it, as well, as they read through these comments. Thank you again!

  14. I cried reading this! Such a beautiful tribute for such a beautiful lady.

    • Thank you, Melissa! I am honored to share this little story with the world. It wasn’t hard to write a beautiful tribute when the subject is such a beautiful soul. I know that she is looking down and smiling on all the precious memories that so many people continue to share. I thank you for your kind message.

  15. A big hug ~ sorry for your loss ~ she is watching over you & will be there for your November show, watching over it all! What a blessing to have such a mentor ~ XO

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