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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)