Donovan Walden touched an amazing number of lives in a deep and meaningful way in his 23 years of living. Most 12 year olds do not see the need to plan their funeral, but he did. When asked by his mother, Debbie, why he was doing that, he explained that the stroke that left him unable to enjoy easy mobility, could very well happen again. “I might not be able to speak with the next stroke, so I want to plan a few things.” He planned to wear a black suit and tie at his funeral as well as have a black casket. He picked out all his songs and artists. He talked about who would speak. Almost in a prophetic way, he did have a second stroke that did leave him unable to speak. And after his death, the funeral he planned was carried out. It was a beautiful occasion to honor the memory of such a wonderful young man. The chapel was full and some stood in the rear due to all the seats being taken. Why? Because this young man and his family are deeply loved. Donovan was a positive, outgoing young man who never met a stranger. In spite of difficult challenges he never complained. He bravely and courageously embraced life. He loved music, animals, and people.
His love for music was genetic. His father, Preston, is a professional musician. Donovan loved singing with Preston throughout his years. He believed his daddy was the best! He would often hear a banjo being played and say, “My daddy is better than that.” Upon saying that one day, Debbie responded, “Donovan, that is Earl Scruggs” to which
Donovan replied, “well Daddy is better.” Donovan kept up with various performers becoming a loyal fan. One of his last big outings before his stroke was to the Grand Ole Opry including backstage passes. Bill Anderson came over to Donovan striking up a long conversation. It was as if Donovan couldn’t get away from Bill! Donovan asked Bill why he didn’t just play the entire show that night. Bill explained that the other performers deserve their time to play also. To which Donovan said, “I’d rather you do the whole Opry. I’d come to hear that!” Preston and Debbie said that Bill’s face lit up! Donovan had a way of doing that to people.
In Jesus’ day, the apostles would regularly argue about which of them was the greatest. Jesus addressed their argument. His answer was more like a show and tell. Jesus called a child to their midst and said unless you become as this child you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Mt. 18:2-3). Donovan always displayed such deep humility and appreciation for God and others. Only if we could all become like him, Heaven would have a greater population and earth would be filled with goodness.
In my precious memories I still hear that little boy of more than a decade past that would come by the office to visit. He would converse with Mrs. Pat with the confidence you would expect of an adult, yet inquisitive like a child. He would make his way down the hall to check in with Phil Waggoner. They would cut up like school buddies on a playground. Then he would make his way to my office. The conversations were always full. He always had something on his mind. But they were also full of laughter! That was a part of the impact that Donovan made on people. He filled their life with Joy.
Debbie and Preston have offered wonderful care to Donovan for 23 years. He was loved deeply and served daily. To them we extend our deepest sorrow. Our prayers are with them. By faith we believe
Donovan will enjoy an eternity with no limitations. He will walk, run and perhaps even fly! He will talk freely and sing with angels. Let’s live for the great resurrection and reunion!