memaw's passing
roman starts pre-school

tribute to debbie

(Debbie in her cute, subtle way promoting breast cancer awareness. 2010)  
Debbie's ribbon
I never thought I'd see the day when I wouldn't be at the funeral of someone so special to me. But as I type this, Debbie's funeral is in progress. Gordon and I debated what to do and concluded we would take the amount it would cost to fly there and put it toward my walk next year in the Weekend To End Breast Cancer. You will all be called upon to sponsor me for this 40 mile walk. My goal is $3000. I'll be walking for Debbie and my cousin Cindy who both lost their lives to breast cancer.

This is my tribute to Debbie. It was read at her funeral by her daughter Katie.

Remembering my dear friend Debbie

Tannehill 2 Debbie and I became friends in 1984 through our husbands. Steve and Kent were best friends, so after Kent and I married, she and I were forced into friendship. She was forceful, blunt and assertive -- in many ways, my polar opposite. I was aloof and snotty, she was jovial and gregarious.  Being assertive like she was, she forced her way into my life and I fought her every step of the way.  Debbie always forgave me, always accepted me for who I was, only occasionally calling me a snot. 

As we grew closer, I didn’t think I could love and appreciate her more. But when my first baby was born Debbie became an even bigger part of my life. She loved my Stephanie, loving to take her out, babysit her, and buy her special things.  There’s no better way to worm your way into a mother’s heart than to love and dote on her baby. Debbie was that person in my life. She loved my baby and I loved her more for it.

We eventually ended up living on the same block, just a few houses from each other. Over the years we realized we had "community" before it became a popular term. Back then neither of us knew how good we had it. How many people can walk to their best friend's house in two minutes? How many people can feel comfortable chatting in the living room while the other irons? How convenient is it when you can phone and say, "We're ordering Sonic. Y'all want anything?" I'd give nearly anything to have that kind of "community" now.

Debbie was hilarious, laughed easily, and never took herself too seriously. She was also quirky. I've never been big into the ironing scene, but Debbie use to iron everything. How could someone so detailed in ironing totally miss obvious details in other areas? One evening Debbie cooked supper for us. On this particular night there were four jugs of curdled milk sitting on her table; there had only been three a few nights earlier. When Kent and I walked home, he said, "There was another jug of sour milk on the table tonight."  He sighed, "I've been thinking, maybe we shouldn't eat her cooking anymore." Twenty years later, Debbie and I still laughed about that.

She was my co-conspirator and we spent hours in each other’s living room, car and kitchen scheming. Once we decided we could make some serious money by having a booth at a craft sale. Over a few months, we sanded, stained, and painted a bazillion geese, cutting boards, and bright wooden tulips. The night before the craft sale as we knelt on the floor wrapping our hand-crafted valuables, Debbie said, "I figured it up. If I sell everything I've made, I'll make $435." Our craft sale weekend delivered a heaping dose of humiliation. We sold one cutting board and it was, no doubt, a sympathy purchase.

Debbie and I were always trying to make money. On our last garage sale I wore a new, grossly uncomfortable, under-wire bra. I went inside to take it off for some much needed relief. I had no more gotten in off when Debbie bolted through the back-door screaming indiscernible craziness. "GET OUT THERE! Oh Dear Jesus, help me! GET OUT THERE! GET OUT THERE! Bob, Bertha and Bessie are out there. GO, GET OUT THERE!"

I didn’t have the first idea what was wrong with her or why she couldn't face these older folks from church, but I wasn’t about to go outside without a bra on. She screamed again, "GET OUT THERE!" and I screamed back, "I DON'T HAVE A BRA ON. I CAN'T GO OUT THERE." We screamed like crazy women and I'm sure our patrons heard us. Debbie calmed down enough to forgo yelling to beg, "Please, you've got to go out there. All the wedding gifts they gave us are out there."

We both ended up out on the patio. Bob, Bertha and Bessie bought all the gifts they'd given Steve and Debbie as wedding presents, going to Debbie to pay for them.  That day, I thought we just might die laughing.

Once during Debbie’s treatments she went to the doctor for a checkup. The doctor did his touchy-feely thing with Debbie’s breasts. Anxious to confirm there were no new lumps, Debbie asked, “Do they feel good?” She was able to laugh at herself immediately.

Her ability to laugh at herself is one of the things I admired most about her. She was my mentor in moving beyond humiliations and foibles. Whereas I could be embarrassed for hours on up to 25 years, Debbie was able to immediately see the humor in her own mis-steps and mis-speaks.

(Easter 2010)

TannehillsDebbie was an awesome friend and an amazing person, one of the most amazing I’ve ever known. Through her illness, she didn’t complain, never sought sympathy, continued to laugh, to see beyond herself and her problems. Debbie had more selfless devotion in her pinky finger than I will ever have this side of heaven. Debbie loved her family and would share sweet and funny snippets from their lives with anyone who would listen. She loved to talk about her kids. Katie, I remember when she called to tell me  you thought all babies came from the airport (all Debbie's babies did come from the airport). She was the proudest mom in the world when she finally got you, the gift she’d waited for so long. Caleb, she loved the man you are becoming. She loved your strength of character, your dependability in helping out, your love and affection. Carli, you were such a gift to your mom. She told me about your sweetness, tenderness and wit.

This world lost a treasure last week. Thankfully we have memories of who Debbie was; strong, wise, faithful and true, and ceaselessly pointing to Jesus in the way she lived.

I wish I could be at this celebration today. Debbie’s been promoted and I wish I could be at her promotion ceremony. I have no doubt she heard “Well done my good and faithful servant” last Saturday evening.


Shelly Gribble

Very sweet tribute. I know it meant the world to her family. I have to say I'm a little jealous of the time you got to spend with Debbie, but thankful, too, that you were able to. I'm sure she'd have just as many lovely things to say about you, Valerie!


Thats beautiful mom. I love it!


Shelly what you and I need is to live down the street from each other. Now that would be a hoot. I'd love to have "community" with you and Bob. I love you.


This is an amazing tribute. It makes me feel like I lost somebody and I don't know that I ever even knew Debbie. The yard sale story is fantastic. :)

valerie dykstra

It's been over a week now. I keep coming back to this post and looking at her picture. I can't believe she's gone. I keep thinking of more stories - mostly stories of me being a jerk and her forgiving me. I loved her so much.

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