Dayna was my God-child. I was 22 the year she was born. It was 1976. I was a mess that year and that’s why it was especially amazing to me that Dick and Carleen chose me to be their baby girl’s God-mother. What an honor and what a joy.
As I look back, Dayna was my touchstone to the rest of my family during those couple of years. She was just a baby but I adored her and I couldn’t wait to be with her. In 1976 the rest of my family was vocal and disapproving of my choices, of my relationships, of my friends … perhaps rightfully so. But not Dayna! She would kick her little baby feet and her eyes would light up whenever she saw me. As she grew she began to look like me and worse yet … act like me. Dick began to call her Mia Jr.
I was so painfully shy as a little kid. So that is why it wasn’t curious to me on Dayna’s fourth birthday when she disappeared into the bathroom and locked the door just as her guests were arriving for her birthday party — where she remained throughout the ENTIRE afternoon. The rest of the family tried to coax her out with cake and presents and promises of fun. But no dice!
Just a few months earlier on Easter Sunday the whole family was together at Carleen’s folks Dayna had crawled inside a hexagon coffee table, pulled the doors closed, and stayed in there until everyone was gone. No amount of bargaining would persuade her to come out and join the fun.
Her dad loves to tell this story: Dayna was taking swimming lessons at a pool in Maple Grove. She was just little and wasn’t interested in getting into that freezing cold water to learn some ridiculous strokes. Every time they went to swim lessons, it was the same old struggle – she wouldn’t get in the water. One time I went along and Dick asked me to talk to her and convince her to cooperate with the instructor. There she stood in her cute little swim-suit at the edge of pool … NOT getting in. Dick watched me lean down and look into her eyes, offering words of bravery, encouragement, and stick-to-itiveness. After a little back and forth exchange, I called Dick over and proclaimed, “She doesn’t want to get in the pool. She wants to go to Dairy Queen. Let’s go.” And off we went. That was the end of swimming lessons.
Some worried, but I knew that everything would all turn out alright. I knew she’d be fine. Dayna and I had a connection because I knew what it was like to be in her skin … so painfully quiet and shy and terrified of people.
Well, I don’t need to tell you that Dayna grew up to be anything BUT quiet and shy and terrified of people.
We have all heard the story of the little girl walking along the beach where thousands of starfish had washed up and could not find their way back to the safety of the ocean. A sensible grown-up happened to walk by and notice the little girl picking up one starfish after another and tossing them back into the sea, “What are you doing?” he asked. The girl replied, “Throwing starfish back into the sea. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they will die.” The grownup replied, “Don’t you realize there are thousands of starfish on miles and miles of beach here? You can’t possibly hope to make a difference.” The little girl listened politely, then bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it back into the surf. She turned to the man and said, “I made a difference to that one.”
That was Dayna. She made a difference to one at a time.
Beautiful Dayna blossomed into a smart and pretty and confident and independent woman. She grew up to be a unique individual not tied to convention. She grew to be a leader in her own corner of the world; an advocate for the forlorn and the forgotten. She grew up thinking outside the box with a deep compassion for those around her.
In her teens, Dayna worked with Habitat for Humanity and other service groups bringing tangible help to the underprivileged. In college she worked at a home for autistic adults showing unbelievable patience for those in her care. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in social work where she, along with the State of Minnesota, could help those who were down on their luck get back on their feet. She volunteered at a home for displaced teens doing art therapy. She gave of herself to provide a wide range of help for the poor, women and children, victims of domestic abuse, and the homeless. She raised money for the lymphoma society, suicide prevention, breast cancer research, and a variety of other great causes through walk-a-thons, marathons, and other means.
With an immense heart for humanity she continued to “throw back into the sea one starfish after another because”, as the story goes, “it made a difference to that one.”
Dayna has always meant a great deal to those who knew her well. Whether she was god-child, daughter, sister, niece, grand-daughter, aunt, cousin, friend, co-worker – Dayna will always hold a special place in our hearts.
But let’s never forget that Dayna made a big difference to the world around her in so many ways. Every day, Dayna brought a ray of sunshine and glimmer of hope to everyone who happened across her beach.
Dayna left this life for a far better one on March 11, 2012. She was just 36 years old.