by Nafisa Kennedy, Director of Option Line
It takes a special kind of person to work on a pregnancy helpline. One has to be compassionate and caring to the desperate women calling in who feel very scared and alone, all the while being strong enough to handle prank calls and angry activists.
Working for a 24/7 pregnancy helpline is a very rewarding job, however, it is not for everybody. Some learn quickly that—while they love the mission—they are not equipped for this specific task. Those who are called to it envelop a unique set of personality traits that help them speak truth and life to each call. These are the heroes that impact more lives than they ever know this side of heaven. And that brings me to Dawn.
Dawn Truesdale. The name itself conjures memories to me that date back almost 15 years. She was one of the first women of Option Line I ever met, and one of the most memorable!
To understand Dawn, in a way, you must understand Option Line. Around the clock, our staff speak with and help people dealing with intensely personal and challenging circumstances. Some of those circumstances would be absolutely shocking to the outside world—like the new mom I spoke with about 10 years ago who didn’t know she was pregnant and had just given birth in her bathroom.
Dawn explained to me how you lose your filter for normal when you start working at Option Line—a fact I later learned by experience. Though a consultant may hear something very unusual, it no longer comes as a surprise to those who’ve worked here for a few years.
Hannah, one of our Option Line crew, put it well when she said, “Dawn never failed to be honest and blunt, and I think that is part of what made her such a good consultant. She also had such good humor and was not caught by surprise”
Dawn was faithful to Option Line. She worked on the phones from the very day of Option Line’s birth. Her work was so important to her, and she never gave up—though I’m sure at times she wanted to. She always said “I’m a fixture around here!” And she wasn’t wrong. She never skipped a beat—even during seasons of personal difficulty, she persevered in her work and even worked extra shifts to make sure the lines were open 24/7. She had the humility to receive criticism with an open mind and was always looking for ways to be a better servant to the women who contact us.
And that is why with her unexpected passing, we choose to celebrate the lessons she taught us.
Dawn was an Option Line consultant for 17 years. She knew what she was doing and she would always take advantage of extra opportunities for training and collaboration with her peers.
Lyndsy, who had the privilege of working with Dawn for the last 3 years, says, “Some of my favorite memories are of our in-person staff trainings where you just never knew what would come out of Dawn’s mouth. It kept things light, and fun. But she also knew Option Line like the back of her hand.... always had the answers and always asking questions even after working way longer than most of us! She was a learner, a giver, a friend, and a beautiful person inside and out and will be forever missed!”
Dawn found the humor in everything. In fact, I do not recall ever having a conversation with her where she didn’t laugh or tell a joke. And not only that, she was a quirky, confident, and an open sort of person. She was friendly and outgoing. She treated everyone she met like a true and trusted friend. That was a quality I always admired, and which was a great gift to our team.
Cassandra, who joined the Option Line ranks almost two years ago, says, “Though I did not get the chance of knowing her for years, I was blessed to know her for the time I did. She imprinted on me and my life in so many ways and for that, I will forever be grateful. She was just always so down to earth and never had anything bad to say about anyone…She was the epitome of what Option Line is about and stands for. Always made everyone feel welcome.”
Dawn was extremely sensitive to the struggles of those she spoke with on the phone, and she extended the same kindness to her colleagues. She spoke kindly to others and showed genuine concern for them.
“I will miss waking up for my shift and having [Dawn] say ‘Good morning my sunshine.’ There is so much more to this than just a statement. When I was going through some hard times in my life she would send me little private messages telling me I was special and a strong woman,” recollects Catharine, an Option Line consultant who has worked with Dawn for hundreds of shifts over the years.
Every holiday party or picnic for as long as I knew her, she would show up, and I mean SHOW UP. If there was a theme, she was sure to rock it.
I will always remember her Christmas attire that she wore during the season: special earrings, sleigh bells, and a Christmas sweater. A string of Christmas lights around her neck, her signature elf ears, and always something festive all month long. Sometimes reindeer antlers or a Santa hat too. Joyful. I remember vividly last December hearing lively footsteps coming toward my office - jingle bells ringing with every step, I knew it was Dawn arriving early for our meeting. Sure enough, she was decked out head to toe.
And I will always remember how she loved her boys. She always spoke of them with pride. From their time as young boys learning the basics of life to college graduation, Dawn boasted of her children.
In the early days of Option Line, she would occasionally bring them by the office. She was a devoted and loving wife, and though I haven’t had the privilege of knowing her husband David personally, I know through Dawn’s testimony that they loved each other greatly and had heaps of fun. As I welcomed my own boys to the world, she offered wise advice from her adventures in parenting-of course with her signature humor.
Dawn completed her mission this side of eternity on November 27th, and she is missed greatly by all of us.
In her final self-evaluation (which she submitted the day before her passing), she wrote “I love helping people! Option Line has been a Godsend...”
If I had the opportunity to respond to her comments, I would say, “YOU were a Godsend to Option Line.” We will always love her and remember her contribution to the world through her ministry at Option Line.
Though this is a very painful loss—in fact, I’m still in shock and disbelief—I do smile as I imagine Dawn in her new heavenly home making tons of friends, rocking the coolest earrings heaven has to offer, and receiving a reward for her faithful service.