One year ago today, the world lost a remarkable woman. Anna Lois Smiley was my mother-in-law by title. Yet, she was so much more than that. Lois was the person whom you knew would ALWAYS be there, no matter what…and then she was gone. For the last year, I have wrestled with the guilt of not being there the moment she died. I had to work the next day and decided to stay home while Lee and the kids went to visit Nana. She was sick, but she had been before…and she always got better. She was a fighter, and she hated being in the hospital. So I was certain I’d see her in a couple of weeks when she came down to see us.
When I got the call that she was "really bad," I went for a walk. It was a beautiful but still day with not even the hint of a breeze. As I walked, I talked to God…out loud. I asked him if I needed to get in the van and drive to KY. As soon as I asked the question, the wind began to blow. It stopped me in my tracks. I thought surely that couldn’t be God answering me. The wind stopped, and I continued walking. Again, I asked God, "Should I go?" Again the wind began to blow. At that point, I did not walk, but rather ran, back to the house. I packed some clothes and hastily grabbed a suit for Lee, knowing he wouldn’t need it. I got in the van and began to drive. Twenty minutes later, I received a message on my phone: She’s gone.
Two words that changed my life. Two words that said so much more. Two words that translated to a million different things. "She’s gone" meant no more encouragement from the woman who took me as her own daughter. It meant no more days of "Let me take the kids so you and Lee can have a night together." It meant no more giddy excitement from a grown woman at the thought of putting up a Christmas tree. Those two words also translated, in my mind, to "Why didn’t I go with them?" "Why wasn’t I there for her and Lee and the kids?" "Why was I so selfish?"
A few days ago, my feelings of guilt were eased a bit when a friend pointed out that if I had gone, Lee may not have been there in time. You see, he arrived at the hospital just a few short minutes before Lois left us. I think she waited for him. Had I gone when he did, I may have used up those minutes getting ready for the trip. I may have asked to stop on the way. I may have never been able to talk to God like I did during my walk.
There were so many gifts given to the family by those who loved Lois so dearly, but the one Lee and I both treasure the most is a set of wind chimes that now hang on our front porch. You see, I don’t think it was a coincidence that those were given to us. Just as I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that as I sit here writing these words, the wind has begun to blow. Those chimes are a constant reminder to us that Lois is still here with us. That she is still in our corner, cheering us on through the good times and comforting our hearts through the bad.
To say that I miss her would never be enough. To say that I love her more than I ever thought possible would be an understatement. And yet, here I go: Lois, I miss you like crazy and love you so very much!! Thank you for touching my life for the first time over seventeen years ago and for continuing to remind me of your love for us every time the wind blows…