I have two distinct memories of Beverly Ann Smith. One was where I would find her in the early morning when I woke up with a hangover at my friend Baldie's house or when I came over very early to get her two sons Baldie and Doug (now with our Lord) to go fishing or hunting. Dear Mrs. Smith would be leaning over her sink, much of the time potatoes frying or just finished frying in a pan for breakfast, smoking a Pall Mall cigarette and making sure that all smoke went out the window no matter what temperature it was outside. Whether I was inside or came in from the outside she wouldn't even look around at me just yell at me to come in after I'd knocked and scold me for waking the whole house up. I could see her little grin from the side of her face even though her gaze never left that trail that lead into the woods from beside her mailbox on the edge of that dirt road they lived on. She'd offer me an instant coffee or a hot green tea and tell me to go sit down while she brought it to me.
The other distinct memory I have of her was when we three would come to the house drunk. Her husband would be at work and we'd get the music going and singing and playing guitars and banjos, even the juice harp or a harmonica would fit - anything that made noise. We'd have bread races (see who was the fastest to eat a dry piece of white bread with nothing to wash it down) and arm wrestle and push and shove and Mrs. Smith would stay in the kitchen and fix something for us to eat or smoke a Pall Mall until we settled down into a ballad or some slow cheating song. She'd come in and sit and tell us it was her prayer that someday we'd use our music to Glorify God.
The last time I saw Bev was a couple years ago. I had written a song and was drinking a couple beers with Baldie and he told me I had to sing it to his mother. It was a fresh 6 months since her son Doug had been killed by a brick in a construction accident and the song was about how we can't always understand why God allows some people to die in their youth or in their prime. I sang it for her a capella and she shed a tear. Her prayers had been answered and the miracle of proof stood before her and sang to her Jesus' sweet song of redemption.
Bev died on Saturday morning July 28. She'd had a minor surgery 6 days earlier and was overcome by infection and lost circulation in her legs which turned black. I went to her Friday night and told her that she shined, shined like the brightest diamond to me - a kid who desperately needed someone to love him EVEN when I chose to not live within God's will. I'll never forget the smell of Pall Mall cigarettes and fried potatoes.
Saturday I dug some new red potatoes from my garden, picked some tender young summer squash (I can eat those things right off the vine by the pound), and the first half dozen of ripe sweet corn, drove a mile and a half from my dad's house and walked into that dirt-road house. The pack of Pall Malls was still on the window sill but no one was there to smoke them. I sat with Baldie and his dad. We talked of coon hounds, bear tracks, coyote races and fishing. We talked about gardening, tractors, and music. Finally I just had to tell Merle how much Bev had shined in my life. The legacy of love will continue through my six children and many other relationships that have been blossoming from a mustard seed planted in good soil here and there. I told him that she was the saltiest of salty and there was never a bush that could hide her light. A flicker of an ember of that Pall Mall reflected off that kitchen window and into my life and lives to come.
We shed some tears right there and then we smiled together while Merle talked of Jesus' love for us that will transcend our loss. His voice wavered little as he spoke of how important family is and how much it meant to him to have shared that moment of Bev's step into another life. For a moment I really wanted to smoke one of those Pall Malls but only for a moment.