On Friday, December 19, 2008 two people that I loved dearly were brutally shot and killed in an attempted burglary at their home. Both Jean Smith and her son Jim Smith were two of the best people that I know. Honestly.
The deaths have gripped the county, as Jean was the president of the choral boosters at her kids' high school (CD Hylton High School), as well as on county boards. I know her through Holy Family Church, where he volunteered in about 1.5 million different capacities. Many kids called her "momma Smith" and this title is quite fitting. She literally loved thousands upon thousands of kids in her short life on this earth and the best part is that she loved every single one of them like her own four children. Jim was equally important to so many. Having just completed his third term at James Madison University (JMU), was a practical joker with a huge heart. He sang in an a capella group there as well as various other choirs. In high school, he sang in multiple choirs and wrestled, but again, i know him through Church and through really watching them group.
My first exposure to the Smiths was probably about 10 years ago when I taught Sarah, the eldest daughter 7th grade religious ed. She was as amazing then as she is now. As I've looked back the past couple of days since the murder, I realize how much each member of the Smith family, down to the youngest son (I don't feel comfortable naming him here, as he has been out of the spotlight since the slayings...wow that feels weird to say), has truly impacted my life. They have sprinkled my life with sunshine and for that, I am truly blessed.
Jean taught me how to love "sky big" and in many ways with the heart of Saint John Bosco. She took the messy lives of kids and teenagers and adults, and covered them with her love, and tied them with a pretty bow. I am honored and blessed to have been loved in a very real way by her. I'll always miss sitting at her kitchen table sharing our lives over cokes. We had plans for Christmas Eve and New Years and I know I'll feel her absence on both of those days.
Jim taught me how to lighten up, laugh alot, how to tell inappropriate and distasteful jokes with great poise :), and how to have an infectious smile. I love that Jim loved his family so much and how he sang for the Church choir, even when it was uncool. I always appreciated that he let me be a part of his life and let me into his world, especially when he went to college. I remember when we worked together on a confirmation retreat at my home parish. I was touched by his maturity, by how much he cared about the kids in our group and how much he truly loved God. I am so glad that he was a part of life.
There's great graces from God in this and I feel his mercy and love in the sacraments. In running towards the Church, in the Sacraments,, I feel his love and see his hand in all of this. Everyone always says this, but I know I'm a better person because of them, but more importantly, I'm a better Catholic because of their love.
Jim: I wish I could have had one last check in with you or seen you perform one last time. Thanks for letting me be a part of your life. I love you.
I miss you alot Momma Smith and I would give anything for one more do over of December 19, 2008. Help me to be a good youth minister and help me to love my teens the way that you loved all kids.
Please pray for the remaining members of the Smith family, for their extended family, and for the community, as they need great strength during this time.
I also ask for prayers for their murderer. He is 17 and I fear great retaliation against them, which is not what Jean or Jim would want.