Evelyn Smith (1928-2016)

“I don’t know when. But I hope it won’t be long.” These were the words our dear sister Evelyn Smith said a couple of weeks ago from her hospice bed. On another occasion recently, the Manifold class was gathered at her home to sing with her. We were about to pray together. One asked, “Mrs. Evelyn, what do you want us to pray about?” She said, “Pray that I won’t have to suffer much before I die.” As a class we had been praying that for her. We were deeply touched that night to see such peace. She wasn’t consumed with fear, but faith and hope. We sang praises to God that night. We prayed together. We smiled, laughed and shared in the moment, knowing God had given us a special gift that evening. We came to lift up Mrs. Evelyn. We left there on a high. We were reminded of how great God is and his faithful servants that persevere. The great hall of faith, Hebrews 11, records Jacob worshipping while he died (Hebrews 11:21). God has shown us one of our contemporaries living and dying the same way. Glory be to God for the life of Mrs. Evelyn Smith.

Evelyn Apple Smith was born in Jackson County to James and Mary Apple. As a child she was sick more often than well. The day she received her books in first grade she came down with a high fever. She was so sick she had to learn how to walk and talk again. She could not attend school with any regularity. She remembered riding horseback to the doctor sitting in the front of her father in the saddle. They would use a quill from a goose to blow powder in her ears. Finally at eleven years old her tonsils were removed. By time she was in 8th grade she was able to return to school regularly and graduated Salutatorian of her class. She attributed her success in school to her brother and sisters who would come home from school and teach her what they learned. Her brother and sisters survive her; brother, Lewis Bryan Apple; sisters, Maurine York, Nell Highers, and Pat England.

After a move to Putnam County she graduated from Grandville High and immediately enrolled at Andrew Jackson Business College. Following college, in 1948, she began working for Genesco. She retired from there 37 years later. She enjoyed playing and serving as manager of several of their athletic teams through the years. In 1989 she, along with a few others, started the Woodbine Community Organization for retirees. They began with 50 charter members and have met every Tuesday from 9-3. In recent years they have met at Gladestone church of Christ. Mrs. Eveylyn was still an active part of this organization.

So much could and even should be said about this dear lady. Allow me to say, Evelyn Smith was simply loved. Her children spoke high words of praise for their dear mother. Family members shared words of memory and honor at her funeral. Truly, “her children rose up and called her blessed” (Proverbs 31:28). Her children are Roger (Lucia) Cunningham, Tim (Billie) Cunningham, Andy Cunningham, and Lisa Baker. Her step children, siblings, nieces and nephews could not cease the high praise. Her grandchildren adored her. She never ceased talking about her children and grandchildren.

In the close of Mrs. Evelyn’s life, she was doing what she had done all her life; worshipping and serving God. Her earliest memories were of her grandfather harnessing the horse to the wagon and loading the family to go to worship. She spoke highly of the Liberty church of Christ in Jackson County; deeply appreciating that the roots of her faith first grew there. She spent many years as a faithful worshipper and worker at Woodbine church of Christ in Nashville. This church family seemed to always be her “home” church. The last decade we enjoyed having her as a part of the MJ congregation. She loved us as if we had been her family forever. And we loved her the same. If the doors were open and she was even close to being able, she was gathered with God’s family to worship.

Throughout her life she actively served where needed. There is no telling how many Teddy Bears she has stuffed here at MJ. She allowed me to experience a first. I had never visited a patient in hospice care who was actively serving others, until I visited her a few weeks ago. She was lying in her bed, propped up on her side. Behind her, in her bed, were a sack of bears and a bag of stuffing. Without looking back she would grab a bear and then reach back for the filler. I couldn’t help but think, “Don’t we make these bears to give to people like you?” Most people who know they are dying can use a sweet bear to encourage them, yet Mrs. Evelyn was making them for others! “I did 36 yesterday” she said matter-of-factly. “If I wake up in the night, I just grab a bear and start stuffing.”

On March 7th our sister fell asleep to wake up to something completely different — better. Death had been swallowed by life (2Cor 5:4). By faith we believe things are better for her than ever before. We pray in thanksgiving that we were allowed to share in life with her as we pass through this life. We pray for comfort for us and her good family. We pray we will all enjoy a great reunion with our Maker on high. From her life and her death let us learn what we should. For this is the end of all mankind (Ecc 7:2).

Kim Yap, deacon and teacher in the Manifold class recently wrote to his class, If you want to meet a person who has had her share of struggles in life, but is working for God even to the end of that life, then you need to stop by Mrs. Evelyn’s room and talk with her. No one, including Mrs. Evelyn, would describe her life as easy. But everyone knew her as faithful, loyal, loving and optimistic… and that is how she died.
by David Shannon