As I grow older, one of the first things I look at when pulling up the news online is the obituaries. It’s not that I enjoy reading them. It’s just that I know more and more of the people that are passing away. During the Christmas holidays, it seemed as if I was visiting the funeral home every other day.
A few months ago I briefly mentioned Arlin “Peanut” Smith in a column. I wrote about how he picked me for his baseball team several years knowing that I wouldn’t be leading the team to any championships. So, the fact he grew up with my daddy probably was the only reason he picked me.
I still see Mr. Smith at the golf course on occasion. He has also served on the Wrecker Advisory Board which has allowed me to see him in a professional manner. He always asks about my daddy. He even visits him from time to time.
Mr. Smith and his wife, Barbara have two sons, Steven and Stewart. Steven is a little older than me and Stewart a couple of years younger at 49.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith lost their youngest son Stewart this week to complications from what at first appeared to be a successful operation.
There was never a doubt that I needed to go pay my respects at the funeral home. I always try to think of reasons to not go, but rarely does that work. So I went.
A huge crowd was gathered at Darby Funeral Home doing the same thing I was. We stood in line and waited our time to speak with Mr. and Mrs. Smith. There were many people there that I knew.
Mr. Smith was standing at the foot of the casket with Mrs. Smith sitting on a stool at the head of the casket. I have written several times about parents that have lost a child with most of them being young. And although I have no idea how the Smiths felt, something told me that their pain couldn’t have been any greater had their son been 9 instead of 49.
I never know what to say in these situations. There really isn’t anything you can say. But Benny Darnell was in front of me in line. Mr. Darnell is a big man. But the gentleness in which he spoke to Mr. Smith was no doubt comforting. He told Mr. Smith he was there if he ever needed him. I believed him. Mr. Smith did too.
But as I awaited their conversation to end I couldn’t help but notice something. Sitting quietly on a couch near the casket was Gary and Barbara Adams. We spoke as I moved through the line. But I couldn’t help but look back at them just sitting there.
It was then that it hit me that if anyone in the building understood what the Smiths were going through it was them. They too had lost a son. I never saw them talking to the Smiths, but I bet their presence was felt. And even though it must have brought up hard memories, Mr. and Mrs. Adams did what friends do.
When it came my time to talk to Mr. Smith, it was hard. He told me he never understood how people could die of a broken heart until now. He went on to say that if the pain didn’t ease he didn’t think he could make it. This was his little boy.
Mrs. Smith was equally grief-stricken. She told me that everybody knows Peanut, but she just stays in the background. I had to tell her that Peanut wouldn’t be who he was without her.
I guess the moral to this story is that no matter how young or old our children are, they will always be our kids. And we think we aren’t supposed to bury them, but they should bury us. But sometimes the Lord has other plans.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith may feel hopeless right now.
But I hope that one day they will remember Mr. and Mrs. Adams sitting quietly offering their comfort so they can do the same for someone else in the future.
Chris Collett is a lifelong resident of Cherokee County.