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Yarbrough: Life’s meaning is made clear, taught by a life far too short

POSTED: August 27, 2011 1:00 a.m.

Longtime readers will remember several years ago when I talked about a beautiful little lady I had met when she was just 2 years old and who possessed the most crystal blue eyes I had ever seen. Her name was Abby Smith and she was a knockout.

It was not long after our encounter that Abby was diagnosed with a brain tumor. A medulloblastoma brain tumor, to be exact.

Thus began the battle of her young life. The odds were stacked against her from the beginning, but that didn't stop her from fighting.

I asked readers across the state to pray for Abby and they did. The outpouring was extraordinary. It was one of those rare times when people put aside their religious differences, their political disagreements, ethnic issues and their self-absorption and united in a common cause: to support Abby.

Even nonbelievers told me they had offered up good vibes. It was a beautiful thing and for a while it worked and she got better. But it was not to be.

Last week, Abby Smith died. She was 7 years old.

She is survived by her parents, Dr. Paul and Cathy Smith, her brother Drew, sister Anna, other close family members and untold numbers of people who are better today. Because during her brief stay on earth, Abby made us think about something other than ourselves.

Losing a child so young and so early leaves us to wonder why. Why should young people with the potential to make this a better world be taken from us? We could all come up with an inexhaustible list of slugs who will not have made an iota of difference during their days among us, except to consume more oxygen than they return in good deeds.

Given the chance, might not the young have been able make a great medical discovery or write beautiful music or create a new and better way for human beings across the world to gain a deeper understanding of each other so we could finally bend our swords into plowshares?

Life does not always work the way we want it to. That is very humbling, but it is a fact. Many of us like to think if we go to church, pray and give to the poor, we will be spared tragedy and disappointment. It doesn't happen that way. Sometimes the good die young and the bad live on and seem to prosper. Why?

Invariably, such a tragedy leads to the question of why a loving God would allow such things to happen. Atheists jump on this one like a bunny rabbit. Learned theologians write tomes on the subject.

I am neither an atheist nor a learned theologian but I happen to believe that God has a plan bigger than any of us can comprehend and doesn't feel compelled to have to share it with us. God knows best. We don't. Period.

We lost a 21-year-old grandson very suddenly three years ago. One of the first calls of condolence I received was from my hero, former Gov. Carl Sanders, who had lost a grandson shortly before to the ravages of cancer. As he consoled me, the governor (and he will always be the governor to me) said, "We should not outlive our children and grandchildren."

He was correct, as usual. It leaves a hole that will never be filled and snuffs out a potential that will never be realized.

But maybe God thinks these young people had done all they needed to do on this earth and it was time to bring them home and give them a "Well done, my good and faithful servant." Maybe, as Christ said in admonishing his fussy disciples who thought some kids were bothering him, heaven belongs to those who are like children. It certainly doesn't belong to narrow-minded and mean-spirited religious bigots who pull some arcane passages out of the Bible to prove they are right and everybody else is wrong. This crowd won't find heaven with a flashlight.

So, heaven, here comes Abigail Grace Smith, who spent seven years on earth showing us how to battle adversity with dignity and how to love unconditionally. She taught us how to live life to the fullest and to appreciate every day we have as a gift not to be squandered because there may not be a tomorrow.

It was a lesson I certainly needed. I suspect we all do. And, I believe, that is why she was here. Well done, Abby.

Dick Yarbrough is a North Georgia resident whose column appears Saturdays and on gainesvilletimes.com. You can reach him at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, GA 31139; website.



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