Roy Exum: Awesome Taylor Smith’s Birthday

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Taylor Smith’s 13th birthday was last Thursday and a big celebration was held. Many hundreds sent gifts from every direction and, just like she really wanted, each was the exact same thing. Needless to say, her spirit soared, which was the whole idea to begin with anyway.

Earlier this year, during the first week of January to be exact, Taylor Scout Smith, age 12 of Johnson City, Tenn., came down with the flu, which with no warning developed into sudden-onset pneumonia. Within hours she had died, leaving behind a wake of happy memories and love and delight for her devastated family. She also, rather famously by now, left behind a letter.

“She had a special box with all her special things, but they were not the normal things for a 12-year-old,” her aunt, Kathy Oakes told the national media two months ago. “One page was all her passwords. On another she was rating her mother’s dinners, and then there was a to-do list of things she needed the next time she went shopping – she’s telling herself things in her journals: ‘Taylor, read, read Philippians. It tells you how to act!’”

Then there was the letter. You may have seen it in People Magazine or Time, on “The Today Show” or Huffington Post. USA Today ran it and it was widely circulated in Europe where it was translated into some foreign languages. The letter’s amazing impact allowed Taylor’s spirit to be brilliantly alive last week and that is why, on her 13th birthday Thursday, people all over the world did a “random act of kindness” in memory of our little saint.

It seems that as her parents went through her special box of treasures they came across a carefully sealed envelope that said in bold handwriting: “To Be Opened By Taylor Smith on April 23, 2023 ONLY!” In much smaller letters were the words “unless otherwise directed.” Her parents felt that … well, under the circumstances they should read it.

Yes, on the back flap of the envelope was the warning, “If It’s Before 4-13-23 Don’t Open This!” and as they gently withdrew the letter there was another wrapping with still another warning: “CONFIDENTIAL! Taylor’s Eyes Only, unless said otherwise! Don’t Open Until 4-13-23!”

What they found was a letter Taylor had written on April 23 of 2013. It was to herself, hopefully by then a beautiful and promising 22-year-old who just might need a bit of advice or encouragement from her old self. Her dad said, “She liked doing quirky things and she liked doing meaningful things, she always created stuff,” Tim Smith explained. “The fact that she wrote this letter wasn’t a surprise, but what she wrote was.”

The family shared the letter with friends, more heard of it and soon it went viral. Hundreds of media sources and many millions have now read the letter so allow me to share what was on a dear 12-year-old’s heart and also in her dreams one day last April:

* * *

Dear Taylor,

How’s life? Life is pretty simple right now (10 years in your past). I know I’m late for you, but as I’m writing, this is early, so; congratulations on graduating high school! If you didn’t go back and keep trying. Get that degree! Are you (we) in college? If not, I understand. We do have pretty good reasoning, after all.

Don’t forget, it’s Allana’s 11th birthday today! Sheesh, 11 already? In my time, she just turned 1! I didn’t get to go to that party though, because I was in Cranks, Kentucky for my first mission trip. I’ve only been back for 6 days!

Speaking of, how’s your relationship with GOD? Have you prayed, worshipped, read the Bible, or gone to serve the Lord recently? If not, get up and do so NOW! I don’t care what point in our life we’re in right now, do it! He was mocked, beaten, tortured, and crucified for you! A sinless man, who never did you or any other person any wrong!

Now, have you gone on any more mission trips? Have you been out of the country yet? How about on a plane?

Is Doctor Who still on the air? If not, what regeneration did they end it with? You should go watch some Doctor Who! Later though … you gotta finish reading your own words of wisdom!

Do you have your own place yet? If we’re in college, what are we majoring in? Right now, I wanna be a lawyer.

Have you been to Dollywood recently? Right now, their newest attraction is the Wild Eagle. It’s so fun!

Also I think I’m going to sell my iPad and buy an iPad mini. Don’t forget to tell your kids that we’re older than the tablet! Attached I also have a drawing of an iPad, so you can show them.

Well, I think that’s all. But remember, it’s been 10 years since I wrote this. Stuff has happened, good and bad. That’s just how life works, and you have to go with it.

Sincerely, Taylor Smith

* * *

Did you pay close attention to her last paragraph: “ … Stuff has happened, good and bad. That’s just how life works, and you have to go with it.” Wow! That mission trip to Cranks, Ky., was to help underprivileged children. She paid for it with the Christmas money from her great grandmother and had already planned to go on another mission trip this summer.

Taylor’s aunt said the international response to the letter was enormous. “The family has gotten letters from parents who lost a child who wanted to say how much this meant to them, and the majority of what they’ve heard is from college students who said ‘I’m that person. I’m Taylor Smith at 22.’ The story has challenged them to live on purpose,” she told columnist Becky Campbell of the Johnson City Press.

Last week the “Random Act of Kindness in Taylor Scout Smith’s Honor” Facebook page -- or on Tweeter (#shinelikethestars) – already included free biscuits for several unsuspecting people at Bojangles and a caramel coffee for a school crossing guard, but that was just for starters. There were thousands of RAKs, trust me.

“It’s such a great story,” her aunt Kathy said. “We wish it was someone else’s, but having her in our lives for 12 years, 8 months, 29 days was a blessing.”

Funny how things work out … Taylor Scout Smith’s 13th birthday was a big blessing, too.

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