My heart was touched and encouraged every time I visited Stella Smith. She was a dear friend who enriched my life. She had a great sense of humor and could make me laugh. There were times that my stomach hurt from nonstop, belly-roll laughing.
Stella was the youngest of eight children and she dreamed as a child of a day when she could raise five or six children of her own. Stella believed her dream was coming true after meeting and marrying Vernon –– the love of her life.
Sadly, the couple learned they could not have children. Stella’s hurt was so deep she determined to never hold another child again.
“My heart froze,” she told me.
Then one day while reading about the needs of the children at Baptist Children’s Homes (BCH) in Charity & Children, she was moved to help. Stella and Vernon began to send five dollar gifts when they were able.
The hardness that was there to protect her heart softened over time. Stella grew to love and cherish BCH –– upclose and personal. She called BCH’s children her children.
On one of her regular visits to Mills Home in Thomasville, Stella shared how she and Vernon had placed BCH in their Will. Stella also established several gift annuities and named BCH as her life insurance policy beneficiary. When she could no longer drive, Stella donated her car to BCH.
Stella encouraged others to place BCH in their Wills and become I.G. Greer Society members. She was one of our most enthusiastic and vocal ambassadors.
Visiting one day, it was obvious Stella had something on her mind. She wanted to discuss her funeral plans. “You will sing at my funeral,” she stated. “I want you and Steve Hoffman (former BCH staff member and her long-time friend) to represent my children (her BCH children) as my family.”
She asked that BCH’s Lewis Smith speak during the service and asked that Sam Barefoot attend. I assured her that her wishes would be honored.
When Steve called to tell me that Stella had a matter of days to live, I traveled to visit one last time. I was told she might not be awake so I quietly entered the room. She had not opened her eyes that morning.
I walked over, patted her hand, leaned over her, and whispered, “Stella, it’s, Brenda.” No response. “Stella, it’s Brenda.” I repeated.
“I know,” she whispered back.
“I came to visit and be with you Stella.”
She responded, “It’s about time you got here, I have been waiting on you. What took you so long?”
Those in the room laughed.
I sat beside her bed and held her hand. “Sing for my funeral?” she asked.
“I will, Stella.”
“Sing now” she said. I began softly singing “Amazing Grace” followed by one of her favorites, “Jesus Loves Me.” One of her friends sitting with us asked me to sing “It Is Well with My Soul.”
When I finished, Stella called me closer and said faintly, “Brenda, it is well with my soul.”
“I know Stella.”
She quietly repeated “It is well with my soul.” I prayed and said good-bye to my sweet friend.
The following week, I shared the story of this last visit during Stella’s Celebration of Life service. Her BCH family was there to celebrate her. I sang “Amazing Grace” and “It Is Well with My Soul.” Steve, Lewis and her pastor all spoke in tribute. Sam Barefoot served as one of the pallbearers.
I know she was pleased that we followed her instructions.
Since then, we have received funds from several gift annuities, her life insurance, and other provisions that were a part of her Last Will and Testament. Stella determined to be a part of transforming children’s lives while she lived and in her passing.
Will you follow Stella’s example and leave a legacy of generosity?
January is “Make Your Will Month.” Legacy gifts represent the long-term assurance that BCH will always be able to keep its promise to care for those in need. With your help and through you generosity, the children of tomorrow will benefit from this legacy of sharing hope…changing lives which began 133 years ago.
Consider these ways to include BCH in your Will: 1. Denote a specific amount to be given to BCH. 2. Specify a percentage of assets to come to BCH. 3. Indicate the residue of the assets to come to BCH. 4. Name BCH as the contingent beneficiary. Other legacy giving options such as a gift annuity, trust, insurance, and utilizing retirement plan assets make a lasting difference.
I am so grateful for Stella and others who leave a legacy through their estate planning. For more information on how you can impact the “least of these” through your legacy gift, call me at 336-689-4442.
Leave a legacy through planned giving. Visit www.bchlegacy.org.