Synovial Cell Sarcoma: Abby Smith's Story and Hope
“Miracles are a shadow of what’s to come; a miracle is just a temporary fix. I don’t exactly know why things are happening the way they are, but He’s given me so much peace about it. I know He loves me. Without a doubt, He loves me, and I don’t have to have a miracle to know that.”
Some stories are so compelling that you could read or watch them over and over again and never tire of them. Abigail Smith’s story is one of those for me. Her beauty, hope, and faith are so inspiring to see, and I can’t watch her without my eyes welling with tears. My heart resonates with knowing Jesus deeper through pain, and His kindness and goodness to meet us in those moments brings the most real peace I have ever experienced. Abby’s hope in God and life forever spent in relationship with Him is our ultimate HOPE, too. Here is her story:
Abby truly lived a beautiful life. Today marks two years since she went to heaven, and it is a great honor and privilege to share with you a recent conversation we were able to have with her mom, Betty Smith.
In Abby’s video, she talks about finding hope in her eternal home. Walk us through what it looked like to find hope as her parents letting go of her on earth. How did you manage the transition from Abby being here to being in heaven?
In the last days of Abby’s life, I posted this on her Facebook page and it continues to ring true for us today:
“This is from Betty, Abby's mother. We have been overwhelmed by the prayers and encouraging messages we have gotten from our family, friends and even folks we have never met. We appreciate your support so much and feel your arms holding us up.
Many have wondered how I, as a mother, am doing. To be honest, it is very sad to be losing our only daughter, who is my best friend, helper, and fashion advisor. I will miss drinking a cup of tea with her and chatting about the day, miss watching our favorite movies together, miss having all her sweet friends hanging around.
But, on the other hand, I am so excited for her! It seems that she is going to finish the assignments that God prepared for her much sooner than most of the rest of us. We are blessed that we have had time to prepare for her death. But we have actually been preparing her for her death all her life. We've always talked about living life as though we were going to live one hundred years or to be prepared to die tomorrow. So she is eagerly looking forward to being with Jesus Christ in the place that He is preparing for her.
In the book that we have been reading out loud together ("Things Unseen" by Mark Buchanan), we are being reminded that Heaven isn't going to be a place where we sit around on clouds and play harps. And we aren't going to turn into angels (they are unique creations, people don't become angels). The Bible tells us that Heaven is going to be more beautiful than we can imagine. But most importantly, Heaven is not just about a place—it's about a relationship. And that relationship with Jesus Christ begins right here on earth.
Abby entered into that relationship with Jesus as her Savior when she was a very young child and she has loved and followed Him ever since. She can't wait to see Him face-to-face. So I can let her go (but I really couldn't keep her even if I tried), knowing that she and we are in God's good hands.”
What would you tell a family who has lost a child and is facing their first holiday season without them?
The first year is hard. There are so many ‘firsts’ that we have to go through. Abby died just before Christmas, and we were blessed to be able to spend it with our extended family and divide our sorrow and share our joy with them. For her first birthday in Heaven, a friend made cupcakes to sell to celebrate her birthday and donated the money to Abby’s fund for children with cancer and special missionary friends. And for the anniversary of her first year in Heaven (another hard day) we got together with her brothers, had a meal together and spent the day looking at pictures and sharing memories.
Many of our readers play the “support role” to families going through medical adversity. Were there any things that your friends/family did to help carry you through this time? Anything that was not helpful?
Besides encouraging notes and prayers, things that were helpful were practical things—babysitting our younger children, cleaning the house, bringing meals, running errands, bringing paper goods (paper cups and plates, etc.), and sending cards, emails and flowers. We didn’t really want anyone but family or close friends to come near the end, and Abby was able to say “good-bye” and give a blessing to most of them.
Things that were hurtful were people who were demanding that God heal Abby, and when it didn’t happen, causing her (and us) to question if we were lacking faith. When she got to the place where she realized that she didn’t need a miracle to know that God loved her, that she didn’t have to say just the right words or go to just the right church, or have just the right people to pray for her, she was truly able to pray, “Not my will but Your will be done.”
One of the quotes I love most from Abby’s Part One video is “I’ve never felt more like He understands what I’m going through than now because I know that He went through the worst possible pain that you can go through as a human, and I know He knows exactly what I feel. And I think that’s the main reason why I think I can turn to Him because He’s been through it all already and He promises to help us through that.” Have you found that to be true for your pain as well? Talk about how Christ has carried you through losing Abby.
Yes, we have experienced being carried through the past two years. God is faithful and we find comfort in sharing God’s comfort with others. We are involved in a faith-based grief share group on Facebook called “While We’re Waiting” and that has given us opportunities to encourage others who are going through the experience of losing a child. I thank God often for “our” story and for the time that we were blessed with Abby’s life and how her story continues to reach people for Christ.
What is life like for your family today?
We have adopted twins (who are now almost four) since Abby died. Abby was able to meet them and they remember her even though they were under two when she died. We also have the twins’ brother, who is now seven. Although it wasn’t convenient to be fostering/adopting at the time, we realize that God knew what we (and they) needed. Our adult sons live fairly close-by and we see them frequently. Two of them will be getting married soon. We share Abby’s story with almost everyone we meet and have been able to maintain her Facebook page (Amazing Abby) where almost one million people have watched her story.
Any other thoughts you’d like to share with our readers or other families who may be in a similar situation?
Abby was diagnosed with Synovial Cell Sarcoma (a rare cancer) in 2012 and underwent surgery and 37 radiation treatments. When her doctor gave her the diagnosis, he told her some life-changing words: "Everyone is dealt a deck of cards. We don't get to choose the cards, but we do get to choose how we play them. We can either be bitter or thankful." Abby chose thankful, even when she found out that the cancer had metastasized. And she chose to live life to the fullest.
We love this verse that Betty, Abby’s mom, shared with us:
"And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.
We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words."
1 Thessalonians 4:13–5:11
Abby’s life was truly one of beauty of hope. We are so grateful to the Smith family for allowing us to share her story here. They actively maintain her Facebook page, Amazing Abby, and you can find the first part of her story, Part 1: Terminal Cancer Wasn’t In My Plans, here.