Fifty stockings hung above a fireplace beside her and the tree nearby had an abundance of presents below, but for Lisa Smith, the chance to spend Christmas Eve with her family was the only gift that mattered.
“She’s a determined, strong young lady,” mother-in-law Brenda Yon said. “She says all the time, ‘God’s got this, we just have to trust.’”
Smith, 48, is in hospice care for cancer. She was diagnosed earlier this year after seeking treatment for what she thought was a persistent cough caused by bronchitis. An X-ray revealed that she had lung cancer and subsequent tests found that she also had colon cancer. She has been receiving care at home since October.
Every year, Smith’s extended family crowds into the home of her in-laws, Larry and Brenda Yon, for supper. There’s one stocking above the fireplace for the six children, 22 grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and other family members. Supper is held in the Yon garage where two long tables with chairs are set up. Candles, decorations and the smell of home cooking help give it a festive atmosphere.
“I know it’s not the most beautifulest thing, but for us it is,” Brenda Yon said. “It’s pure family and love.”
It was also something Smith was determined to see.
“Christmas has always been Lisa’s favorite holiday,” husband Stuart Smith said. “She enjoys watching the kids open gifts and always coordinated the name-drawing.”
The trip to her mother-in-law’s home was no easy road for Smith. Routine travel is difficult for her, as she must be placed in a wheelchair and loaded and unloaded from a vehicle. Her husband Stuart, a Southeast Alabama Medical Center security guard, placed an ad on his employer’s website seeking a rental van to help ferry his wife to the family gathering. Shortly thereafter, Pilcher’s Ambulance Service made contact with the family and offered transport. It’s one of many blessings Stuart said his family has received from the community since his wife became ill.
Exchange students the Smiths have hosted over the years have sent well wishes and gifts to “Momma Lisa,” including a blanket she was wrapped in Tuesday night. Recently, members of the choir from Slocomb High School, where her daughter Lydia attends, visited Smith and sang for her.
Her sons agree that getting the opportunity to spend the holiday with her family was the biggest blessing of all.
“You don’t want to ever think this could be the last Christmas, but it could be,” Hamp Smith said. “Her being here means a lot.”
Luke Smith said, “I’m just glad she’s able to come out and be with her family. She never gets the chance to be out of the house.”
On Tuesday night, Smith rested in a comfortable seat, surrounded by her family. She smiled from time to time as family members visited with her or as a child toddled past. Smith tires easily and speaking can be exhausting. She had one thought she wished to share on Tuesday, however.
“I am happy to be here one more Christmas,” she said. “I hope that my family will enjoy the rest of their lives as the days go by.”