In some ironic way, a 12-year-old’s dream to travel the world doing mission work has materialized with her death, and though Tim and Ellen miss their youngest child terribly, they can see the impact she’s made around the globe.
Taylor Scout Smith — described by her family as a vibrant, quirky, wise beyond her age preteen — already had a plan for herself. That plan was cut short Jan. 5 when she died from complications from the flu.
Or was it?
Taylor’s father, Tim Smith, said Friday his family has received letter after letter from people who’ve heard about his daughter’s death and written to share the impact she had on them.
One letter, from a law student in Alabama, talked about “getting in touch with God again and remembering your dreams when you were young and not being so bitter about life,” Smith said.
One thing that may have touched off a firestorm of attention was the letter Taylor wrote to herself last year, sealed in an envelope. She wrote on the outside that she was the only one who could open it “unless otherwise said,” 10 years from that day. She would have been 22 years old in 2023 and no one knows what her reaction to the letter might have been, but people from around the world have certainly expressed a renewal in their lives from hearing her words.
But Taylor’s family doesn’t want the real essence of who Taylor was to get lost. She was a spiritual child who dove head first into her Christian faith and didn’t mind sharing it. A big part of Taylor’s life dream was her love of Christ that she wanted so desperately to share with the world.
And that, her father said, is exactly what’s happening.
“From a daddy’s standpoint, you want what she wants. But then there’s the flipside where I wish it didn’t happen this way,” he said. And because Smith knows how much Taylor wanted to share that and herself with others, he’s allowed full access to things he posts on Facebook about her, including photos and that now-famous letter she wrote to herself.
It’s truly been around the world. Smith has had notifications and “likes” on posts about Taylor from people living in India, the United Kingdom, South Asia, Germany, China, Hungary, Holland, Hong Kong, Africa, Malaysia, The Netherlands, the Philippines, Korea, Taiwan and more.
“I’m blown away that God is using it the way He’s using it. The fact she wrote a letter like that is no surprise to us but … what everybody’s picking up on … a lot of people are getting to hear how she felt about God and about Christ and been able to reconnect and hear it from a child who hasn’t grown up and become bitter yet.
“In Corinthians, Paul said ‘I’ve become all things to all people so that they may know the gospel.’ Taylor, I think, is doing that now. She’s becoming all things to all people,” he said.
An example, Smith said, is the fact Taylor’s story was on the Gaily Grind website for gays and lesbians as well as a Young Conservatives website.
“How cool is it that she made the Gaily Grind to the Young Conservatives. She passed every boundary that nobody else could,” said Taylor’s aunt, Kathy Oakes.
Smith said Taylor’s classmates have also reached out to the family and he learned that a Muslim boy and Taylor had often sat together at lunch discussing their faith and spirituality.
All the attention is a double-edged sword for Smith and his family.
“It’s a blessing, and at the same time … it’s hard. Most people, when they bury their child they don’t have to deal with it on an international level,” he said.
To cope, he, his wife, Ellen, and their son, Judah, are taking things one day at a time.
“My wife and I are just trying to figure out how to heal. How do we become a family of three now instead of four and make sure our son feels loved and at the same still grieve through this?” he said.
They also continue to find small gifts from Taylor as they attempt to return to some kind of normal. Taylor’s mom found one of those gifts when she returned to work in Kingsport where she is a teacher.
She saw a photograph she keeps of her daughter on a bulletin board with a poem Taylor wrote:
“Mom, we’ll always be together
Through thick and thin
As a team we always win
Until the end of time
I’ll love you, I love you