Taylor Smith is a 12 year old girl from Johnson City who died earlier this month. Her parents found a letter that she had written to her future self.
Taylor Scout Smith is a 12 year old girl from Johnson City who died earlier this month.
Her parents found a letter that Taylor had written to herself to be opened by her when she turned 22.
Her story has touched countless lives since going viral on the web but it's only part of a story about a girl who left behind a grieving family and a legacy of faith, hope, and wisdom well beyond her years.
Even at an early age Taylor Smith had big plans for her life.
"She was very creative, she was brilliant, she was funny. You could have a conversation with her and you didn't feel like you were talking with a 12 year old. She was a great mix of my wife and myself," Tim Smith said.
He said his daughter spent hours making crafts and journaling. She loved her family including older brother Judah. She also loved the television show "Dr. Who."
She went on her very first mission trip in 2013
"Above all she loved God and Jesus and she wanted people to know about them," Tim Smith said. "She had wanted to go to Honduras and Russia and some of the upcoming trips but her mom and I were like why don't you try one local first? So, last year she went to Cranks Creek, Kentucky to help the underprivileged and, I don't know, just whatever they were doing. She was scrawny, you know, 70 pounds or whatever but she was going to do what she could do."
The first week of 2014 changed the family dynamic forever when Taylor became ill.
"Basically, flu like symptoms on a Thursday. Friday went to the doctor, they listened to her, didn't hear anything in her chest whatsoever. Flu test was negative, they thought the symptoms were enough like flu so they treated it as flu. Forty four hours later, she passed out and died right there in our house," he recalled
The beautiful and talented 12 year old died of pneumonia.
"There was nothing that we could have done that we didn't already do, just treating it like it was a cold. You think you're just going to get over that and so it was absolute shock and surprise," he said.
Though they were still in shock, the Smiths began collecting items to be used at Taylor's memorial. That's when they found a letter that changed everything.
"We were just looking through a box of her drawings and writings and found it taped shut to be opened 10 years in the future," he said. "Of course, we opened it to see and I think what got us, initially, was because the fact that she did a letter like this is not a surprise to us, that kind of quirky crafty stuff that she liked do."
The 12 year old Taylor quizzes her future self about college and how at the time she wanted to be a lawyer. She wrote about "Dr. Who" and Dollywood's Wild Eagle. She wrote the letter after her mission trip so she reminds her 22 year old self about serving God. It's a mix of childhood dreams and adult realities.
"The last line is what got us when she said it's been 10 years since I've written this. Stuff has happened..some good, some bad that's just the way life works and you have to roll with it," he said. "To read that a day or two after she passed away is profound."
The letter quickly went viral on the internet and in a matter of days was featured on The Today show and in People Magazine.
"I don't know what's caused it to go viral other than God wanting to use it in some other way and that's the only way I can look at it 'cause that's the way Taylor would want it," he said.
Tim Smith said his family continues to hear from people who credit his daughter with inspiring changes in their lives.
"There was a 22 year old lawyer who, you know, Taylor would have been 22 when she opened the letter. Taylor wanted to be a lawyer, so it almost felt like hearing back from her future self. This girl in law school was touched by it and challenged to get back to the relationship she had with God from her 12 year old self," he said. "There was a string of break-ins at local churches and stuff and ours was one of them, which wasn't that big of a deal but we got a letter that came in that starts off 'I'm the 19 year old guy who broke into your church.' He's in jail and three weeks ago he accepted Christ. He had seen Taylor's story and saying he was so sorry about that and he wanted to come out and help with the church to make amends to what he had done."
Tim Smith admits that he and his family are taking things one day at a time, learning how to be a family of three instead of four.
"There's a part of me that wants to blame but you can't blame. I want to blame God, I want to be mad at God what good would that do when I'm getting mad at the same person that she was in love with?" he said.
They'll continue to treasure this unexpected find, a letter with words of hope written by a child with hopes for her future.
"We just hope that her letter is an encouragement to others and that brings other to Christ and encourages those that don't know him or those that do whatever kind of inspiration," he said.