"...for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God" This was said by Ruth, but it applies to any good pastor's wife.


"The Death of Wylene Smallwood: An Ordinary Woman with an Extraordinary Story"

By Bob Smallwood


October 20, 1932 – November 6, 2011

            Wylene’s story began in March of 1957, when she accepted Christ as her Savior and was born again.  For the next 45 years, she stood by my side while I pastured several churches.   Everyone considered her the perfect pastor’s wife.  I know that I could not have done the work of a pastor without her.

            One morning, in 1993, she woke up and said “Bobby, my back is killing me.”  From then on we went to many doctors.  Three doctors told us the she had the worst back they had seen and not to let anyone operate on her back, for there was a 50/50 chance she would die on the operating table.  For the next 18 years her back was in constant pain, with a 2011 MRI showing multiple fractures in her back.  I always ask, every morning, “Hon, how’s your back?” and every single morning, for 18 years, she replied, “Bobby, it’s killing me.”  No one but her knew how bad she hurt.  She was able to use a walker at home, but rarely left the house due to her pain.

            On October 1, 2011, she was admitted to the Villa Rica Hospital with pneumonia, where she stayed for 14 days.   At the time of her discharge, she was unable to stand or walk, so we had to move her to The Oaks at Carrollton for rehabilitation.  She tried her best, but her back pain wouldn’t allow her to do the rehab exercises.  She prayed many times, asking the Lord to help her with the exercises, but after 5 weeks, she still was not able to stand or walk. 

            On Tuesday, November 15, 2011, I went into her room, and, as always, asked, “Hon; how’s your back?”  For the first time, she paused, and said, “Bobby, it doesn’t hurt.”   Immediately, I’m on “cloud nine.”  I said, “Wylene, God has healed your back!  We will be going home.  You will walk out of here – all our prayers have been answered!”

            All throughout the day on Tuesday, I asked about her back, and she always had the same answer: it doesn’t hurt.  I left her that night at 10 o’clock (because I wasn’t allowed to stay at night), and her back still did not hurt.  I kissed her good night, as I had every night for 57 years, and said “Wylene, I really do love you.”  She answered, “I know, Bobby, and I love you.”  At that time, I did not know that those were the last words she would speak to me.

            Six hours later, I got a telephone call.

            “Your wife has stopped breathing.”

            We had the funeral, but it was not a regular funeral.  Many said it was like a regular morning service, as she would have wanted.

            Two weeks passed.  I shopped by the rehab center to get her clothing, TV, and personal items.  I asked the administrator if I could go to each department and thank them for taking care of my wife.  As I went by the nurse’s station, a nurse told me to wait.  She walked to me and said, “Has anyone told you what went on in your wife’s room when she died?”


            Another nurse came up, “Has the other nurse told you what happened to me in your wife’s room when she died?”

            “No, but I wish some would”

            They began to tell me what happened, and, as they spoke, I began to remember what went on in my wife’s room on her last day.  I had been so thrilled about her being pain free that I didn’t realize what was happening in this conversation:

            I had been washing my hands when I heard her talking.  I thought she was talking to me.  I answered, “I’ll be there in a moment”

            I dried my hands and went into her room.

            “What do you want, Hon?”

            She answered, “Nothing.”

            “I heard you talking, and I thought you wanted me.”

            She answered, “I was talking.”

            “Was a nurse in here?”


            “Who were you talking to?”

            “Bobby, I am talking to the person in white that is standing next to you.”

            I didn’t grasp that she was saying, because I was so excited about her having no pain.  I know now that she was telling me that she was going to die, but I didn’t grasp it at the time.

            The rest of that day was like any other day.  We talked, we watched TV, we read, but at times she would say things that I didn’t understand.  The pneumonia had affected her speech, and sometimes what she said didn’t make much sense.  

            I would say, “Honey, I didn’t understand.”

            She would answer, “Bobby, I am not talking to you.  I am talking to the person in the room.”

            This happened several times and I just brushed it aside.  She was telling me she was leaving and my mind was on no pain.  I left her at 10 o’clock Tuesday night, still with no pain and still talking to the person in white.

            Now back to the nurses –

            Nurse #1 – “We heard Mrs. Smallwood talking in her room.  We thought she was trying to get in touch with us and had dropped her call button.  We knew she could not stand or walk, and we were afraid she might fall.  I said, “Mrs. Smallwood, do you need me?”

            “She answered, no.”

            “I heard you talking and thought you needed us.”

            “I was talking to the person in the white sitting in the chair in the corner.  He will be leaving in a little while, and I will be going with him.”

            Nurse #1 left and went back to the nurse’s station where she told Nurse #2, “Go to Mrs. Smallwood’s room and tell me what you see and hear.”

            Nurse #2 came back and said, “Mrs. Smallwood is talking to an empty chair thinking that someone is in it, saying that person is leaving soon and she is going with them, and she cannot stand or walk.”  

            The maintenance man had to come in, in the middle of the night and was on his was home.  The nurse asked him to go to Mrs. Smallwood’s room and tell her no one is in the chair.”

            Wylene said, “Oh yes there is”

            Maintenance man, “I will show you there is no one in this chair.  I will sit in it.”

            Wylene said, “You can if you want to, but you will be sitting in his lap.”

            The maintenance man told me “I got out of there.”

            The people are now gathering and listening at the door to my wife’s room.  The nurses knew it wouldn’t be long.  Wylene said, “Well, it is time to go.  Before we go, I want to pray.”  I asked them, “What did she pray about?”

            They told me she prayed aloud, and they heard what she said.  First of all, she prayed that God would take care of her husband while she was gone, then she prayed for her children.  We have three sons and one daughter.  Then she prayed that her sisters and brother would meet her in heaven. 

            Then she prayed, one by one, for our grandchildren.  We have eleven grandchildren and one, Andrew, who died at the age of 5 months.  She finished her prayer and the nurses told me these were her last words:  “Andy, Maw Maw will see you in a moment.”

            Then her heart stopped.

Yea, though I walk through the
valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil:
for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.


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