Loving someone is one of the greatest motivators we as human beings experience. Many times it is the only thing strong enough to propel us to become, create, and forge new paths in the name of those we love. It is truly a beautiful gift when someone allows their love to be utilized to better the world. Meet a woman who is doing just that.
Her name is Carolyn Smith and she was sick with grief when her husband, Fred, passed away. Unsure of how to continue on without him, she became lost in her devastation during the weeks that turned into months after his passing. Unable to find any joy in living without the love of her life by her side, Carolyn decided that nothing was more important to her than reconnecting with Fred. This compelled her to begin researching the phenomenon of psychic mediums, of which she knew very little. After reading about dozens of them online, Carolyn found herself most drawn to one located in Phoenix, Arizona. Needing to experience it in person instead of over the phone, she booked an appointment and drove the five hours from Las Vegas to see if reconnecting with a deceased loved one through mediumship was truly a possibility.
After sitting down in his office and handing Psychic Medium, Ricky Wood some recent pictures of her husband, she waited a few moments while internally questioning whether the continuation of our spirits after death was simply a fairytale. Suddenly, Ricky looked up and said, “I smell cigarette smoke.”
Carolyn was a bit taken aback as Fred had smoked when he was younger, but it hadn’t been a part of their lives together for the last couple of decades. The pictures she shared were much more recent and didn’t offer anything that suggested as much. Ricky continued speaking as if he was seeing something she couldn’t, “I’m seeing him as he was when he was younger. I’m also smelling baby powder. Does that mean anything to you?”
Carolyn smiled and a knowing encircled her like a warm hug. Fred was a daily user of baby powder. Ricky continued to offer her validation that not only was her beloved husband still around, but he was worried about her, sharing that she wouldn’t stop crying long enough to notice his signs. From that day forward, Carolyn knew unequivocally that Fred hadn’t just vanished from her life one day after 46 years together. Although she no longer saw him physically, her session with Ricky reassured her that her husband’s spirit remained involved in her present day life.
Feeling more confident that Fred was indeed still with her, Carolyn began to revisit some of the places they had frequented together. One of the couple’s favorite treats was enjoying a sandwich at Capriotti’s. As she ate, Carolyn reminisced about her husband’s huge heart and propensity to help those who were less fortunate. Almost every week, he would pick up someone in need, take them with him to turn in his recyclable cans, and give them the money he received. To her surprise since she hadn’t been directly involved with his good deeds, Carolyn felt moved to continue his acts of kindness. Before leaving the shop, she bought a few extra sandwiches and drove downtown, stopping outside of Catholic Charities. She felt as if her soul was smiling and her husband was right next to her as she handed out the sandwiches to a few people who looked like they could use a meal.
Although Carolyn relished those few moments, in the days that followed she couldn’t shake the feeling that she had to do more for the countless others she passed by that looked hungry as well. During her next trip to the grocery store, the thought occurred to her that she could afford to feed many more people by buying the ingredients and making the sandwiches herself. The following Monday morning, Carolyn made forty sandwiches and returned to hand them out. Offering more felt even better than her first visit. Each time she went to the grocery store, Carolyn searched for deals so she could offer additional treats to accompany the sandwiches. Eventually, her Monday visits with her new found friends included not only the sandwiches but cupcakes, bottled water, and anything else she saw on sale. Carolyn never sat down and created a plan but instead allowed herself to go with the spirit that moved her.
As the amount of sandwiches and snacks she offered grew, there were new challenges as it became more difficult to pass out each individual piece of the meal to so many people. To her delight, some of the recipients offered to help, telling her to relax since she spent all morning preparing the food. One day, George, her self-appointed protector, offered to purchase brown paper bags to use the next time. Not long after Carolyn began delivering every Monday, George told her he felt like he was supposed to look out for her as he too had felt a spiritual nudge to keep her safe. She gladly accepted his help and friendship, thoroughly enjoying the small group that took her under their wing. The sandwich group banded together to welcome her into their community and stood up for her if anyone tried to give her a hard time or ‘make trouble’ as they said.
On numerous occasions while sitting with them as they ate, they articulated how much they appreciated her efforts. A few even shared more about themselves, their lives, and how they’d ended up homeless. Carolyn learned that 98% of those she met did not abuse drugs or alcohol, nor were they suffering from overt mental illness. Instead, most had fallen on hard times physically or financially and eventually succumbed to living on the streets. Although a few receive disability, it isn’t enough to afford housing and basic living requirements.
Even those who didn’t offer much about themselves freely told her why they preferred her lunches to the food offered in the nearby shelters. Not only because her meals were homemade, delicious, and the shelter food reminded them of poor tasting cafeteria food, but most importantly because they weren’t allowed to bring their possessions into the shelters with them. They feared leaving what they did have outside because when they had previously, it was gone along with their spot when they returned. This is also the reason that many of them choose to sleep outside at night, besides other restrictions such as having to be in the shelter by early evening and so forth.
As the weeks and months passed, news quickly spread about Carolyn’s Monday visits and there is never a shortage of grateful souls thanking her for her brown bagged lunches. As of now, she is up to 85 sandwiches every week. In this community, she is not known as Carolyn Smith, instead most refer to her by her nickname the ‘Marine Lady.’ The name makes her smile because they are referring to Fred’s Marine Corp stickers on her car. Always proud of his ten years of service, he continued to show his patriotism throughout his life, and Carolyn was proud to be the wife of this particular Marine.
Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the constantly increasing number of sandwiches and bags she packs, Carolyn looks forward to Mondays. Not only because she feels that she is fulfilling a purpose much greater than herself and giving back for how blessed she is, but it is her time with Fred. Along with this confidence and what Ricky continued to teach her in subsequent sessions, Carolyn learned to tune into the much more subtle whisperings of her husband’s spirit communications. At first, it felt random and fleeting when she heard the lyrics of a song on the TV or radio sound amplified as if they were meant from Fred just for her. Eventually, she developed the sensitivity to feel many of the moments he tries to communicate with her. So much so that when Carolyn hears a song that she knows Fred wants her to hear, she saves it and burns all of them onto a CD. Every Monday while making her sandwiches and packing lunches, she smiles and sings along. There is no question in her mind that Fred is there with her.
Not long after beginning her sandwich making journey, Carolyn shared with Ricky what she was doing. He was so moved that he felt compelled by Fred to assist her. Since then, Ricky offers $30 off any session if a client brings him in ‘snacks for the homeless’ or mails individual serving snacks to Carolyn to add to the lunches. She is so grateful because unfortunately, the amount of Good Samaritans that hand out food in the same area has begun to dwindle. Carolyn’s sandwich group shared with her that more and more tickets have been given out by the police to those stopping to feed them. Rumor has it that the fines have gone from $250 to as high as $1,000.
This hasn’t deterred Carolyn, quite the opposite in fact. Not only do her offerings continue to increase in size, she doesn’t miss a Monday. She says she is waiting for her ticket so she has the opportunity to stand before a judge and ask why it is a finable offense to feed people in need. Although she is aware that shelters have restrictions to try to keep order, some of those in need are unable to comply, causing them to have to forgo help they could desperately use.
What started as a nudge from her late husband to help the community that he could no longer serve physically has turned into an extended family for her. So much so that they have all agreed to have a Thanksgiving feast and celebration of their own. The sandwich crew scouted and found the best spot, while she is joyfully shopping and preparing the meal. At 70 years young, Carolyn continues to find some days more difficult than others, but in some ways she feels she has found a new lease on life with an extended community and a new appreciation for spending time with her husband. Although he may not be seen physically standing next to her, his spirit surely is there and the foundation of her journey. At times, it seems to Carolyn like Fred is speaking to her through George.
When a day feels particularly tough, she remembers something Ricky said to her, ‘You have to get out of yourself,’ which reminds her to choose to do something to honor her husband and embrace their continued love. She also recalls something she read right after his death that stuck with her. It suggested learning to ‘trust that there are no coincidences’ and to look at these events as possibly containing a message from our loved one, as they usually do. Although she knows it is hard while going through grief, her advice to anyone suffering is to just continue to strive for it every day. Getting closer to God by praying has also offered her some peace. Carolyn feels that her communion with God doesn’t happen on Sunday in a church, but on Monday—feeding those in need.
Carolyn hopes you will give thanks this season, for your loved ones near and far by reaching out and making someone’s day better than you found it. Before getting to know this community, she was unaware of all of the challenges one faces when homeless. If you feel moved to do so, she welcomes your additions to her bagged lunches that can fit in backpacks, such as: individual serving size snacks of pretzels, chips, nuts, or the like. Small personal care items such as: deodorant, toothpaste and toothbrushes are also welcomed. (Please do NOT send drinks, large bags of snacks, or anything immediately perishable.)
Carolyn is calling this labor of love, Project – Fred’s Heart after the wonderful man that inspired it.
If you have any questions or would like to offer your assistance to Carolyn, you can contact her at Nvsmith2@cox.net.
Donations can be mailed to:
Carolyn Smith at P.O. Box 752290
Las Vegas, NV 89136
*Carolyn cannot offer you any type of 1099 or donation receipt for tax purposes.
Whether you are new to grief or have been struggling with it for a long time, may you feel inspired by Carolyn to take a step towards honoring your loved one by helping others. Or by Ricky, to join someone else and assist them on their journey. Our loved ones don’t cease to exist after physical death, They’re Not Gone. Imagine if you could hear your deceased loved one’s voice again right now, would they prefer your prolonged sadness due to their physical absence or to watch you discover a sense of purpose by helping others, fueled by your love for them?
Please do not think I’m disregarding your need to grieve or the depths of pain one feels when a loved one passes. Quite the opposite, I’m quite intimately familiar with suffering for decades before finding peace with the help of Ricky’s skills. However, I’ve found that the small acts of kindness that people like Carolyn and Ricky demonstrate remind me that we each have a choice. Either we can become paralyzed and blinded by our grief or we can use it as fuel to help others, thus honoring the love we continue to share with our loved one. May you feel as inspired to offer an act of kindness to a stranger or a cause that moves you. At the very least, that you’ll help spread the word so others will know how they can join us or feel motivated to start their own tradition.
Thank you Carolyn and Ricky, you both make me want to be a more giving person.