Alaina Cash is weeks from finishing cosmetology school in Statesville, and she can’t count the times her grandmother Brenda Smith came through the door “to get her hair done – even when she didn’t need it.”
“Just so I could get a good grade,” said Cash, 20. “But that was my Nana. It was her way of supporting me.”
Smith, “Nana” to her four grandchildren, was one of six members of Statesville’s Front Street Baptist Church killed Wednesday when their church bus crashed in Tennessee. Her husband, Thomas “Lynn,” 74, was critically injured.
Last month, they celebrated their 51st anniversary, Cash said.
She called her grandmother a “godly” woman. “She’d go to church seven days a week if she could,” Cash said.
Even at 69, she continued to work, cleaning teeth and taking care of paperwork at the oral surgery office where she had worked for 45 years. Lynn Smith had continued to work too, managing a fiberglass plant in Statesville where he’s been for 50 years.
Recently, the dentist began to wind down his practice, which gave Brenda more time to do for others, especially her grandchildren – Alaina Cash, her 11-year-old brother Nicholas, and cousins Konner Gooden, 11, and Karrigan, 5.
Alaina was the only grandchild for 10 years and Nana took her everywhere – to eat in nice restaurants, to the park to play or to doctors appointments.
If a family she knew was grieving or celebrating a happy moment, she’d take meals of hams, fried chicken and her popular sweet potato casserole.
“She would find any excuse to cook someone a meal,” Cash said. “It made her happy to help people.”
Karrigan Gooden was born with cystic fibrosis, and it was Nana who took her to doctor’s appointments.
As of Friday, Karrigan hadn’t been told about the grandmother, Alaina Cash said. “We are all very concerned about how she will take it. Nana was such a big part of her life.”
On Friday, the family was taken to the wrecked bus to retrieve luggage and other belongings.
“My mother and aunt are still in shock,” Cash said. “It was hard for them to see that bus. We will continue to stand by my grandfather. But we all miss my Nana so much.
“Not a day went by that my Nana wouldn’t call me. Oh, how I wish my phone would ring and I’d see her caller ID pop up.”
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