By Thomas Sellers Jr.
One of the best known Bible verses is John 3:16.
It reads, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
The number 316 has taken on an additional spiritual meaning for Old Millington Winery co-owner Carrie Welch.
On June 19 in Room 316 of the Admiralty Suites & Inn, Welch witnessed the last living moments of her friend Lisa Nelson. Nelson, 53, passed away from complications due to her returning cancer.
The room in the Millington hotel would become Nelson’s home with her loving dog Chico by her side. And Carrie along with her husband Perry became her adoptive family before her death.
The origin of Carrie’s and Lisa’s friendship started through the St. Anne’s Episcopal Church outreach program Laundry Love. The church located at 4063 Sykes Road took the idea of Jack Rogers to the E.A. Harrold community to assist those who needed some assistance covering the cost washing clothes.
Then Spin City Laundromat attendee known as Ms. Lula introduced a woman who had fallen on hard times to Welch.
What started off as a few loads of clothes on May 23, 2017 blossomed into Nelson being saved after a meeting with Billy Pruitt.
Nelson started having regular meetings with Welch building a bond. But it was time a part that made Welch invest more into Nelson.
After celebrating her birthday on Sept. 7, Welch went to Admiralty to see Lisa after not hearing from her the past two days.
Through their conversation, Carrie learned Lisa marked her birthday of Sept. 6 by herself in that room. Welch promised Lisa that day that she would not be alone on any major day again. Lisa spent Thanksgiving, Christmas and more with the Welch family.
Sadly between all the festivities, October 2017 marked the return of Lisa’s cancer. After enduring painful treatments and chemotherapy, Lisa made the decision to allow the cancer to run its course.
She made Carrie promise to let her go when it is time. She didn’t want an expensive funeral but understood those who were involved in her spiritual life would pay tribute to her with a graveside service.
On June 22 at 9 a.m., Nelson was laid to rest at the Big Creek Baptist Cemetery with Munford Funeral Home, Millington Chapel serving.
Welch and friends have a gofundme up right now to cover the cost. For more information or to donate, call 873-4114.
Welch spoke at the graveside service. She wants people to know to love everyone and try to make a positive impact on others’ lives when given a chance. Below are the words Carrie delivered to honor her friend.
For Lisa Nelson,
I met Lisa through our church outreach program. Our priest Jack Rogers and the Episcopal diocesan office pushed us to get a solid outreach program going so we decided to start a Laundry Love program. Basically we cover the expenses for people to wash clothes every two weeks in an effort to help them maintain their dignity. It is for people who would not be able to have clean clothes because they are struggling to pay their rent, put food on the table, or pay for needed medicine. Lisa just happened to be at Spin City one Tuesday evening and Lula who works there pointed her my way. We washed her clothes and had a chance to talk. Two weeks later Lisa came back to wash clothes and talk a bit more, and then she asked if we could loan or give her $35 so she could get service back for her phone. She had run short of money that month and was out of service days. The next day I picked her up and off to Walmart we went to get her a phone card.
Over the next few months she was faithfully there on our scheduled Tuesdays and sometimes we would meet up in between laundry events. I remember it was September 8th, I hadn’t seen Lisa for a few days so I stopped in to see her. She asked me what I had been doing and I told her that the night before we went out to eat dinner to celebrate my birthday. She said Oh your birthday is the 7th? I said yes and asked her in turn when her birthday was. I was floored when she told me September 6th! I asked her what she did for her birthday and she said she had gone to Walmart and bought herself a small chocolate cake. I remember feeling like I was 2 inches tall, and tried to downplay the matter saying well birthdays are not that important to me….which usually they are not, but boy you can bet I was planning on celebrating with her the next time September 6th came around. Well unfortunately I will never get that chance, but I began to visit her more often.
In early October Lisa asked me if I could go to a meeting with her friend Pastor Billy whom she known for several years. We sat in the pavilion by the lake behind Crosspointe and Lisa told us that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time. She told us that she was worried about how to pay for her funeral expenses when the time came. We assured her that we would be there to help what ever happened.
Lisa tried a chemotherapy treatment later that month and had a bad reaction so they sent her to the hospital. She spent a very stressful day in the hospital away from her home. I think that is when she decided she would not continue her treatment and wanted to die at home. I attended a few more doctor appointments with her and was heartbroken watching her trying to make decisions and answer all of the questions coming at her from the doctors and nurses. Towards the end breathing and moving about became more difficult for her. Together with others from St. Anne’s and her neighbor Ashley, we were sitting with Lisa and trying our best to make her comfortable the last week of her life.
Last Sunday two days before Lisa passed, our priest gave what I think is one of the best sermons I have ever heard, but perhaps it was just because I was spending most of my time with Lisa as the quality of her life was declining quickly and I was deeply moved because of the concern for my friend Lisa. Our priest told us a story that Lyndon B Johnson apparently liked to tell. It was about a little boy in rural Texas whose mom told him to get out of the house on a hot summer day and go out and play. When the boy came back in a few minutes later she asked him why is was not outside playing. He said “Momma, I can’t go out and play, there is a lion out there in the yard.” She went and looked, and after seeing no lion told him “there is no lion out there, go back outside.” A few minutes later he came back in and said “Momma that lion is out there, I can’t go out there!” She again went with him and saw no lion but asked him “did the lion say anything to you?” The little boy said “The lion said his name was Poverty, Homelessness, Depression, Loneliness, Bullying, Racism, Discrimination, Family disintegration, Drug addiction, and Hopelessness.” So you see that the little boy could see all the social ills that were all around him but his mother and most of the others around had a blind eye to it; they just ignored the desperation that was all around them. I am sharing this you not because Lisa was desperate, by all means she was incredibly self-sufficient for a single woman in her fifties. But I am telling this LBJ story to show you that getting to know Lisa has helped me to open my eyes to some of the incredible need that is all around us. I ask you today to just take a shed a little kindness as you go about your day; say hello to that lonely sole who you see in Kroger or Dollar Tree. I know we can’t save the world, but we can surely save a little piece of our world here in Millington.