IN MEMORY: Georgia Smiles

By on June 14, 2017

An older brother remembers the unbridled joy of his sister.

Dane, Joanna, Katie and Georgia Smits at a Denver Nuggets game.

JACKSON HOLE, WY – A few years ago, we had a “Family Fun” meet-up in Gould, Colorado. This meant my seven family members, my mom and dad, my two sisters and our two little brothers, and our aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents would all meet up somewhere in the wilderness for four or five days. We’d all get cabins, and sit around the campfire and make food at night. During the day, we’d usually go touring on ATVs or fishing.

One afternoon, a dozen of us went down to the lake with our fishing gear. Georgia didn’t really want to go because she didn’t like fishing. But, she loved “Family Fun” and didn’t want to miss out on hanging with the cousins. We got all of our rods ready, and started fishing. Everybody was catching fish, except for Georgia, who was getting more and more frustrated. Even our grandfather who never catches fish was catching fish. Finally, Georgia half-jokingly declared, “This isn’t working!” and decided to isolate herself on a little strip of land that was exposed from the low water level. Getting out onto the end of the strip of land required her to walk along a log that blocked the way in the middle. So, Georgia decided to walk over it and out to the end to catch a fish on her own.

She was just sitting there, no chair, pole in her hand, just patiently waiting. She looked like the loner in the lunchroom, sitting by herself over in the corner.

Ten minutes later, all of a sudden we heard her screaming, “It’s about dang time!” and she started reeling it in. The fish was pretty small, and she would have to release it anyway, but she was so happy. She finally reeled in the fish. I remember the fish dangling from her pole, as she started to walk back towards us. She climbed on the log and started to make her way across it when the log started to roll over and she fell in. First, onto one knee, then she sort of plopped down into the shallow water, her fishing line, fish on it, dipping into the lake. She pretended to be mad, as we all were laughing from the shore, but she knew it was really funny and that we were never going to let her live it down, or let it go.

So she stood up, in a prideful kind of way to finish walking back towards us. One of our cousins yelled out, “Where’d your fish go?”

She looked down and saw the empty line as an otter swam away with her fish. Then she said, holding back laughter, “Why’d we do this? This is why I didn’t want to come!”

It was funny. Georgia was funny. She was always laughing or making everyone laugh, especially with her clumsiness. We’d always say, “Of course Georgia would be the one to do that,” when she’d fall off a log, or we’d hear something break in the kitchen. We’d all just start laughing.

For a long time, it was just Georgia, our sister Joanna, and me. It wasn’t until later that our two little brothers Sebastian and Oliver were born. Often we’d gang up on each other, but mostly it was my sisters who would gang up on me. But sometimes, that worked out for my benefit like when Georgia and Joanna would play two-on-one against me in basketball. They were both very competitive, we all are. So when Joanna would take a shot and Georgia had been wide open, Georgia would tell Joanna she should’ve passed the ball and they’d get distracted bickering with each other. Then I’d score. It was like playing one-on-one, and I’d always beat them while they were chirping at each other. I was really looking forward to them playing varsity together!

The days before Georgia died, I was really happy to have had some one-on-one time with her. We were in Breckenridge, Colorado, somewhere we had lived when we were younger, and Georgia wanted to get crepes. She had talked about these crepes the whole ride down. So the two of us got dropped off in town on a quest for crepes. I expected my sister to eat her crepes fast, but it was impressive how fast she actually ate them. Then, we walked over to Eric’s arcade, where at the last second she beat me at a racing game, which of course I couldn’t let stand.

After, we wandered around the hotel, exploring everything together. When we found some frosted windows we drew our own emojis, they were so stupid they were funny. That was what it was like to hang out with Georgia. She was a person you just wanted to be around because she was just so much fun. It didn’t matter what we were doing, we’d always end up laughing. I feel blessed to have had those final days with her.

My sister Georgia lived, laughed, and loved. That’s what she would wish for others. Her laughing and how she made others laugh is what I’ll miss most about her, that and how she “showed up.” She was always on the move, trying new things, engaging with life. Georgia showed me not to take things for granted, to work hard all the time, and to be grateful for everything and everyone, and that’s how I plan to live going forward.  PJH

The Georgia Anne Smits Memorial has been established at Wells Fargo Bank. Donations can be accepted at any branch or mailed to PO Box 3488, Portland, Oregon 97208.

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