Writing a concise tribute, having had the privilege to know Mrs Smith all my life, was always going to be a tall order. I’ve written, deleted, and edited many times; however, had it not been for Mrs Smith, I wouldn’t be writing this tribute. When I entered Woodlands school (Mrs Smiths school), my English was beyond pathetic. Mrs Smith coached me through the 11 plus, not only helping me to pass it; she went on to organise private tutoring to help me get through GCSE English in my teens.
If there was one person you’d almost taken for granted who would live longer than oneself, it was Mrs Smith. Her passion and love for the Almighty, with a prayer-centric solution providing answers to the darkest of problems perhaps, made us all forget that she, too, was human.
I’ll remember all her lessons, however, particularly: Generosity, Gratitude, Kindness and Patience (particularly the patience she demonstrated with me). Most importantly, I’ll remember that Mrs Smith always told us the truth about ourselves. She had a G-d given ability to read people and situations like a book and was able to provide impeccable advice on problems even if she’d never experienced them.
In particular, in 2020, when the world felt like it was collapsing around me at the start of covid, she wrote to me, uplifting me and helping me to see beyond my immediate concerns and what felt like a sinking ship.
In around 1995, I shall never forget one particular morning, the phone rang, and Mrs Smith wanted to talk to me. Aside from being a rare treat to speak with our Headmistress, it had got me out of a math lesson, which delighted my younger self. I’d recently sent her a photo which I’d taken, and she said, “Nathanael, I feel that one day you will become a photographer”. Not only did this early accolade plant within me a seed of desire to become a photographer, but over the years, Mrs Smith personally provided me with countless photography opportunities, ultimately providing me with a career.
As a youngster, Mrs Smith installed in me a ‘moral’ compass where she was the plumbline. Throughout my adult life, I’ve used this as a guide through difficult situations and choices – albeit far too often, I’ve remembered to check the compass whilst looking in the rearview mirror.
I will miss Mrs Smith’s encouragement and prayer; however, with gratitude, her compass remains with me to guide me as her legacy.