Dave Smith never did anything halfway. From creating intricate sets for schools and church productions to building a business, Dave put his entire heart into everything he did. It came naturally to him, especially with his wife, Jackie, at his side every step of the way. They worked together, played together and laughed together as true soul mates, together since their teenage years. They declared 2018 to be the year of their “renaissance belle” – their new beginning.  That’s why his sudden passing that year, at only age 50, was so especially gutting.

“Everyone says and remembers nice things about someone who passes away, but Dave was special,” says Jackie. “He was a visionary and a creator. He was intelligent and generous and an amazing husband and father.”

Jackie did have one complaint – She could never give gifts as well as him. She recalled one present in particular that she holds close to her heart. Dave, an outstanding artist and visionary, spent weeks working on it. On Christmas Eve, the day they always opened presents as a family, Jackie unwrapped an action figure like no other. It was made of pieces and parts of others, crafted and painted to look exactly like her. It came complete in a box with action figure accessories, a tiny bible and scrabble board, as well as a written description of her on the back of the box. “You’d believe it could be on a store shelf,” Jackie said.

“It was no wonder that he was able to give something even after his passing, especially a gift that would change lives of two complete strangers,” continued Jackie. “He had beautiful, blue eyes that saw things in a way that no one else could. His eyes were so important to who he was, and giving those to someone else is my way of honoring him.”

Dave suffered a heart attack on Thanksgiving night after spending a wonderful day with his family. Jackie remembers feeling like the air was sucked out of the house as she heard it happening, and she still doesn’t feel like it returned. She still longs for her husband and feels like she’s missing a piece of herself, but she knows in her heart that everything happens as part of a greater plan.

“We are put on this Earth for a reason. I believe that reason is to give. It means so much to me that he’s still giving through his donation.”

When asked what she would say if she could meet the two people who are seeing as a result of her husband’s cornea donation, Jackie said, “Dave’s eyes were so precious. He used them to watch over his family and create beautiful art. I’d tell his recipients Dave’s story, and I’d ask them to seek the things he loved and to work to see things creatively, just as he did.”

For months after Dave’s passing, Jackie found love notes he left her around the house, and on the Christmas Eve almost exactly one month later, she found his final gift: a beautiful, red coat hidden in his closet for her.

Today, Jackie continues to chase her renaissance belle. “I’m finding my new beginning by giving to others and digging through ashes to find beauty.” She looks forward to a life with her new grandchild. “We were supposed to do this together,” Jackie remarked. “I know he gets to see what we are all accomplishing, and he is proud of us.”

Jackie knows that Dave’s story can’t be fully told in an article or anecdote. That’s why she’s been inspired and drawn to write his story in a novel that she’s titled Renaissance Belle. With an expected publish date in late 2020, stay tuned for more of this story of love, generosity and vision.