All the Smiffs were sad to hear of the sudden deaths of Billy Walker, his wife, Bettie, and musicians Charlie Lilly and Dan Patton.

Billy had such a long, distinguished career in country music and was one of the most respected and just all around nice guys in country music.

It’s ironic that Billy died the way he did, considering the many years and miles he’s been traveling and the fact that he was supposed to have been on the airplane that killed Patsy Cline, Hawkshaw Hawkins, Cowboy Copas and Randy Hughes. The story is now legend of how Billy was scheduled to fly back from Kansas City with that group, but, after his then father in law died, Hawkshaw gave him his commercial plane ticket back to Nashville.

My Dawta and I were in Wal Mart yesterday afternoon after we had heard the news about the wreck when I suddenly recollected a special Billy Walker memory and I started to tell her and got a little teary. She was mortified. “Wait til we get in the car!!!!!” (It’s not like I was making a dramatic scene or nothing but to hear it from her….)

Back in 1991, my dad was dying of prostate cancer. Billy and Dad went back to the early 50’s in Texas and had a long friendship. Billy was a very committed and onfire Christian and he arranged for some of the people at his church to have a healing service for him. I’m not a Benny Hinn/Ernest Angeley type of gal, but, the fact that Billy cared and wanted to do what he could for Dad…well, it’s heavy and still brings tears to my eyes thinking about it.

Last time I saw Billy and Bettie was at El Rodeo in Hendersonville. We had a nice little visit in the parking lot and he was telling my kids about their grandfather, who they never knew.

I can’t help but think that Billy would’ve probably rather gone out the way he did…still working, with his beloved Bettie at his side, quickly and no suffering and more than ready to meet the Lord face to face, but, the biggest jolt of the whole thing for us, and so many people in our lives who make their living playing music is how often they all pack up after a show, hop in the bus or van and drive all night to get back home. I think about it often, but, can’t dwell on the dangers, however, this morning, Mr. Smiff did say he and the boys wore their seatbelts while traveling last night and they were probably a little more mindful of safety on the road than they were before.

Fortunately, this kind of thing doesn’t happen as often as it did before interstates, when the artists traveled by car on two lane roads and really, as often as they all burn up the roads, it’s amazing it doesn’t happen more. Like I said, I can’t let myself be fraught with worry but have to continue to ask God to watch out for the guys, and all our other friends, while they travel.