Ladye Love knows about loss. At fourteen, she lost her closest sister. And as an adult, she lost a baby girl that, medically, she wasn’t even supposed to have. But through it all, she’s learned more about herself and God’s love, and she loves to encourage others.
Today on Overcome With Auntie Anne, I’m talking with one of my favorite people in the world, Ladye Love Smith. We talk about the losses she’s experienced and how, even in our overcoming, things don’t always get tied up in a nice little bow. It’s a conversation I’m sure you’ll love, so head over to the podcast to hear the entire thing, or keep reading below for some of the highlights.
One of my favorites
I’ve been fortunate to get to know and spend a lot of time with Ladye Love over the years, and it really is the truth that she’s one of my favorite people. So I have to tell you a little more about her.
I believe Lady’s greatest gift is loving people and acknowledging their presence. She’s always there for people. You can’t get past her without her noticing you. Her gift is truly unique, and she loves encouraging others and loving on them.
She’s also one of the most talented singers I’ve ever met. She and her husband, Reggie Smith, are a powerhouse duo that has been a part of the Gaither Homecoming Family for over a decade -- first as backup singers and later as a vocal duet featured on countless homecoming concerts, tapings, and recordings.
In addition to their work, their voices complemented some of the top country and gospel music talents. They’ve sung with artists like Dolly Parton, Brenda Lee, and Josh Turner. Both of them can light up a room with their talent and energy.
But even with all of that talent and energy, all of that love and encouragement, Ladye has experienced significant loss of her own.
The beginning of loss
Ladye says life growing up in her family was pretty amazing. She never really experienced any loss until she was in the sixth grade. There, she had “a dear teacher” named Mrs. Hudson.
Ladye describes herself as a chubby girl growing up, and with kids at that age, that’s a big deal.
But this teacher encouraged Ladye to love herself just as she was, which was a huge encouragement for her. It was the first significant person, aside from her family, that encouraged her in such a way. Mrs. Hudson didn’t treat Ladye like she was just a sixth-grader but treated her with respect.
One particular day, Ladye remembers arriving at school, and Mrs. Hudson wasn’t there. It turns out Mrs. Hudson had passed away. She had been eight months pregnant and died from a stroke. The loss of such a significant person hit Ladye hard, and so she ran and found her older sister. Her sister comforted her and was there for her that day in the way she needed.
Two years later, at Christmastime, this same sister got into a car accident. Ladye was having a sleepover with friends at her new house when the police showed up. They said that a drunk driver hit her sister and boyfriend, and Ladye’s sister died in the accident. The sister that Ladye was closest to in age, the sister that had comforted her after the death of her teacher, was now gone.
The impact of the loss
Obviously, the death of Ladye’s sister had an impact on her family, changing them forever. “There is a place for that person in your family, and that never goes away. It’s still there, but it’s empty on earth. And so,” Ladye says, “you find yourself trying to figure out how to pick up all the pieces and how to make it make a little more sense, or I guess a little less painful, as you go.”
And it had a significant impact on Ladye as well, especially at fourteen years old. “I grew up in a really fast way and immediately started trying to be a caretaker to my parents and to make them feel okay because they were devastated.”
Ladye says that even before her sister passed away, she was the one in the family who always tried to fix things and make everything okay. “I just hated to see people hurt, and I wanted everyone to get along.”
So when her sister died, Ladye did what she was used to doing -- she tried to act as if everything was okay. Not wanting to see her mother cry, Ladye would try and stop her when she did. And Ladye did what she could to keep the death of her sister off of her parent’s minds. “I just took on a big role that I just didn’t want my parents to hurt anymore.” She tried to make it better for her parents and wanted to keep them from grieving so much.
Looking back, Ladye realizes that she wasn’t allowing them to grieve. And at the same time, she wasn’t allowing herself to grieve either. It took her a couple of years to come to the point where she could grieve because that pain she was experiencing was just too much. This was the sister that she “talked to everything about” and who “had helped [her] through a lot of things.”
The pain Ladye experienced was enormous, and she had a hard time, especially as a fourteen-year-old, coping with the loss. To do so, she says she would act as if her sister was just in college. And one time, she remembers driving with her grandparents on Christmas Eve. They wanted to go to the cemetery where her sister was buried, but Ladye refused to go in. Instead, she made them drop her outside while they went in because, as Ladye says, “I couldn’t make that connection yet because I had too much to deal with.” So the way Ladye dealt with it was to shut it off.
Eventually, she went to college. And being away from family allowed her to process her sadness, anger, and grief in her way. She ended up getting a Master’s in Counseling, and she says getting that degree was for her -- it taught her how to get healthy, stay healthy, and help others. It taught her how to love herself and helped her to “unlock a lot of things.”
The loss of not having children
When Ladye married her husband, Reggie, they expected to have kids one day. They married a little later in life, but when they started trying, Ladye never got pregnant. So they decided to try in-vitro fertilization.
They were on the Gaither Homecoming tour at the time, and Ladye remembers her husband giving her a shot backstage during intermission -- the shot was so the eggs would drop. After the second half of the show, they flew home right away so the doctor could perform the retrieval process. The doctor retrieved four good eggs, and everything seemed great. But unfortunately, none of the eggs took.
Ladye and Reggie did another round in in-vitro, but they were again unable to get pregnant. Ladye admits that the process was hard and stressful. And the way a husband and wife grieve the whole situation can be different, which is an added dynamic.
After trying even more, Ladye and Reggie decided to stop and did their best to let go. They eventually adopted a son named Brett and were happy. And as Brett was starting kindergarten, Ladye visited her doctor and found out she was unexpectedly pregnant.
What once wasn’t possible had come to pass. But at first, Ladye wouldn’t even let herself be happy about it. “I think deep down, I wouldn’t let myself believe it.” But over time, she says, “I finally felt like it was okay to be happy and to accept it.” And so she did.
She continued to go to the doctor for checkups, and everything was fine. But then, at one of the visits, Ladye found out that her baby was no longer alive. The baby girl that she and Reggie thought they would finally have was no more.
When this happened, Ladye says, “And so again, I think I tried to close it up for my husband to be there for him I cried, and we cried,” she says, “but the deepest depth -- I [had] to wait a little bit to go there.”
God loves you just the same
Ladye Love knows what it is to experience loss. And while it would be easy to put a bow around all of it and say, “God has a plan,” she doesn’t believe there are any simple answers to the things she’s gone through. From the loss of her sister to the loss of not having children to then conceiving but losing the baby -- there aren’t any simple answers.
But one thing she does believe -- and one thing she would say to all of you reading who have gone or are going through your troubles or heartaches -- is that God doesn’t love you any less. God loves you just the same.
Some people get their prayers answered, and some don’t. Some people get the miracle they’ve been hoping for, and others don’t. But regardless, God loves you just the same, and that’s what Ladye holds onto.