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Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Wave Goodbye... a tribute post to Justin and Stephanie Shults and those who love them.


It still seems so surreal and unimaginable. Everyday we are flooded with images of violence and war torn areas worldwide, but we are once removed from it, or so we thought. Oh we shake our heads and think how terrible it is that radical Islam has killed yet another group of people. But we tend to forget as the pressing issues of our daily lives keep most of us in a whirlwind of activity and responsibilities. Those images soon fade, but not anymore. All of our lives in this small  Tennessee mountain community have changed with the senseless death of Justin and Stephanie Shults who died in the Brussels bombing. Justin grew up in Sevier County and attended Gatlinburg Pittman High School as did his parents Sheila Branam Shell and Jeff Shults.  My good friend Lisa that is Ethel to my Lucy is their first cousin. I am heart sick over their deaths, as are so many.

RANDY BRANAM
  My first boyfriend in high school was Sheilas brother Randy. We dated a couple of years but drifted apart as time passed. I became particularly close to their parents Bruce and Juanita during this time. Bruce was a police officer for the City of Gatlinburg. He was instrumental in helping me get my first job in my chosen profession.  They loved their kids and were very nice, down to earth people. Several years later Juanita was my first baby sitter for my daughter Courtney when she was very little and I started back to work.She would call her Corky and spoiled her as if she was her very own granddaughter. 

JUANITA AND BRUCE BRANAM
 Uncle Bruce was a basketball lover. You definitely wanted him on your side in the bleachers during the big game. He took the round ball serious.
I didn't see them much as the years went on and as most of us, our own lives took hold and we were busy with our families. They're a lot of people gone I wished I had spent more time with. This is a lesson that sadly is usually learned as the wisdom of age sets in.  All three have passed on now, as well as a second brother Mike.

I didn't know Justin personally, only through pictures and seeing his name associated with the local high school. From all accounts he was an exceptional young man with a loving spirit and a bright future. His wife Stephanie is from Kentucky and they met in college at Vanderbilt. We grieve her loss as well here in Sevier County and I pay my sincere condolences to the Moore family in Lexington.

JUSTIN SHULTS, SHEILA BRANAM SHELL AND STEPHANIE MOORE SHULTS

I can't imagine the grief and sorrow the families are enduring. It is my understanding the bodies are back on American soil and will be released soon. Under the worldwide media attention, I hope they can grieve and bury their children without added stress. Please keep them in your prayers and thoughts as they face the next step in this ruthless tragedy.


I can't seem to get the image of Stephanie's mother waving goodbye to them at the airport out of my mind and my heart. Apparently, it was at this moment that the lunatics detonated the bomb as she was turned back giving them a final wave.Mothers do that, especially Southern mothers. We follow our loved ones and kids to the car as their leaving and watch as they leave till they are no longer in sight.  Departing can become a lengthy process as we realize "oh, one more thing"..When I was a child everyone did this, you stood on the front porch and waved until the visitors, whether family or not was gone from view.  I hope that the last thing that Justin and Stephanie saw on this old earth was the waving hand of their smiling mother saying goodbye. I pray and believe that the angels who were dispatched to escort them, whisked their souls to the Heavens so quickly that they instantly raised their eyes to see their grandparents and loved ones waving Hello as Jesus welcomed them to their forever home.