In 2006, my life changed forever. My father was diagnosed with cancer a few weeks after I competed at Miss Florida. He told me he was moving to Nashville for treatment (I lived with him at the time). My world tilted on its side. Previous priorities were scrambled. He moved, I stayed in Tallahassee to finish my degree at Florida State University. His treatments began and life settled into a new state of blur. It wasn’t going well. In December, I moved to Tennessee to help with his care. Lost doesn’t fully describe how I felt in that season.
The following summer I attended the Miss Florida Pageant, as a spectator, to cheer on the reigning Miss Tallahassee, Kylie Williams. That night she captured the title of Miss Florida. I accompanied our director to the celebration. As we clapped and laughed and cheered for our queen, I felt a tap on my shoulder. A quiet man stood before me, “Hi Amy. My name is Tim. I work with the Miss Tennessee Organization and I heard you recently moved to Cleveland. Are you planning to compete again?” He spoke with a kindness that drew me in. “I wasn’t planning on it. I age out this year and with everything going on with my dad, I just don’t think it’s possible.” His smile softened, “I understand. But I heard you sing last year. I think you should really consider giving it a shot. There is a pageant near you in Chattanooga but I think you should consider this new prelim in Bristol.” (I didn’t even know where Bristol was) I said thank you, took his card and went on about my evening.
Fast forward to November, I stood on the Miss Chattanooga stage and sang my heart out with my dad in the audience. He sat so small and frail in his wheelchair but his pride filled the room. That night, Tim went and shook his hand. He bragged about how proud he was to have me in Tennessee. I don’t know that I ever thanked him for that kindness. I didn’t win, I was announced as first runner up. To be fair, I was in no way prepared for that responsibility. But the real heartbreak came with the words from a less than kind soul who advised me, “You are talented but sweetie you will never be tall enough, thin enough or blonde enough to be Miss TN.” (Ahhh pageant land, you never cease to amaze.) I brought this advise to Tim who laughed and said, “well thats just mean. Go prove them wrong.”
Two months later my dad passed away. Chattanooga was the last time he would see me on a stage. As a life-long musician, and of course my hero, that still tightens around my heart. But there was Tim, ever so kind. He encouraged me to try the Bristol prelim. I was 24. This was the last open prelim in the state. This was it. I introduced myself to the director and submitted the paperwork. We were instant friends. In February, less than a month after my dad’s passing, I stood in the panel interview fielding questions about why I hadn’t completed more community service. I broke, maybe not outwardly, but inside I was screaming. For the first time in my life I was able to filter my mouth, “For the last year I have been caring for my father who lost his battle with cancer just last month. No I haven’t been able to focus on my platform because I was focusing on my family. But I can tell you what I plan to do on day 1 if you crown me tonight…”
I walked out of that interview and crumbled. I was devastated. I had been holding my breath since my dad took his last. I busied myself with the must-dos and want-tos but this interview scratched the scab. I called the director and tearfully stated I would be withdrawing from the pageant. I wasn’t strong enough to get through it. She talked me down and reassured me I would be ok. That night I won the title of Miss First Frontier.
Four months later, Father’s Day weekend, I stepped into the wings of the Miss Tennessee stage. Tim was staffing that side of the stage. His eyes met mine and his smile stretched across his face. “My oh my. Never be thin enough huh? How does it feel to prove them wrong? I am so proud of you. Now go sing your heart out.”
I don’t remember much after that. But I remember Tim. I should probably tell you that my prelim director went on to become a life-long friend, my wedding photographer and is now a business mentor. That director and I would’ve had no reason to cross paths were it not for Tim.
Today I heard that Tim went to be with Jesus. How much I wish I could thank him one more time for changing the direction of my life. For teaching me to turn my pain into motivation. For being the conduit for so many blessings, so many friendships, so many gifts. The scholarship I won at Miss TN after being named in the top 10, made the final payment on the debt I had incurred while paying my dads rent and in-home care.
Tim, I hope tonight you are singing in the heavenly choir with my dad. I know you for a fact you enjoy his music. Hug him for me. I look forward to the day I can sit with you and laugh about how funny this life can be. This is one of a frillion reasons I am so deeply passionate about this job as a coach. I know how one conversation, one smile, one act, can drastically change a life.