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GREENHILL — Freddie and Kathy Ashley, along with their son, Trey, and other family members were overcome with emotion Monday evening as vehicle after vehicle, filled with family, friends and neighbors, slowly paraded past their home in an effort to pay their respects to the couple's daughter, Misty.
Misty died Sunday. She was 42 and had spina bifida.
Despite the necessity of a wheelchair, Misty had never been one to slow down. Her mission in life, Kathy said, was to love other people.
Well known throughout the Greenhill community and Killen, Misty never met a stranger.
"She was a people person, always had a smile on her face, and was ready with a hug and a kiss for everyone," Kathy said.
"She loved to travel, going to concerts (country music mostly), taking trips with the Southern Cruisers, NASCAR and going to church."
After being hospitalized for several days and suffering what appeared to be a stroke, the lady with the big smile and arms always opened wide for a hug passed away.
Her parents faced the agonizing decision to remove the ventilator on Sunday.
"We know she had her wings long before she ever left this earth," Kathy said.
As news of Misty's passing spread through the community and beyond, the family's minister, Miles Stutts, of Atlas Church of Christ, was already arranging for those who knew and loved her to be granted their own opportunity to say goodbye while also uplifting her family.
Misty's funeral, scheduled for Wednesday, must be private with family only due to federal social distancing protocol because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"I knew we had to have a drive by, and I felt pretty certain it would be big because she touched a whole lot of lives," Stutts said. "The church has been doing these for others, such as those already homebound in the church and community. It's a way for our church and community to show their love and support while still maintaining the social distancing protocol."
The Monday evening caravan consisted of a fire truck, 110 vehicles with about 350 people.
While the family stood outside their home, the parade of vehicles seemed almost endless, having traveled from their meeting location at Greenhill Funeral Home. The procession passed reverently with waving out of windows, kisses blown and proclamations of "we love you."
For the Ashleys, the parade-style visitation was a testament to their daughter's well-lived life.
"She had 42 great years, and while she had troubles, she experienced so much love and had the kind of life that most, including me, would envy," Kathy said. "We're totally overwhelmed with all the goodness, love and support of so many who loved her."