At 3:22 PM on Tuesday, I received the text.  A long-time family friend Nikki Mitchell passed away.  She was 58 years old.

Our loss is heaven’s gain.  Surely the angels flung open their wings and welcomed this amazing lady “home” after her valiant 2 1/2 year battle with pancreatic cancer.

She was one of a kind to say the least.  How can I possibly convey to you the essence of Nikki Mitchell?

The chorus of a song comes to mind…

“When the song in you sings out a melody
Then the melody makes harmony a reality
When you listen with your heart
You can play the missing part
And the song in you can make hopes and dreams come true.”
(Lyrics by:  Gary Leach, Tim Johnson, and LaDonna Gatlin, 1995)

Nikki Mitchell lived those lyrics every single day of her life.  She SANG HER SONG…in her own inimitable style.

Please allow me to share a few “verses” of her life…

In 1978, while still in her 20’s Nikki ventured from her native Texas to Tennessee.  She became the warm-up act for the live audience on Crook and Chase a popular television show in Nashville.  When country music legend Waylon Jennings made a guest appearance, he was so impressed with her that he offered her a job!

Nikki became the manager and go-to person for “all things Waylon” and his better half, Jessi Colter.  If Waylon and Jessi needed her assistance in the middle of a concert tour…no problem.  Nikki simply flew out to meet them…in a plane…that she was flying!  This voyageur had her pilot’s license.

Fascinated by Russian female pilots who flew combat missions during World War II, she spent time in Russia researching this elite group of women.  Along the way, Nikki met Rhonda Miles. On July 4, 1998, they climbed aboard their single engine aircraft and flew across the Atlantic, retracing the route of the Russian plane “Rodina” (Motherland) to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the flight by Russian aviatrixes Valentina Grizodubova, Paulina Ossipenk and Marina Rasova.  It was an amazing feat of courage:

“Courage” was Nikki Mitchell’s middle name…even to her last breath on Tuesday.

Upon her diagnosis in 2010, Nikki faced this challenge with the same resolve with which she flew across the Atlantic.   She spent countless hours researching her disease and refused to accept the doctor’s dire prognosis that she had only 3 to 6 months to live.  Disregarding the odds, she sought out the best that medical science had to offer and endured a grueling surgery at Johns Hopkins.  The ravages of chemotherapy set in shortly afterward, but she NEVER wavered.  Instead, in the midst of it all, Nikki….the trailblazer…opened the River Cafe & Mercantile in Normandy, Tennessee picturesquely situated on the banks of the Duck River. She ran all of her business enterprises from the second story office.  The cafe, 70 miles south of Nashville was dubbed a “respite on the river” by Tennessee Magazine…”an oasis for travelers and townsfolk alike…”

This kind of spirit defies explanation, but that’s who Nikki Mitchell was.

She was one of those rare individuals with whom you instantly connected. Her easy-going demeanor belied the fact that she was constantly juggling a ZILLION things at once.

A world-record-breaking pilot, savvy businesswoman, community organizer, philanthropist, entrepreneur, daughter, sister, friend, and all-around amazing human being, Nikki Mitchell sang her song until the very end…and today she’s singing it with the angels…no doubt about it.

Well done!