Lisa Browning Wilson was many things: a mother, sister, wife, aunt, physical therapist, fighter and above all, a woman of faith, according to her beloved family.
Wilson died Monday after a more than seven-year struggle with Stage 4 cancer but she died surrounded by the ones she loved most.
Known and loved by many, Wilson’s battle with cancer was a community fight.
Her daughter, Julie Ann, 13, said the advice she will forever carry with her from her mother is, “anything is possible if you keep your faith.”
Wilson instilled a strong sense of faith and trust in God in her children, Julie Ann and Owen, 17, and among strangers everywhere she went.
“Every single day since we were little she would tell us, ‘Be kind; be nice; God guides you,’” Julie Ann said. “If she went anywhere, you knew she was going to talk to someone about God.”
Alexander City resident and Wilson’s niece Kelley Wilson, 16, echoed that sentiment and said her aunt put God above all else, despite her own pain and struggles.
“She always told me to trust God’s plan because His was much better than ours,” Kelley said. “Her faith in God amazed me. She loved everyone and she was truly the most amazing person I had ever met.”
Julie Ann said her mother encountered what she called God moments so often throughout her life and they were expressed through her selflessness and support of others.
“The biggest thing about Lisa I would say is she thought of everyone else before herself,” sister-in-law Leigh Ellen Browning said. “She always reached out to others and supported them for what they were going through.”
By the endless comments on Facebook, it was evident the community agreed. Friends and family alike have posted numerous sentiments about Wilson always being there for them despite what she was going through.
Even though her brother Brad was older, Leigh Ellen said Wilson always took care of him. When their father died last year, Brad stepped up and switched roles though.
“She always said, ‘Oh he’s my special brother,’” Leigh Ellen said. “And now (her son) Owen is her brother made over.”
Alex City native and country music artist Chad Wilson is Bryan's cousin and fondly remembers Wilson and her unconditional love.
“If you knew Lisa, you loved Lisa,” Chad said. “My thought of Lisa will always be filled with her laughter and her smile. She loved like no other.”
While Wilson’s children were young when she was diagnosed and have faced the difficult journey with her through most of their lives, their resilience and strength is evident.
“I try to look past (my mother being sick for so long) because of all the lives she’s touched and changed,” Julie Ann said. “She taught me you can overcome even the toughest situations. She always saw the positive.”
Julie Ann was only 6 when her mother was first diagnosed in 2013 and her brother Owen was 10. Wilson was married to her husband Bryan for 19 years but the couple had been together since middle school.
Leigh Ellen and Wilson’s brother, Brad, have been together for 15 years, so Leigh Ellen thought very highly of her sister-in-law. Leigh Ellen and Brad live in Pelham but moved back from Florida to be closer to Wilson.
“She fought until the very end,” Leigh Ellen said. “We had numerous scares but she would not give up.”
Even until her final days, Julie Ann said she tried to stand on her own and try to get stronger even if her mind wasn’t the sharpest.
“She also kept her humor until the very end,” Leigh Ellen said. “Some of it was out of character but she still had her humor.”
Wilson also was said to be very talkative and didn’t meet a stranger.
“She’s one of those people if you didn’t have time to talk, you would avoid making eye contact with her if you saw her,” Leigh Ellen said. “I think she went on the Kenny Dean show one day and had to go into a second segment she was talking so much.”
Julie Ann agreed, “She would go into the grocery store for a bag of chips and come out with a cart full of food having to stop and talk to everyone she saw.”
Wilson was a physical therapist most of her life and worked two years after her diagnosis until her doctors told her she was too susceptible to disease to keep exposing herself to others.
She worked in the school system with special needs kids who she loved as if they were her own.
“Not working was worse for her than getting cancer,” Julie Ann said. “She loved the kids and the kids loved her. They would come up and hug her and write her cards all the time.”
Wilson loved her kids’ friends as well.
“Maybe a little too much,” Leigh Ellen joked. “Her kids’ friends would come over when her kids weren’t even there and watch movies with her and come eat dinner with her.”
Wilson’s biggest goal was to see Owen play his senior year of football at Benjamin Russell and to see Julie Ann get married.
“That’s all she kept talking about,” Leigh Ellen said. “She was trying to hold out and hang on. She had a dream that she made it.”
Julie Ann made a comment one day about wanting to get married at White Acres on Highway 280 because of its beautiful scenery.
“After that, one lady told my mom she had a dream about it and described a setting just like that and told her she saw my her sitting in the front row,” Julie Ann said. “She told her God had laid it on her heart.”
Julie Ann also recalled a story about an elderly couple her mother met at the hospital and how the couple felt a strong sense to pray with her. The elderly lady gave Wilson a prayer cloth with a Bible verse referencing cancer.
“My mom didn’t say anything to them about it either; she was in awe,” Julie Ann said. “After she got to the car, she circled around to make sure they made it OK and couldn’t find them anywhere.”
While Wilson may be gone now, her family and friends know she is doing what she always does: looking out for everyone else.
“We will have an amazing guardian angel now,” Kelley said. “I love you Aunt Lisa and can’t wait to see you again.”