My beloved grandmother, Sara Mitchell Parsons, died this month at age 99. She was remarkable in so many ways – a courageous, tenacious civil rights hero and education advocate as well as a wonderful wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. She was an inspiration to me and many others. She also was a cherished friend and confidant. I will miss her enormously. I was at her bedside during her last hours of consciousness, and I spoke this week at two memorial services in her honor.
Here is the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper report on her life.
Here is my memorial service tribute to my grandmother:
Grandmama Sara was the only person ever… to love… dancing with me. Every other woman in my life knows the real me… a train wreck of a dancer, which explains why no girlfriend, wife, daughter, or mother of mine would dance with me more than once. But Grandmama was different. She was my first and last repeat dance partner. Our first dance was one of my first and fondest memories. I was three years old.
This past Monday, just before Grandmama slipped out of consciousness for the last time, I was fortunate enough to be able to visit with her. When Tom and I walked into her hospital room, she lit up. Until the very end, it was clear she adored Tom every day of their 45 years together. Tom, Sarah Yates, and I spent long, difficult hours with Grandmama last Monday, but there were happy, wonderful, loving moments, too. We held hands with Grandmama. Her grip was strong, and she caressed the back of my hand with her thumb. With me that day, she spoke fondly of how she and I danced so many times together while watching the TV show “Lawrence Welk”… all in my single-digit years of life. Among her final words… she spoke of how she treasured the memories of our family vacations on Jekyll Island in the 1960s.
In 1968, after Grandmama married Tom, they moved to California. Tom, Pam, and Tim’s gain in California was a loss for Grandmama’s Georgia-based family and friends, who missed her presence here enormously. When I was 11 years old, my Mama shipped me off to California for a year to live with Grandmama… what turned out to be a glorious year during which I bonded further with Grandmama, while Tom, Pam, and Tim became a second family to me. In the 1980s, when Grandmama moved back to Atlanta, all of us here in Georgia were overjoyed… Grandmama was home.
Because she had a burning desire to spend as much time as possible with her family, especially her grandkids and great-grandkids, she devised a brilliant scheme that would draw us to her like a high intensity magnet: Her Atlanta home would have a backyard swimming pool. With that swimming pool, she went from being the world’s most impressive Grandmama… to also being the coolest, most fun, and most popular one. Our extended family spent countless days in that swimming pool, including many a July 4th holiday. My children, Zoe and Dylan, learned to swim in that pool… and they went on to become phenomenal swim team competitors.
My kids adored their Great-Grandmama, as we all did.
This past Monday in the hospital, Grandmama knew the end was near. She said to Tom and me: “Tell everyone I had a good life, and I love them.”
For so many of us, she was one of the greatest blessings in our life. Until this week, I could never imagine life without my Grandmama. She was with us for so long, many of us convinced ourselves she would be with us forever. Now I know she will be. Grandmama, we will always love you, and you will always be part of us.