A few weeks ago my grandmother died. She is the grandmother I grew up with, who babysat me, picked me up from school, fed me, encouraged me and was there for me my entire life. She was an amazing woman. At her funeral I was asked to read a poem, and after hours and hours of searching for something perfect, I decided to write one. Writing this poem has caused me to reflect so much on her life and what she meant to me. When I think of who I am now, what I have been able to accomplish, I know that many pieces of me are pieces of her. My grandmother was a sharecropper. A sharecropper! To think that this small quiet woman once worked under the hot Tennessee sun picking cotton with her beautiful delicate hands. To think of the doors that were closed to her, a brilliant mathematician despite only reaching the eighth grade. She raised six professional children - two doctors (one the first black medical student at his school), an aerospace engineer, a math teacher, an economist, a homemaker. She seriously came from nothing and her legacy is enormous. She helped instill in me the importance of education. This generation is leaving us - the generation of sharecroppers whose grandparents actually remember slavery. So much history! In reflecting on my grandmother, I reflect on my history and the fruit of her sacrifices. I am part of her crop. I have grown up in a world where opportunities are open to me. We do not live in a country of true equality and tolerance, but it is a country where a black woman can be a surgeon, when only 60 years ago blacks and whites in the South lived utterly separate lives. I look at my daughter and I know that I must bottle up and save each bit of this legacy so that I can pass it on to her.
This past October my husband and I took 5 days and took our daughter on a “legacy tour.” She met all 3 of her great grandmothers. Two have since passed away. I am so thankful for the pictures and memories we created. So thankful that we drove over 1000 miles to make it happen. So thankful for family and legacy and my beautiful child.