By ZE’MIRAH HARRIS
I remember my grandmother’s smile — how she pushed up her glasses so they wouldn’t fall off her face as she stood at the stove and stirred her grits.
I remember the song she was singing — how the sound of “Take Me to the King” blended perfectly with the smell of bacon, sausage, eggs, and cheese.
I thought about that Saturday morning one day when I was riding in the car with my mother and a single tear rolled down my cheek. You see, I had just heard that the star of those memories had cancer cells growing in her breast. And even though my mother assured me that Phyllis Battle Harris would be OK, I was still scared.
My grandmother probably wasn’t. Every morning, she opens her eyes and says a prayer. She does the same thing every night. She is saved and has been for as long as I can remember. She knows what is waiting for her after this life.
She grew up right here in Goldsboro — the fifth of thirteen children; the oldest of the girls. She ended up giving birth to four of her own. Her last baby is my mother, Delavisha.
Grandma is known for her cooking skills, her dedication to the Lord, her role in the community, and her “You Touch My Heart” banquet — an annual event that brings together family members, friends, and others she cares about for a special evening of fellowship. And on “Grandma’s Day,” she takes all of us grandkids out to eat and dedicates that day to making us feel special.
But all of us almost lost those moments forever. Cancer could have ended them. So it’s no surprise that when we got the news of her diagnosis, it was a shock to us all. Still, we hoped she would continue to prove herself to be a fighter — like she did after multiple surgeries and the installation of a defibrillator to help keep her heart beating.
That smile I remember turns into a face of sadness, but not for the reason you think. She isn’t worried about herself. That’s never been her way. The frown she is wearing is because of her family’s worries for her. She saw how hard we took it and was saddened because she didn’t want us to be upset.
My aunt, Shetula Easterling, was one of those hit the hardest by the news.
“I was shocked,” she said. “No one saw this coming. My brothers and sister always made sure she was fine and in perfect health, so when this news came out of the blue, I didn’t know how to react.”
She reacted by moving from South Carolina to Goldsboro to help take care of her mother. The truth is, all of us do what we can, but the chemotherapy has side effects that we weren’t ready for. The swelling, stomach pains, vomiting, and mood swings are hard to see, but our family will remain by her side. We’ll never stop fighting with her because nobody could ever replace her.
So when I show up to the Pink Out event at Goldsboro High School tomorrow night, this time, it will have a new meaning. I’ve worn my pink here and there for breast cancer, but now, knowing that I still get to see my grandmother every day is a blessing. Whether she’s happy, sad, angry, or even upset or in pain, I’m glad I get to see her. I love my grandma with all my heart and I pray she gets better with each passing day.
Raising money for cancer research helps — not just my grandma, but all of those who are battling this terrible disease. And tomorrow, at 5 p.m. in the GHS gym, our basketball games against Wallace-Rose Hill will, in part, be a tribute to all those who have fought and those, like my grandma, who are still fighting.
During last year’s “Play 4 Kay” event, the school raised $500. This year, with your help, we’ll raise even more. There will be raffles and T-shirt sales. And in the stands will be a community of people who have likely been touched by cancer themselves.
So come fight alongside us. And don’t forget to wear pink. I’ll be wearing mine. For the woman who sings in praise of her Lord. For the woman who fills the house with the scents of a perfect breakfast. For the woman who taught me to be a fighter. Always.