Last night after the completion of the NCAA wrestling championships I went back to work. With passengers in my cab my sister called me to inform me my grandmother Mary Edna Lee ( nee Wilkerson) passed away. Her death is a tremendous loss to me and my family. She gave so much to so many people raising two generations of children. I don’t even know if I would be alive if it wasn’t for her and my grandfather.
A loving God-fearing woman my grandmother spent her early years in the Bootheel of Southeastern Missouri near the Arkansas border. Her father had come from Oklahoma and her mother from Alabama. As a teenager the family moved to St. Louis and settled in what is now called Old North St Louis near Crown Candy.
My grandmother never was able to attend much school and went to work at a young age at the old St. Louis Dairy. It was there she met my grandfather Ivan Loyal Lee who had just returned from World War II in the Marines. Married in 1946 they raised three children. My late Uncle Jimmy, my Aunt Sharon, and Don ( my father). Later they would raise me and my sisters Jill and Jamie.
A church lady my grandmother was a member of Bellefontaine Baptist Church since the 1960’s. Her Christian faith ran deep and was very important to her. However, she never looked at me in any way other than love after I converted to Islam at the age of 17.
She was an active and talkative woman who loved to chat up strangers. She was very curious about the world. I’ve traveled the world and met thousands of people but nobody has influenced me more than her and my grandfather. So much of the foundation of my worldview and politics I got from them. She was a staunch old school Roosevelt Democrat who was concerned with helping those in need. I not only soaked up her love but grew-up on her stories of old St. Louis, streetcars, the Great Depression and the Bootheel.
At these times you always have regrets and I definitely have a lot. I caused her so much worry over the years. In and out of jail, baby mama drama, moving around the country, not returning phone calls all kind of stuff. One of my biggest regrets is my kids didn’t get to know her as well as my sisters kids did. You just have to live with that stuff and try and do better.
I’ll always remember her voice and her singing the the taste of her cooking a
nd so many memories. I’m not a guy really open with my emotions but in her last days I got to kiss her and tell her I loved her and I’m happy I was able to do that.