By Rimaujhia Greenlee

“She is the sugar honey iced tea!”

“Great. Wonderful. Magnificent. Joyful. I can only find action words to describe what it feels like to be a grandmother. My favorite part is being able to laugh and smile with and at you guys. Because y’all are some characters I tell you!” says my grandmother as she sat in her favorite chair watching her “judge shows.”

My grandmother, Cheryl Joyce Hill, was born January 14, 1959 in Harlem, New York but made her way to Tacoma, Washington with her 2 brothers and sister in 1964 after her mother passed when she was just 5 years old. She was later adopted by a wonderful, loving woman named Prince Ella Brooks (whom we called Big Mama) and lived the rest of her childhood on 62nd and McKinley on the Eastside.

By the time she was 21, she was a wife and mother of two girls, Selina and Jacquina. She says that caused her to grow up and start building a solid foundation for her life. She went to college and worked three jobs right after her first child was born and her husband enlisted into the Navy. It was then put on her heart to follow her mother’s footsteps and become a foster parent. She fostered over 25 “hard to place” girls and to this day, she is still in contact with some of the girls she fostered.

Grandma is one of those people who just loves people. You ask her how she is doing and she lights up and says, “Blessed and highly favored! How you?” My family and I always joke about how the whole city of Tacoma knows her because we cannot go anywhere without hearing someone yell out for Sister Cheryl. She has always told my cousins and I to be kind to others and love them no matter what because you never know what their story is. And that made all the difference when I became a servant-leader. My cousin Amari, 19, says that our grandma has always put others before herself and while it bothers her, she realizes that that is just who she is.

One thing that we both love about her is how she makes up random songs about laundry, driving, eating…anything!   She throws an “Oh, and how I thank you Jesus!” in it and goes on about her day. She is absolutely hilarious and doesn’t even realize it!

Amari and I were both raised by singles mothers and we both considered Grandma to be our second parent when we were younger. She was our bonus parent. And we both agreed that we wouldn’t have had it any other way.  When I asked Amari what she could compare our grandma to, she said, “I can’t compare her to anything or anyone! She is the sugar honey iced tea! Other people’s grandmas are nice I’m sure, but mine is the best.” Then we both shared a laugh. Talking to my cousin about my grandmother and what an impact she has had on all of her grandchildren’s lives just made us appreciate her that much more. My cousins and I all agreed that we wouldn’t be the people we are today without our moms and our grandmother.

I am so grateful that I have my grandmother here with me still. I have been blessed with her wisdom and wonderful memories. Some of my favorite memories of her include staying the night. We would stay up all night watching comedies and I would wake up to her having cooked every breakfast food under the sun—she loves to cook! We still have our days together, but our roles are slightly reversed because she is sick now. Now I cook for her and do what I can to help her relax. I cherish all the time I get to spend with her and soak up every bit of knowledge I can because I believe the keys to success are within our elders. I want to continue to spread the light she spreads to everyone who ever has the pleasure of meeting her. I want to continue to spread her love and love for service as well. That has always been my favorite thing about her. Her light.