January is Cervical Health Awareness month.
Nearly 13,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year.
In 1999 one of those women was my great-grandmother, Elizabeth “Malizabeth” Smith Jones.
My great-grandmother was the matriarch of our family.
She was known for feeding us good ole country meals, keeping a huge 5-gallon bucket of vanilla ice cream in the deep freezer and cooking for the pastor and first lady every Sunday.
She talked super fast so we had to listen carefully.
She worked as a cafeteria worker at Lockhart Elementary School for 30 plus years. Back in the day, a cafeteria worker did more than open cans. She made all the food from scratch, putting her love, sweat, and tears in her meals. Her meals provided nourishment to thousands of children during her time there. She always made sure to give her grandchildren extra milk or servings of food and probably loaded them up with Southern grandma kisses in the process.
My great-grandmother almost died while she was in labor with my grandmother, as a result, she only had one child. However, her heart was so big that she fostered over 10 children in her lifetime.
She loved spending time with her grandchildren and great grands and seeing us dress up in our Sunday’s best.
There was one time a year when all our family got together and that was Christmas. We would meet at her house and exchange gifts, laughs and stuff our bellies.
Cervical cancer took our matriarch, but it did not take her legacy.
Malizabeth, your battle with cervical cancer is one of the many reasons I am so passionate about reproductive health. I miss those big bear hugs and your good country cooking. I miss your infectious smile and love. I hope I am making you proud and you continue to smile down on your grandchildren.