This past summer I received a call from a lady by the name of Helen Viser Fitzgerald. Ms. Helen was the manager of the Lubbock, Texas City Library, Patterson Branch and she was trying to locate a family member of Nathaniel Reed in California. Nathaniel Reed was my grandmother, Rebecca Ruth Reed Harris’, brother. He had a daughter that he named after my grandmother and she had passed away. The family was looking for a descendant from my grandmother’s side to possible attend the funeral.
When I first received the call I wasn’t able to connect all of the dots. Although I met several of my relatives over the years, I didn’t know or remember how we were exactly related. In 2003 when my grandmother passed away, my grandmother’s brother Nathaniel’s other daughter, Dorothy McKever, came out from Texas for the funeral and she and I connected. Over the years I would send her cards and occasionally we would talk, but I didn’t’ realize that she was my grandmother’s niece, I just knew we were family.
Cousin Dorothy was the connection how Ms. Helen had originally reached out to me. After our first call during the summer, Ms. Helen and I began communicating and as she learned more about the work I do she invited me to come and speak at their Black History Program that would be held February 28, 2015. Months would go by and our communication became hit and miss. For a period of time I didn’t hear from her and I thought they decided to go in another direction, then I received another call from Ms. Helen and she told me she had been in the hospital and was sorry she hadn’t gotten back to me to make the arrangements for my visit. She advised me she would be calling me soon to book my flight and take care of the necessary paperwork.
Then during the Christmas holidays, I received a call from Jane Clausen from the Patterson Branch Library advising me that Ms. Helen had passed away in November. My heart was saddened, I had no idea that she had been so ill. She was a woman that had such life and vitality over the phone, I just couldn’t wait to meet her. During my conversation with Jane, I thought that the trip was going to be canceled and of course I would have understood. To my surprise, she told me no, Ms. Helen definitely wanted you to come and she left explicit instructions to that effect. I said okay it would be my honor and my pleasure.
This past weekend I traveled to Lubbock, Texas through the sleet and snow to share a message on the meaning of celebrating our heritage. I am grateful to the people of Lubbock for their kindness and hospitality. Many of us don’t stay connected to our families and communities from whence we came and then we have no idea who our “people” are and how we are connected. I am truly grateful that I have pieces of the puzzle about my family and where my roots are planted. I am encouraged to work harder putting the pieces together even more to leave a map and footprints for those that will come behind me so they will know from whence they have come. I am truly sorry that I was not able to meet Mrs. Helen Faye Viser Fitzgerald. She definitely left her footprint on a community that stretched clear to California.
Healing Without Hate: It’s a choice. It’s a lifestyle. Pass it on!
Visit www.WendyGladney.com and www.forgivingforliving.org. Wendy is a coach, consultant and speaker. You may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Wendy is featured on Radio Free 102.3 KJLH on Front Page with Dominique DiPrima Thursday Mornings @ 5:00am.