Stella Knight was my Grandma.
She was my best friend. She was also the woman that raised me. She shaped me into the woman that I am. She refused to be called Grandma. She was an actress with one acting credit to her name: Charlton Heston’s, “The Ten Commandments.”
when i was a young girl stella was known in our neighborhood for feeding the homeless.
They would come up to our house and knock on our door. Stella would make them sandwiches, and they would thank her and leave.
When I was seven years old, a fifteen-year-old boy knocked on our door. Stella choked back tears. “You’re just a baby!” She cried. She forced the boy inside and made him sit down at the kitchen table. The boy was shaking so hard. Stella proceeded to make him this huge steak. The boy went to pick up the fork, but he was shaking so hard he kept dropping the fork. Stella patted me on the head, “It’s not nice to stare sweet girl.” Stella went and sat next to him and she proceeded to feed him that steak until he had gotten the strength to feed himself. After the boy was finished eating he stood up, and I’ll never forget this moment until the day I die. This fifteen-year-old boy stood up and collapsed into Stella’s arms in tears. “Thank you!” He cried. Stella held on to him as he cried. It was a strong hug that said, “You’re safe.”
The boy said, “Thank you so much! My Mom died, and I don’t have a Dad. I haven’t eaten in days. My friend told me you would make me a sandwich.” He cried long deep sobs. I remember thinking, “No fifteen-year-old boy should ever have to be hungry like that!” I started to tear up and I turned my head in embarrassment. I always hated crying in front of other people.
Stella shooshed him, “There’s more where that came from.” She proceeded to make him a bag full of sandwiches for the road. She put her number in the bag, and she said, “If you ever need ANYTHING- you give me a call!”
The boy leaves and Stella takes me to the table. Stella proceeds to tell me that when she was a young girl her siblings and she were abandoned in California. She was left to take care of her brothers and sisters at the age of thirteen.
“You see Mae- we as women are STRONG. There is nothing we can’t do. It’s our job to protect our family and ANYONE that needs help! If you’re truly blessed there is more than enough to go around.”
My Grandfather John, (who had been head over heels in love with Stella for fifty-two years,) comes in the room and he’s mad! He says, “Stella! I told you, you’re gonna stop feeding people that come to our door!”
To which Stella replied, “Oh John- shut the hell up!”
My Grandpa John looked at Stella in shock, and Stella looked back at him firmly. Grandpa John couldn’t help but bust out laughing at his stubborn wife!
That single moment was one of the moments that shaped my life. It is one of the reasons I’m a Democrat.
stella was everything to me
I only had her for nine years, and I still long for her every day. She was a true beauty.
In February 1996, when I was nine, I had a dream, and Stella came to me in my dream. She was glowing. She tells me that she is going to die on her birthday. I shake my head no and I wake up screaming. Stella rushes over to me and asks if I’m okay. I tell her I’m fine. This was not the first time I had one of these dreams.
On March 2nd, Stella sends me to my Dads. “I love you, kid! But, I’m going to spend tonight with my husband.” I sigh reluctantly and get in the Nova with my Dad.
I spent the day with my Dad, even picking up a birthday gift for Stella. At 8 pm I say, “Dad, can you take me to Stella’s so we can give her her birthday gift?” Dad says yes, so I pick up the phone and call her to let her know we were on our way. The phone rings and Stella doesn’t answer. Grandpa John does. I ask him if we could bring Stella her birthday gift and he says, “You can’t Mae. The ambulance just got here. Stella is sick.”
I dropped the phone and fell to the ground. I couldn’t breathe. My Dad watched in horror and picked up the phone, “Dad, what’s wrong? Stella is sick isn’t she?”
Dad hangs up the phone and tells me to get in the Nova. We get to the hospital and everyone tells me I can’t see her. I start screaming at the top of my lungs until my Dad says he’ll take me back.
We get in her room. It’s so bright. The doctors have just finished working on her. They did all they could. I see Stella lying in bed. She isn’t rubbing her skin like she so often did to give herself comfort. I started rubbing her skin for her. She doesn’t respond. I have gone to sleep with this woman every night since I was born. I tried climbing in bed with her, but there are so many monitors hooked up to her. Dad grabs me and picks me up, “Mae! You cant honey! She’s too weak!” I fought him until I had no fight left in me. Until. all I could do was cry. Stella Knight left us at 10:12 pm March 2nd, 1996- her birthday.
she shaped everything about me
Stella always had the best advice. She always told me never leave home without my pearls, my favorite shade of red lipstick, and my best smile. She said, “These things will take you far in life.” Lol, and she was right. Stella Knight, she was always right.
At her funeral, every homeless person she ever fed showed up. Even a few people she had helped get a job. There was not an empty seat in the funeral home. She lead this wonderful existence where she lived to help people. I remember thinking, “Stella got it right.”
Today is her birthday. I always do birthdays big. Just like Stella taught me. I love you, Stella Knight. Thank you for letting me come live with you, for brushing my hair even when I would scream at you, for kissing every scraped knee, and for making the best mac n cheese known to man. You taught me what strength was.
And I love and miss you so much.