Family matriarch remains upbeat despite tragedies

Mother's special day

Sara Boland has never had a bad Mother’s Day.

Neither can the 89-year-old recall one that was more special than another, despite her razor-sharp memory.

“I haven’t had one that wasn’t special,” Boland said.

Boland has six grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and a great-great-grandson.

Boland knows them all by name, including her great- and great-great-nieces and nephews, and can recite their spouse’s names and phone numbers by heart, said her niece Vernette Smith.

“I think she really, truly loves every last one of us,” said Smith, 71, who has four children, nine grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Growing up, Smith looked forward to spending her summers at her aunt’s house. Later, when the two women lived in Texas, they often spent weekends together.

It was while they lived in Texas that Boland learned her daughter had been diagnosed with cancer.

“That was the first time I ever heard her upset,” Smith said.

Her daughter, Florence Barrett, died of cervical cancer in 1987. Within the year, Boland also lost her second husband, two brothers and a niece.

Then, in 1995, Boland lost her son to lung cancer.

“It’s an inspiration to me ... she grieves for them but she goes on with her life,” Smith said. “She said yeah, I could be sad, and she said I could sit around and be miserable and make everybody around me miserable. But she’s always upbeat.”

Boland said she’s had a good life and feels blessed despite the loss of her only two children.

“I have all the grandchildren,” she said. “I have everybody except the two children. I’ve been very blessed.”

When Smith’s mother, Boland’s eldest sister, died in 2000, Boland became like a mother to Smith and Smith like a daughter to Boland.

“She’s always been real special to me and my children,” Smith said.

Every Sunday, Boland drives herself to Smith’s house for Sunday dinner, as she has for at least 10 years.

Sunday, she expects to spend time with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. But she also will likely visit Smith at some point during the day, as she usually does on holidays.

Smith, who said some of her family is always hanging out at her house, didn’t have any special plans for the day, either. But she knows she’ll spend it with family.

“Mother’s Day is just like another day here. I cook every Sunday for whoever wants to come,” Smith said.

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