Renewal: Mentally and physically abused as a young girl, a former foster child now lives a life that would have been "unimaginable" to her previous 6-year old self.
Parham bounced around the city foster care system for a few years, her self-esteem shattered by her pain and misfortune. "I wanted to give up on life," she recalled.
When she was 10, she went to live with the woman who changed her life - the late Marion Smallwood of Brooklyn.
"She helped me get my life back together," Parham said.
Since taking in her first child eight years ago, Parham has fostered about 20 children and adopted two. ...
Parham starts her day at 5 a.m. to get the kids ready for school and often stays up late into the night, helping with homework.
She said the emotional scars of her youth motivate her selfless lifestyle.
"I want to help children who have been hurt just like me and let them know that life goes on," she said.
"You don't have to give up, you don't have to take your life. God will put someone in your life that will help you to make it through."
"Doer": The National Mother of the Year advises that "life’s problems and tragedies can clear the way for people to show what they are really made of: strength, compassion, resilience."
“There are so many things you can teach children by your actions,” she said.
She was, and still is, an inveterate “doer” and community activist, rising at 5 a.m. to pray and then tend the financial books of her family and her community organizations.
Her children, she said, “had the best of both worlds,” with the wide-open outdoors of the farm and close proximity to cultural activities in Columbia.
For a time in the 1960s, they wrote a family newspaper, the McGregor News, which recorded life in the busy household.
They cared for two elderly parents in their home, a lesson in compassion she believes particularly shaped the life of her youngest son, who was present for the final years of his paternal grandfather’s life.
Four short years later, I've watched her more recent memories fall away like fragile petals off a dying rose, dropping to the ground, one by one. But on Sunday mornings, my real mother comes out to play again. The rose is in full bloom, lovelier than ever, with an aroma of new life that must be envied by the angels. For as she sings, with the joyful abandon of a little child, every word of every song is a heartfelt offering to her King. She raises her hands, willing her Heavenly Father to pick her up, to carry her through one more week. And as she clutches her breast in worship and adoration, her hazel eyes once again sparkle like diamonds.
These days, Mom no longer carries a purse. She wouldn't know what to do with one. She doesn't remember what happened two minutes ago. Oh, but she remembers Jesus. She remembers he loves her. And she remembers she loves him.
That's a miracle I experience each week. And it makes my heart sing in the midst of my sorrow.