Life can present many challenges, particularly for those who find themselves in the role of caregiver. And it was the way a Winnsboro woman handled those challenges as she cared for her mother that inspired one of her own daughters to want to give her the gift of travel.
Pamela Lighten of Winnsboro was born in Franklin Parish and raised in Chicago, Ill. She came back in 1981 to be closer to her mother. She had lovingly cared for her mother, Joann C. Hoard, following a diagnoses of congestive heart failure in 2016. Lighten lost her mother in November of that year, but prior to that devoted her spare time to seeing that her mother’s needs were met.
Her sacrifices inspired Lighten’s daughter LaKeya Jones not only with a desire to share travel with her mother, but also to share their love of travel with Essence magazine for a Mother’s Day feature, “48 Times Black Women Thanked Mom for Teaching Them to Love Travel.” Jones’ entry was selected to be included. Their photo and story is No. 28 in the segment.
Jones shared the news about the article and sent a link to the story along with a “Happy Mother’s Day” wish as a surprise to Lighten.
Lighten is mother to three daughters, including LaKeya, who attended and graduated from Franklin Parish schools. Lighten said she is proud that her daughters have done well for themselves. Her oldest daughter, Keyanna, is a supervisor with the Social Security administration in Baton Rouge, and the youngest daughter, Jasmine, is working in finance in Houston.
Jones’ submission to Essence in turn tells of the pride and admiration she felt for her mother as she watched her care for her grandmother. It reads in part, “I vowed that I would do everything in my power to give my mom her flowers while she’s still here to smell them.”
“I just thought it was such a lovely tribute,” Lighten said about the article.
Speaking of the time she spent caring for her mother, Lighten said her mother was able to get about and had her mental faculties, but noted, “Heart failure was her problem.”
Lighten continued to work a full-time job, devoting her time away from the job to her mother.
“My children saw me care for my mom. It was stressful at times, but I was happy to do it because I felt like she had done so much for me in my lifetime. Her being in that situation, I was going to do everything I could for her,” Lighten said.
After her grandmother’s death in 2016, Jones set about fulfilling the promise she had made to her mother. She started things off with a trip to Washington, D.C., where Jones works for the Department of Agriculture, and a visit with Lighten’s youngest daughter, Jasmine.
Lighten said LaKeya told her they were going to start flying to different beaches since she knew Lighten loved the beach. But in order to travel to the beaches of the world, Lighten would have to be comfortable flying, so plans for the first trip included a flight to D.C.
“It was the first trip I had ever flown,” Lighten said. “I had visited a couple of times, but I had never flown.”
One of her most memorable moments from that trip came, she said, when they went to New York City. She said they went to The Cutting Room to hear The Brassaholics of New Orleans play. Lighten said they were pulled onto the dance floor.
“Of course, we had to show the New Yorkers how we get down, and we had a blast dancing the night away,” she said.
Jones told her mother she had another trip planned after the D.C. trip. That trip took them to Jamaica. This year they plan to go to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
During the trip to Jamaica, Lighten’s spirit of adventure had a chance to bloom.
Dunn River Falls, Montego Bay, Jamaica is a popular attraction, but seeing the 600-foot waterfall involves a climb.
“I was wanting to go to the waterfall not knowing that you have to climb to the waterfall,” Lighten said.
“All you could see was rocks and water. And it’s rushing down so hard. It’s such an adrenalin (rush).”
Lighten said there is a sign posted that warns if you have high blood pressure or any other medical condition, it might not be safe for you to go.
Lighten said she has blood pressure issues, but wasn’t deterred.
“I was not going to let a 6oo-foot waterfall scare me,” Lighten said.
“It was such a feeling of accomplishment. You would go up about 10 or 12 feet and you could get off and there were a couple of times I thought about getting off,” she said. “I made it all the way. It was a true assessment of human nature because you had to hold somebody’s hand in front of you and somebody’s hand behind you.”
She is looking forward to future “Mommy and Me” trips with her daughter and the adventures they hold. She said she plans to zip line on their trip to Cabo.