Remembering Ozzie Lee and the importance of preserving memories

By Miriam Brabham | June 25, 2024

  • Writer Miriam Brabham as a baby with her grandmother, Ozzie Lee. (Courtesy of Miriam Brabham)

Writer Miriam Brabham as a baby with her grandmother, Ozzie Lee. (Courtesy of Miriam Brabham)

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Losing someone special is never easy. But thankfully, a person can live on through storytelling. Using the power of stories, we remember precious moments and share what they meant to the world. Miriam Brabham of Green Bay reflects on her memory of her grandmother and how her passing impacted her perspective on life.


Just before sunrise on July 11th, 1996 an ambulance was rushed to my grandparents’ home on New York’s Long Island. My grandparents were the first Black people to own their home on that street. The pride in their home was reflected in a carefully manicured lawn, protective plastic on the sofa, and a front door that was only for show. 

White men in blue emergency responder uniforms stormed in carrying a long stretcher and promptly headed up the stairs to my grandmother Ozzie Lee’s bedroom.

While shocking, what was most surprising, was the fact that I had slept on the couch. My family had just moved into my grandparents’ home to care for my grandmother as her health had taken an unexpected turn. 

I remember hearing my grandmother come down the stairs. I pretended to be asleep so she wouldn’t make me go to bed. What I thought was a dream of my grandmother kissing my forehead and placing a blanket over me began to come into focus. My brother lying in front of the TV, my grandfather sitting in his favorite chair, and me lying on the couch with its crunchy plastic.

Ozzie Lee wasn’t the type of woman to have things any which way in her home or life. It was the sound of a door — that hadn’t been opened in 20 years — springing to life that awoke me that morning. It was the disregard for how things were done that gave way to my indignation. Soon those same white men came down the stairs with my grandmother laid on the same stretcher they had once carried tucked under their broad shoulders. My father swooped me into his arms, my older brother grabbed his hand, and the three of us walked out the front door for the first and last time. 

After my grandmother’s funeral, I asked my father a question. I don’t remember the question but his answer is something I will carry with me forever.

He said, “I don’t know Mim, this is why it is so important we ask people these questions when they are alive. Why we shouldn’t take anyone for granted because you never know how long you have with someone. If you don’t ask them, the answer dies with them.” 

I am not just mourning not getting to know my grandmother very well, but also, how she didn’t get to know me. My grandmother, who worked so hard and was denied so much, didn’t get to see what I have become, all that I was able to do because of her and on behalf of her. 

It was my mother who reminded me that memory is the person, what they meant to the world, what they left behind, and their impact. 

Storytelling does more than allow someone to remember. They can relive those moments and give life to those who were lost, who are now found in new memories. It is easy to forget ourselves or our role in the stories we tell while setting the scene and recreating. 

As storytellers, we play a vital role in the human experience. Our observations are so often outside of ourselves. This story is so you may know me, so I may be known so that not all of my stories accompany me to the grave.

Miriam Brabham

Miriam Brabham

Miriam Brabham is a poet and author of “1,000 Apologies to Me: A Collection of Poetry, Short Stories, and Reflections.” Miriam is passionate about giving back to her community, storytelling, and pursuing her many artistic passions. She is a facilitator, moderator, workshop leader, and presenter on identity and issues surrounding...

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