An elderly woman who exercised her right to vote for the very first time at the age of 82, died just four days later.
Texas grandmother Gracie Lou Phillips, had never voted before the 2018 midterm elections, and despite having an interest in current affairs and political candidates, the former beautician had long harboured misapprehensions about voting; believing she didn’t have a voice.
Gracie had married when she was 15-years-old and went on to have a hectic family life; raising seven children. Her late husband had been concerned about voting; fearing they might be called up for jury service and left unable to work or care for their children.
Gracie’s husband, who worked in construction, also worried about how expressing political opinion could affect business. However, Gracie underwent a change of heart in recent years; becoming eager to have her political say.
Gracie’s health deteriorated in the months before her death, but her enthusiasm at the prospect of voting in the 2018 midterm elections did not wane.
A few weeks before the elections she was hospitalised, but made sure to register to vote. During her final two weeks, she’d been receiving hospice care at home.
Despite suffering with pneumonia and sepsis, Gracie continued to speak with excitement about her upcoming vote, taking to Facebook to write:
This year is a very important year to vote, one vote can make a difference. 82 yrs and FIRST time to vote. Lost my husband 11yrs ago. [sic]
So this Grannie is voting in the most important race there is!! MY PRESIDENT…STAY STRONG SIR, I AM FOR YOU!!! [sic]
On the afternoon of Thursday November 1, Gracie was driven to the polls, assisted by her daughter, Terri Griffith. Poll workers reportedly brought a paper ballot out to the car for her, covering up the windows and cheering and clapping after she completed her ballot.
As reported by NBC DFW, Gracie’s proud moment was captured on film, with the octogenarian heard to declare:
To have someone literally need oxygen to breathe, pure tank of oxygen to breathe, put it in her car and ask to go on what may very well be the last week of her life, that shows the dedication and priority that people need to look at.
When she returned home from the polls, the grandmother was apparently so filled with joy at her actions, she ‘danced a little jig’, as reported by The Washington Post.
Gracie passed away in her sleep at her Grand Prairie, Texas home on Monday, November 5, having fulfilled her wish of using her political voice.
Gracie’s granddaughter, 33-year-old Leslie Moore, told Time how she often disagreed with her grandmother in regards to politics. However, she explained how Gracie had always valued open discussions with others, and didn’t care which way a person chose to use their vote, so long as they did use it.
Leslie stated how her grandmother had been a ‘great role model and a wonderful person’, hoping her story will inspire others to get out and vote:
If my grandmother, who was 82 years old, in hospice and on oxygen, could go out and vote, everyone else has no excuse not to. [sic]
No doubt Gracie’s family can take comfort in the pride the fiercely determined lady had felt after casting her very first vote.
Our thoughts are with the family of Gracie Lou Phillips at this difficult time.
If you have experienced a bereavement and would like to speak with someone in confidence contact Cruse Bereavement Care via their national helpline on 0808 808 1677.
Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.