On Tuesday, Mary Ella Gilliland, an Oakland woman celebrated her centennial and four years of existence; she was well-respected and looked up to by everyone around her for her unparalleled care for other people.
Some would address her as “Mama” for her tender nature exemplified towards them, she was even regarded as a surrogate mother to many over the years.
One of the lives that Gilliland was able to transform was the life of Renee Cage-Watson. Cage-Watson is a licensed clinical social worker and life adviser who admitted that without Gilliland’s presence in her life who stood as her mother since she was 17 months old, she wouldn’t be the woman she is today.
According to Cage-Watson, her biological mother suffered from substance abuse, and since there is no one to take care of her, Gilliland immediately accepted the role alongside her husband, Wilburn Gilliland. Though Cage-Watson was never legally adopted when she was young, the Gilliland’s especially Mary, took care of her and supported her until she was able to complete her master’s degree in social welfare at the University of California at Berkeley.
But when Cage-Watson turned adult, the couple finally processed the adult adoption papers and make things official.
This year’s birthday bash for Gilliland was celebrated through Zoom, where all the guests virtually outpoured their love and admiration for the woman of the hour.
The celebrant wore a party hat that reads “Happy Birthday”, and all of her favorite dishes, desserts, and pastries were prepared. They had candied yams, mac n’ cheese, cabbage and fried fish, and some Cola.
Albeit suffering from an advanced stage of dementia, Cage-Watson is grateful since her mother’s physical status is as fit as a bean; is able to laugh, has the same nurturing attitude, and has a marvelous appetite. She said, “She’s still in good health and only takes one medication which I think is awesome! I’ll be 50, and I take more than she does.”
“She still can walk unassisted, although I do help her, she still feeds herself, can see and hear, read things from the television well (small print),” she added.
Though there were times that Gilliland’s thoughts are jumbled and puzzling to understand, Cage-Watson never failed to show her love and undying patience for her mother. She also commended Gilliland’s innate attitude of being caring since the latter loved to cuddle with her dolls and call them her little babies, saying that Cage-Watson’s story relates to the stories of the dolls.
“She’ll say, ‘The mama left these babies and ain’t came back.’ That was my story.”
For Cage-Watson, nothing compares to the feeling of being able to give back the love she has received growing up from her mother. “She gets loved on every day by me,” Cage-Watson said joyfully. “Her favorite to receive is a good scratching of the back. She’ll say, ‘Awww baby that feels so good.’ It just warms my heart.”
On Tuesday, Cage-Watson posted photos of Gilliland with a caption attached, “Please join with me,” she wrote, “in wishing my Mama a happy 104th birthday.”
With that, we wish Mary Ella Gilliland a happy birthday, and may she enjoy her life more as a centenarian!