ST. PETERSBURG — Lena Miller could always be counted on for a laugh, an outrageous statement and for being unfailingly honest about her deepest feelings.
"How about the crying spells? Have you gone through that?'' she once asked a gathering of Sistahs Surviving Breast Cancer.
That particular evening, she had good news to share with the group of mostly African-American women. Her CAT scan results were good. Later, she brought them to uproarious laughter as she broached the subject of cancer and its effects on life's intimate moments.
Lena Miller died under hospice care on April 26, joking and singing her favorite gospel music to the end. She was 61.
Last week, the group that supported her through her two-year battle with cancer made plans to attend her funeral at 20th Street Church of Christ. It would be their third funeral in three months. Fifty-one-year-old Harrietta Graveley died on March 11. Filomena "Mina'' Murphy, 47, died on Feb. 14.
Jackie Brown, founder of Sistahs Surviving Breast Cancer, will miss Lena.
"She was always upbeat,'' Brown said.
"She was strong in her faith, just a very outgoing, bubbly spirited person.''
Retired as an unemployment compensation tax auditor for the Florida Department of Revenue, Mrs. Miller and her husband, Larry, were raising two grandchildren, Khemradj, 10, and Jacquarion, 8.
Khemradj, her son's child, and Jacquarion, his girlfriend's daughter, were the center of her life.
"They really don't understand the full realm of death, but we're just reinforcing the love that she had for them and we are seeking counseling through hospice,'' her sister Barbara Whitchard said.
"As young as they are, they were like assistant caregivers. Jacquarion would pick out her dress to wear for chemotherapy and put out her underwear the night before and tell her, 'Grandma, this is what you're going to wear tomorrow.' ''
In October, Whitchard said, she and her sister traveled to New York for their first vacation alone.
"We went to see The Color Purple,'' Whitchard said.
"She was so adamant to go. We took pictures in front of the marquee.''
Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2293.