When 82-year-old Gracie Lou Phillips returned from early voting last week in North Texas, she “danced a little jig” around her walker, then sat down and raised her fists into the air, her family said.
“I voted!” she declared.
Until then, Phillips, from Grand Prairie, had never cast a ballot — the result of misapprehension about voting and the belief that she didn’t have a voice, her family said.
But her son-in-law, Jeff Griffith, said that in recent years, voting had become extremely important to Phillips, and she wanted to have a say in the 2018 midterm elections. So despite being gravely ill, Phillips cast her first-ever ballot during early voting Thursday in Grand Prairie.
On Monday, she died.
Phillips was a beautician; her husband, Bill, worked in construction. They had their hands full caring for seven children, and Griffith said his mother-in-law never voted because her husband, before his death a decade ago, always worried that the couple would get called for jury duty and “not be able to make ends meet.” Plus, he did not want them to be political for fear that it might sway business, the family said.
But after watching the elections in recent years, Griffith said, his mother-in-law wanted to participate. She registered to vote, but then she became ill with pneumonia and sepsis, Griffith said. Still, he said, while Phillips was in the hospital, she kept talking about the election. “She was asking, ‘Isn’t there some way I can vote? Don’t they let people vote from the hospital?’ ” he said.
So Thursday, Phillips, who was in hospice care and on oxygen, went to the polls — a church near her home. She stayed in the vehicle and poll workers brought her a ballot, Griffith said. When she finished filling it out, he said, they clapped and cheered.
A video from her family showed Phillips sitting in the vehicle, holding a souvenir pen and a sticker. “I voted today,” she said, reading the words printed on the seal.
But the next morning, Phillips was unable to get out of bed, her family said.
“She said, ‘At least I voted,’ ” Griffith said. “It was one of the last coherent things she said to us.”
She died just before 2 a.m. Monday, with her daughters by her side and her vote having been logged. “She was very proud,” Griffith said. “She kept saying she finally got to vote.”