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On an unseasonably warm October day, Saundra Holt looked upon the ocean as its waters lapped at her feet.
She reached down for a handful of sand, letting it run through her 75-year-old fingers under a sky that was so blue it could have been run through a filter.
Holt, who lives in Drift, Kentucky, spent almost her entire life healing others: First a nurse for 60 years and then as matriarch of her family where she was a bastion of advice, support and love.
“I would not have half the things I do and I would not be the person that I am if not for her,” Shayla Mitchell, Holt’s granddaughter, said. “I spent every weekend with her. She took me to Sunday school, she made sure we had everything we needed.”
And so, with Holt dying from colon and liver cancer, Mitchell and her family were finally able to give back.
Traveling from Kentucky and Missouri, relatives met in North Myrtle Beach late last month, spending a week creating what Mitchell knows will be a final set of memories with her beloved grandmother.
The trip culminated with Holt’s first ever beach trip. Mitchell, 27, captured several of the moments and shared them Oct. 31 to a North Myrtle Beach Facebook page where the post has so far been liked more than 5,000 times and garnered more than 500 comments.
The post is set to private but Mitchell allowed The Sun News to publish photos of her grandmother.
In one image, Holt is facing the ocean with a grandchild on her lap. In another, she is tearful while gently being escorted into the warm water.
“It’s definitely heartwarming to say the least and more importantly than anything, I read some of the comments to my grandmother and it made her feel special,” Mitchell said. “I mean, maybe I’m biased but I think she’s very deserving of it.”
This year alone, about 160,000 people will be newly diagnosed with colorectal cancer, the American Cancer Society says.
Mitchell lives 650 miles away from Holt in Sedalia, Missouri. She understood what the North Myrtle Beach family vacation signified.
Holt was unavailable to talk for the story.
“This will be the last that I see of my grandmother because she’s going back to Kentucky, and she doesn’t have long,” Mitchell said. “There’s just a lot that she’s not been able to experience, and there’s some things that I would never be able to do to help just kind of scratch it off her bucket list, but this was within my means to do so.”
This story was originally published November 1, 2023, 11:11 AM.