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I Have A PHD From the School of Hard Knocks

I Have A PHD From the School of Hard Knocks

I first met this incredible woman in 2013. Our friendship was not a long one but she touched my life in many ways. She sent me a friend request at the first of the year, and as I went to look at her page before accepting that friend request, I knew this woman was someone special. Her smile on her profile pic was one of the friendliest smiles I had seen in a long time. What really made me think she was my kind of woman was what she had listed as her education, “ i have a PHD from the school of hard knocks!!!!!!!!” It made me actually laugh out loud.

Over the next several months we became friends, shared thoughts about the attack on women’s rights, minorities, and those in the LGBT community. I recall once her scolding me for not replying to a comment she posted on my page under something I shared, letting me know that I should respond to people when they comment on my page. At first I felt like saying, are you kidding me? Don’t you know that I receive so many notifications that there is no way I could possibly see every comment or tag someone makes directed at me? However, I laughed and apologized to her and explained I hadn’t seen her comment.


Mrs. Audrey’s picture to show solidarity in honoring Rehtaeh Parsons

She was someone who believed that every person should be treated with respect, dignity, and kindness, unless they were a politician who was attacking a group of individuals, and then it was no holds bar. She lived in a facility in South East Texas and was only a few hours drive from where I lived. We talked about meeting in person one day, and I honestly looked forward to that day. She was a special friend and a very special person.

So many times we see articles about how social media has isolated people and kept them from forming real relationships, I beg to differ. You see I spend countless hours on facebook working with our organization and I have made the closest friendships I have ever enjoyed in my adult life. Have I met everyone I am friends with? Of course not, but I have met many and when we meet it’s like we’ve been friends forever, and I have no doubt it would have been the same with this special facebook friend as well.

Several months ago I noticed my friend wasn’t posting on facebook anymore and I hadn’t seen her in a while. I found out she had been suffering from a health situation and had been hospitalized. Over the next few months I would check on her through the posts her daughter would make on her page. I kept my friend in my prayers and thoughts and longed for when she would return to facebook. I found out last night about 3am in the morning that would not happen again. You see my dear friend whom I had grown to love passed away a few days ago. At first I sat in my bed and cried and felt guilty because I hadn’t gone to her page in a few weeks to check on her but then I heard a little voice say “oh please, you are busy and are doing things to help other people, stop feeling sorry for yourself and get to the things that need to be done.” Of course there was no real voice saying those words, they were the words I imagined my friend would say to me at the moment if she could.

The reason this friend was so special to me I think is because she reminded me of my own grandmother who passed away several years ago. I use to think my grandmother and my friend would have been wonderful friends because they were so alike. I use to to imagine the two of them together, laughing, talking, and discussing the things we work hard everyday to fight for. I imagined them talking of their lives and generation in a way that would connect them instantly and leave me out. You see my friend would have turned 90 this year but our age difference did not matter with our friendship. I looked up to her, respected her opinions, adored her humor, and thought then when I became her age I would be much like her and how my grandmother were. I can only imagine the hardships these two women endured throughout their young lives as women. These women spent a lifetime fighting for the rights I have now. They endured what those of us now will never endure. I remember my friend always saying, “I wish I could get out there with you all but it’s time for you to do this and I am here to support you.” The torch had indeed been passed to a new generation and I take that responsibility serious.

So Mrs. Audrey Dale Sheffield, I bid you farewell and thank you for your friendship, humor, and encouragement. We will continue to carry the torch and to make our communities, our states, and our country to make the world you believed it should be. We will follow in your footsteps and the millions of other women who came before us and continue this fight for all women everywhere. Your light and your life will live on in your family, friends, and those who never had the gift of being able to meet you. I will miss you my dear friend but I know you are getting to have that visit now with my own grandmother and I can only hope that we are making you both proud.

Audrey and Renee


1525390_10152151772539763_704565311_nRenee Davis is the Executive Vice President of Political Action and sits on the Board of Directors for UniteWomen.org Action. She has been with the organization from it’s inception and has served as a Co-State Director of Louisiana, a Regional Director, Outreach National Director, Executive Vice President of  Programs and created our UniteWomen.org Campus Division. Renee is a dedicated and fierce activist for women’s rights and equality for all.


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