News 8 Exclusive
DALLAS – Ask Sharon Risher about her mother, and you'll learn about a warm, faithful woman who loved a clean home and perfume.
Those were the little things that filled Ethel Lance's life, but most of us have only heard the details of her death.
"The church was a part of the fabric of her life," Risher said.
That church was Emanuel AME in Charleston, S.C., where Lance worshiped for decades, and worked as its sexton for the last five years. She was allegedly killed by Dylann Roof last month in the church she loved so much.
That violent night, Risher was at work in Dallas when her daughter called.
"[She said] 'There's been a shooting at the church!' And so I said, 'What church?' And she said, 'Grandma's church,'" Risher recalled.
Bible study was on Wednesdays, and her mother never missed it. That night, it cost Lance her life.
"I hold on to the fact that my mother died in a place of faith," Risher said. "A place my mother dedicated her life to."
It's been a role-reversal for Risher. She, too, is in the ministry, as a chaplain at Parkland Hospital. The grief is now her own.
But Friday, her mother's death held new significance. It helped bring down what Risher calls a "symbol of oppression" in South Carolina, and the timing doesn't feel like a coincidence.
"I said to her, 'Momma, it took you losing your life for this flag to come down. Other than you giving me birth, this is the best present I could have ever gotten on my birthday!'" she said.
Risher turned 57 Friday, and it will be the first year without her mother. She's grateful it's starting with a change that shows Lance did not die in vain.
"All of this has happened because of her, and I just want to continue to make her proud," Risher said.