ROCKINGHAM — Beatrice Biggs Parker makes wishes come true, but she’s no fairy godmother.
She’s just an ordinary woman doing extraordinary things to help bring a moment of happiness into the lives of people she said God puts in her path — people who are seriously ill or near death.
Parker lives in a simple but comfortable house in Rockingham now with her dying husband, but at 77, she remembers a time long ago when she was homeless. Her first marriage had collapsed, and without a job or a roof over her head, she came to a life-altering realization one day that would extend far beyond herself for years afterward.
“I didn’t have anything, I was homeless,” Parker said. “My marriage sort of went downhill, but I didn’t let it get me down. I didn’t grieve. I decided not to grieve. I decided instead of sitting around feeling bad all the time, I was going to go out and do something for somebody else who was grieving.”
Asked where she got that kind of courage, Parker pointed upward.
Parker said she didn’t know what it would be, or how she would make it happen; she just knew she would make someone else’s wish come true. And one day at church, she heard a voice tell her this was her time.
“I was singing in church one Sunday and there was this little girl and she came up to me,” she said. “And there was something wrong with her eye. I went up to her mama and asked what was wrong with the little girl’s eye. She told me the girl had a tumor.”
Something moved Parker to take action for what would be the first of many times, and she leaned down and asked the girl if she had a wish and could make it come true, what would it be?
“She said, ‘I want to see Kenny Rogers.’ And I said to myself ,’My God, what have I just said?’ I didn’t know how I would do it, but I decided I was going to make sure she saw him,” Parker recalled. “I called Kenny Rogers and made arrangements, he told me when and where to bring her, and I had to fly her to Landover, Maryland. And you know what? She went blind four days later. Her name is Paulita Oxendine.”
Parker said she doesn’t like airplanes or flying.
“I’m scared of ‘em,” she said. “But I said, ‘I’ve gotta do this’ and like I said, four days later (after meeting Kenny Rogers) she was blind. She still lives, but she’s blind in both eyes and I don’t know how in the world just four days later it came that quick. Maybe I seen it before it was coming.”
Parker said she has never been turned down by any of the celebrities she has called on for help in granting wishes to dying and sick people. Among the stars who have heeded her call are Clint Eastwood, Michael Jordan, former presidents and first ladies George and Barbara Bush and Bill and Hillary Clinton, country singer Barbara Mandrel and late NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt (who Parker said was notorious for turning down invitations like hers).
Parker doesn’t remember the names of all the people she’s helped over the years, but it’s a long list judging by the photographs that decorate her home office, and the prestigious awards stacked on a high shelf spanning two walls of the room.
She has won two Daily Point of Light Awards since 2002. The award, started by former President Bush in 1989, recognizes ordinary Americans for voluntarily taking action in their communities and making positive change.
But making others’ dreams come true is not the only gift Parker has to share with the world.
“I write poems,” she said. “And I can’t explain how I can pick up a pencil to write.”
The poems, she said, just come to her as if from another place. She said she picks up her pen or pencil and the words just come through her, and while she’s writing, she wonders where the words are coming from. Parker has several poems on plaques. She sells them to help supplement her fixed income, and one of her fondest memories is of a day she went into a restaurant to pick up some take-out she had ordered.
“I walked in and went to the counter and told the girl who I was,” Parker said. “And I’ll never forget, there was this woman, an African-American woman, and she came out from the kitchen and asked ‘Did I just hear you say you are Bea Biggs?’ and I said, ‘Yes.’ And she reached in her pocket and pulled out a folded piece of paper. It was one of my poems, called ‘Mamma,’ and she told me she keeps it in her pocket everywhere she goes. Her mother had passed some time ago.”
Parker said she wouldn’t object to having a book of her poetry published, and admitted she probably has enough verses to fill a book.
Asked whether she still makes wishes come true, Parker said she still welcomes all chances to help others. She seems to come from a different world in some ways.
“I see people out places,” she said. “And if they seem like they need to be lifted up, I’ll walk over and lay a hand on their shoulder. One day I was in a shop and I saw two ladies I didn’t know and I just went over and patted her on the back. She said, ‘Excuse me, but did you just touch me?’ and I said ‘Yes, I did. You looked like you could use a hug.’ And she just looked at me and asked, “Where are you from? People don’t do that anymore.’ And she really appreciated it. People are cold now. Cold.”
Parker said she always looks for people who seem like they could use a little encouragement or help. And she prefers to stay out of the picture whenever possible.
“Because it’s not about me,” she said. “It’s about them, and making their wish come true. That’s what it’s about.”