Everyone who knew Ethel Lance described her as a joy to be around. But she also had to deal with many heartaches in her lifetime.
Her husband, Nathaniel Lance, died in 1988. And she cared for one of her three daughters, Terrie Washington, who was battling cancer before the disease claimed her daughter’s life in 2013.
To help her through those troubling times, Lance often sang “One Day At a Time,” a gospel song about facing life’s daily challenges with strength and faith.
“One day at a time, sweet Jesus, ” the song goes, “That’s all I’m asking of you, just give me the strength to do every day what I have to do.”
Nadine Collier, one of Lance’s daughters, said her mother would sing that song every Wednesday on senior citizen night for others in the church group at Mother Emanuel AME.
“The people would say, ‘Go ahead Ethel, even though you can’t sing the thing, we going to sit here and listen to you, so you go ahead and sing your song’ and they would laugh and all,” Collier said. “But that was her favorite song. ... That song just does something for her.”
Many times, Lance would sing it through her tears, as she mourned the loss of her daughter.
“That song just gives her strength, to keep on and moving on, because she could only do things one day at a time,” Collier said. “She went through a lot.”
Now, Collier said, her mother’s favorite song might provide some solace to the rest of the community, as many in Charleston grapple to understand the tragedy.