A mimosa is a simple drink. Combine three parts champagne to one part orange juice in a champagne flute and brunch becomes a celebration. A speech becomes a toast. For the children of Sharon Saied, it became a ritual.
Toward the end of Sharon’s life, Dan Mooney, her second son, mixed mimosas each morning after they sleepily drained pots of dark coffee.
The mimosa, with its fizzy yellow color, may have been named after the fuzzy little flowers that bloom on the Acacia dealbata, better known as the Australian-born mimosa tree. These canary-yellow flowers bud in sprays that billow in wild skirts from the tree’s thin, honey-colored trunk. The mimosa is strong and beautiful, taking root in varied soil types, flowering, surviving, and flourishing most anywhere.
The champagne-based concoction was birthed amid the boozy luxury of the Paris Ritz Hotel in the 1920s. Word is, an unnamed French barman served up the loose mix of champagne and orange juice to the hotel’s elegant guests (though he may have pilfered the recipe from a London club that served an identical drink dubbed “Buck’s Fizz”). Sharon Saied never drank alcohol in any form. She said she didn’t need a tonic or drug to enjoy life. Some people take life straight up and clear-eyed.
For six decades, the Sapulpa pharmacist’s daughter entertained, laughed, raised five babies, traveled, painted, earned an art degree from Oklahoma State University, played pranks, and owned more power tools than many a macho weekend warrior. She didn’t raise her voice, smoke, or drink coffee or, of course, alcohol—except a sip of champagne on New Year’s Eve. Her recipe for life: Be prepared and have fun. Everyone else will follow your lead.
Some, like her oldest son Dave Mooney, swear she was psychic. Intuitive, nurturing, and wise, Sharon lived and died well. For years, Sharon’s kids told Bob Saied, owner and founder of Saied Music circle of fifths Co., how lucky he was to find their mom.
“But I like to tell them it wasn’t luck. It was hard work,” Bob said. “A lot of the women I dated I felt were needy, and she wasn’t. She could stand on her own and I felt like we were a good partnership.”
Sharon met Bob a little later in life. By the time she danced up to him at a party in Stillwater (serious Cowboy fans, both), she’d married her college sweetheart, had four children, gotten divorced and was powering through her third year as a working single mom. “When I met Sharon, she was literally in another man’s arms,” Bob laughed. “She was with a friend of mine, and they danced over to where I was standing.”
Sharon danced through an introduction, then swooped off again. But she saw something in Bob, and tried to set him up with a few of her girlfriends. Bob, at age 37, had never married; he was picky and spent years searching for a self-sufficient soul mate. And then sparkly, energetic Sharon—bright blonde and more than six feet tall—danced into his life.
Before his 38th birthday, Sharon asked him what he wanted. Bob answered, “A wife and four children.”
They married at First United Methodist Church in downtown Tulsa on July 18, 1982. “And then the fun began,” Bob said.
This past summer, the couple celebrated their 30th anniversary while Sharon was in the hospital.
* * *
Bob was already running Tulsa’s well-known musical haven, Saied Music Co., when they married. Sharon stayed home to raise the five children. For 30 consecutive years, she was on the PTA for Tulsa Public Schools, and frequently its president.
“She did everything for us,” said Kim Koch, Sharon’s oldest daughter and head of music education at Saied’s. She stitched homemade Halloween costumes and sewed prom dresses, cooked hot meals, folded the laundry of five growing kids, and decorated for every holiday.
But she was never too busy to find the beauty in the everyday. “She raised us to appreciate everything, the littlest things,” said Keri Edwardes, Sharon’s younger daughter.
Sharon had an artistic eye, and liked to paint small canvases with oil and watercolors, unraveling the hill and valley of landscapes. She gave many of her paintings away.
“She would stop and point things out,” Keri said.
“She would never let you miss a sunset,” said Dustin, the Saieds’ only son together. “She would be like, ‘You’re missing this!’”
Keri smiled and said, “I can just hear her voice, ‘Kids, look! Kids are you looking?’
“Looking out at the world now,” Keri continued. “Nothing looks as good because she gave everything meaning.”
* * *
Sharon was the kind of mom who could draw out even the too-coolest teenager. “The craziest characters you can imagine would just melt in front of her,” Dan said. “There was never anybody too cool to be sweet around her, no one too dangerous or edgy to love her.”
The Saieds threw fabulous parties for Halloween, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and any other holiday Sharon could rustle up. “She was the most gracious hostess you could imagine,” Keri said. “She wasn’t one of these stressed out hostesses. She made it seem easy.”
Bob said, “And the preparation. She would spend all day getting ready for a party on Sunday night. She always cooked everything.” On casual Sundays, Sharon cooked up big pancake breakfasts, everyone crowding around the table in pajamas, too-short robes, and bedhead. Then, she doled out indoor and yard chores to the kids and Bob.
“Sundays were good days,” Keri mused.
Sharon, with her cherubic face, had a mischievous streak and a good head for pranks. “She liked to play April Fools’ jokes on everybody,” Keri said. “It was the biggest thing she looked forward to.”
Dustin said he panicked one morning when he walked out to the driveway, keys in hand, to find his new car stolen. He’d forgotten what day it was: April 1. Sharon had hidden the car around the block, and offered to drive him to school instead that morning. Curiously unconcerned about grand theft auto, she drove him through the neighborhood until Dustin spotted the car, the back window emblazoned with the words “April Fools!”
One year, Dan tried to get his mom back for the annual pranks. He wrapped a rubber band around the water sprayer in the kitchen sink. He hoped she’d turn on the water and spray herself in the face, but she spotted it right away. Keri said, “She left it there, [telling me] she figured he’d forget he put it on there.” Sure enough, he shot himself with water later.
It’s tough to fool someone with a clear understanding of human nature. “Everything she said seemed to be right,” Keri said.
She listened to their troubles and served up simple, homespun advice. Everything in moderation. People, not places, matter.
“We’d come to her with this convoluted problem and she just cut right through it,” Dan said.
* * *
Nothing was more convoluted than the problem of losing her. “All the life stuff is important, but the death stuff is important too,” Kim said. “She led us through it and loved us through it. As awful as the cancer was, the blessing of her death was in how we were able to experience it. She was able to comfort us, talk us through it.”
For the final two and a half years of her life, Sharon handled ovarian cancer with aloof grace. “She was not a cancer patient,” Kim said. “Cancer was incidental, an inconvenience. She lost her hair, but kept on traveling, entertaining, playing bridge.”
In April, the cancer began its takeover. Sharon spent spring and early summer checking in and out of hospitals. The Mooney-Saied clan warmed sterile white rooms with the glow of their wedding videos and goofy tapes from when they were young. One night, they decided to get married as a family. While a laptop glowed with home movies, they said their vows.
“It was poignant,” Dan said. “We all knew it was just a matter of time. ‘Til death do us part.” Her five grown children, with lives full of children and obligations and to-do lists, dropped everything for her. “We put our lives on hold,” said Keri. “We quit work and we moved in.”
Nuzzled foot to foot, Sharon’s grown kids took cat naps and lounged in one twin bed and a couch near their mother’s bed. They stayed awake in shifts to make sure someone was always awake for her. Hospice care was redundant. They became wholly absorbed in her every movement and need. In return, she nudged them to laughter with her newly earned gallows humor.
Her face glowed brighter the thinner she grew. “Everyone would come in and say, ‘You don’t look sick,’” said Keri.
“She was strangely unlined,” Keri said. “She lost her wrinkles. She was looking younger.”
True beauty has a way of unveiling itself in hard times. Every morning, one of Sharon’s children would fix her hair, and carefully apply her makeup. In camera-phone pictures and short videos, her mimosa-yellow hair was carefully coiffed, her cheeks perfectly pink. They ditched old hospital gowns in favor of Dustin’s oversized T-shirts, cut open in back to make way for medical tubes and wires.
One night as Sharon rested, the family stood around her bed and raised champagne flutes to toast her life. “We thought she was out of it,” Bob said, “And all of a sudden she raised her glass with us.”
A special moment, he said, tearing up. They were all astonished. She was barely able to drink water, but she raised a small cup to toast her own life.
A few days later, Sharon died enveloped by her husband and children. They held one another in a thick knot, braided palm to palm, cheek to cheek, around her bed. Their hands covered her long, thin frame as she took her last breath.
Sharon Saied, aged 66 1⁄2, mother to five Tulsans and wife to Bob Saied, founder and owner of Saied Music Co., died on August 22, 2012 of ovarian cancer.
Originally published in This Land Vol. 3, Issue 23, Dec. 1, 2012.