Lucille O'Neal: God Has a Master Plan

CBN.com When people see NBA All-Star Shaquille O’Neal on the courts, no one is prouder of him than his mother, Lucille.

But Lucille says she is proud of all of her four adult children and her 13 grandchildren. She grew up in the church and has known the Lord’s protection and provision all her life. This spiritual training began with her mother, Odessa Chambliss, a nurse who served Christ all her life and instilled faith in her children.

Of the many stories for which Lucille praises God, a key one is for the healing of her youngest daughter, Ayesha. At age 23, Ayesha was diagnosed with cancer behind her ear, close to her lymph nodes. This type cancer usually develops in older people.

“This was very hard for me,” Lucille says. When someone has cancer it is just tough to deal with for anyone, especially a loved one. “It is hard to be the caretaker because you feel so helpless,” she says.

And when you don’t have faith in God, it’s like you have no place else to go. It was tough to watch Ayesha suffer through the radiation treatments, weight loss, hair loss, etc. Lucille also lost her father during this trying time.

Lucille says she is so grateful to God for where He has her, but like all families, they have to deal with the challenges of life too. God was merciful and today, Ayesha is cancer free.

“When we got through this one, we just thanked God,” Lucille says, knowing that God is “still in the healing business.”

She is especially pleased with how Ayesha handled the challenge as well. Ayesha was a college student at the time she was battling this illness. She finished college with a business degree and has gone on to get her MBA.

Dealing with Ayesha’s cancer was especially unsettling because Lucille’s mother Odessa died of ovarian cancer in 1996.


Shaq is the oldest of Lucille’s children, and she says he was a great role model for his younger siblings. Though he’s played basketball since age five, he was 16 years old when Lucille saw him on TV and realized his potential in the sport. It was the McDonald’s All-American game.

“I realized that, yes, maybe he could use basketball to go to college. We didn’t have a lot of money, and this was a way for him to go,” she says. “He was THAT good.” The rule in her home was “No Pass – No Play,” meaning that if any child didn’t pass his subjects, they could not participate in any extracurricular activities.

Shaq was a good example she says. He showed the younger ones the work ethic, what it meant to work hard for something.

“He was a good student, too,” she says. “A great speller.”

Shaq was a student athlete – a great student, as well as athlete, she says. He attended Louisiana State and graduated from the University of Phoenix. All of her children have completed college.

Lucille encourages all parents to take an active role in the dream their child is working towards. Keep communication lines open. Don’t be so hard on them and crush their spirits. Trust them too. Give them plenty of love. And no love is like a mother’s love. When she thinks about her role as a mother, Lucille says God sent her children to her to love and care for them. “I do my best as a Mom to love them and protect them, and teach them the best I can.”

To honor their mother, Lucille and her siblings have established the Odessa Chambliss Quality of Life Fund to help parents and provide grants for individuals pursuing a career in nursing. They also assist students needing incidentals such as medical supplies, laptop computers, and other necessities that are not accessible through basic tuitions. The fund also provides scholarships for education and cancer research.

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