25 September 2013



1 September 2013

A Journey

There is a place you can go after visiting someone in the hospital. It helps to sit there, just below the fort, and watch and not think too much before returning home to daily chores and tasks and the strange feeling you get when your life is temporarily on hold, someone else's lies in the balance and yet the world continues on  all around you.

When a loved one passes you can help the family by staying home and making bakes with the youngest grandchild.

Once the family get together and decide on a funeral director, personal preferences, finances etc., the spot for the tomb chosen and approved, building materials found, borrowed or bought, you will then need to provide a lot of food and drinks (for all the people who come to help clear the bush and build the tomb), specifically Clarke's Court Rum and Oil Down.

You will need, firewood, plenty breadfruit, callaloo, fig, pumpkin, coconut, spices and be prepared to do a lot of peeling and grating.

Everyone will help in one way or another, be it the loan of a large pot, the donation of ingredients, the kneading of dumplings or the shouting of advice/instructions. You will need to do this on a regular basis until the tomb is completed.

In the meantime, over the course of the next few days, someone will donate cases of beer, someone will donate rum, someone will give the family a pig.

You will need to clean in and around the house.

A day or so after the death comes 'The Praise'. From about 8 p.m. until midnight, people come and sing religious songs and say prayers in the house of the deceased. You will need extra chairs. You may be asked to provide a Bible, a candle and a vase of flowers. It is customary to repay this kindness by providing bakes, fishcake, saltfish, cakes, Vita Malt, coffee and/or cocoa tea. Someone may kindly send sandwiches, juice and cake. The people who are leading the praise will let you know when they are ready to eat and drink. This will require a lot of people helping out in the kitchen who will also need feeding etc. Also, the people who cleared the land and are preparing the tomb will be outside offering their support and, as well as food, will be in need of a fully loaded ice cold bar and a tarpaulin rigged against the elements.

Between the time of death up to the funeral there will be a lot of family meetings.

You will all have to wait for family to come from away.

Wash, repair, iron your funeral clothes well in advance of the funeral.

The day before the funeral it helps if everyone gets together to prepare the food in advance for the next day. Various people will make plans to cook various dishes in various locations with their teams of people.  Get up very early on the morning of the funeral and start to grate the coconut. Someone will come and help you. You may feel overwhelmed but everyone else will know what needs to be done. Someone will make the fireside, someone will bring wood, someone will bring a next pot, someone will call and say come for the cake, someone will add the sugar to the juice, someone will help you peel pumpkin, someone will make dumplings, someone will cook, someone will peel the fig. Someone will tell you what to do next. Someone in the local shop will help you out with whatever you have forgotten.

Some of the ladies who made The Praise will arrive to make the wreaths. They will need chairs and tables. You will give them what flowers you have, twine, some coconut fronds and they will bring some with them. They will need juice and cake mid morning.

When your food finishes cooking someone will help remove it to a safe place. By now it will be lunchtime and you will share one pot with all who came to help.
 Eat. Bathe. Dress.
Walk to the church, someone will stop and give you a ride. The coffin, which will be open, will be at the doorway to the church.
Sit.Stand. Sing. Pray. Listen.
After the service, the coffin will be placed in the funeral home's vehicle and all the mourners will walk behind it to the family land to the accompaniment of soca hymns.  Sway a little, it helps.

Once the priest has blessed the tomb and the coffin is place inside and sealed, the singing will be led by the same ladies who sang The Praise, while the family are now free to mourn. When all songs have been sung everyone from near and far, (there will be a lot of people), will return to the family yard for food and drinks. Someone will help to share, someone will run the bar, your job is to make sure that all get food and drinks.  It will seem like the biggest party you have ever given. Eventually everyone will go home. (you may find some cinderella slippers left on your veranda)  You will have done your best and realise that there are some amazing people out there and that everyone understands and knows what you have just gone/ are going through. Thank you to every single person who. in one way or another, helped my amazing, strong, loving, kind hardworking husband and his family give their loving wife/ mother/ friend, the very best of goodbyes.

           Rest in Peace my dear friend and mother in law, Miss Veronica Ivy  aka ToeToe  xxx

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