Posted: Sunday, January 30, 2022. 10:07 pm CST.
Тhе vіеwѕ ехрrеѕѕеd іn this аrtісlе аrе those оf the writer аnd nоt nесеѕѕаrіlу those оf Вrеаkіng Веlіzе Nеwѕ
Contributed by the Harrison Family: Alicia Andrea Harrison was born in this beautiful village of San Jose Succotz to Nazaria and Benigno Chan on 23rd December 1937. She had siete siblings: Dora, Rogelio, Tia Soila, Tio Pancho, Tio Vildo, Tio Ben and Tia Emmy.
Grandma graduated from the San Jose Succotz Primary School and was later a pupil teacher for two years at her alma mater. At 19 years of age, she started working with the Government of Belize as a youth organizer in the Ministry of Social Development. A job which further developed her love for her community and her country, in particular, the youths, even after her retirement in 1993, as a Senior Home Economics Officer.
Grandma use to work at one of her Uncle’s store in the village. Grandpa use to drive a truck and during his work trips which took him through the village, he would stop at the shop to purchase anything, even if it was just a sweet, to see this beautiful young lady. Grandma was a happy person and enjoyed dancing. When allowed, Grandpa use to pick her up, along with Tio Pancho, to take her dancing regularly in Bullet Tree or Cristo Rey, even as far as San Antonio. On 20 September 1962 at the St. Joseph Church in Belize City Grandma married the love of her life, Grandpa Robert Sydney Harrison, better known as Don Beto, a marriage which produced ten children – five girls and five boys: Aline, Roberto, Antonio, Morrison, Andrew, Patricia, Howard, Olga, Elisa and Nayana. She made a lot of sacrifices, working all over the country, living away from home, at times even heavily pregnant, and leaving her babies in the care of Grandpa, Grandma Nazaria and her siblings. She further sacrificed when she left for 18 months to study in the UK to further her education. A difficult decision for her to have taken but with the love and support of Grandpa, Great Grandma Nazaria, and her siblings they took care of her babies while she was away.
Grandma lived a simple life and worked hard to help Grandpa support the family. Only yesterday, a neighbour came over to give his condolences. He told us how he knew Grandma way before Andrew and I moved to Belmopan due to his work with the 4H. If our younger ones think this empowering of women movement right now is recent, breaking news: its not! Grandma was doing that way before our time. Our neighbour recounted to us how Grandma was so involved with the empowering of women. They (4H) were in constant communication with Grandma on teaching women skills like sewing, preserving and canning. She taught women in the community to make mix peel and fruit for Christmas cake…yes even made cherries out of green papaya (Canning …. something that the Ministry of Agriculture is being assigned to do) – but something Grandma did right in her own little kitchen and taught others to do! She was what we call a homemaker …. From sewing, cake decorating, preserving …, you name it Grandma could do it, skills that she picked up as a young girl from Great Grandma Nazaria and her participation in groups in the village. She aimed to raise her family, by giving them life skills, the skills to get through life, pushing them with their education and how to parent with love and understanding but with a stiff hand.
Grandma never faltered to be there for her children. She celebrated every birth into her family and each of children and great grandchildren achievements. Ten children … of course that has brought into the family five more daughters, Carmen, Carol, Yoli, Melva and myself and one more son, Yaniel. And with that, twenty-eight Grandchildren whose names I will read through quickly so we are not here all day! Jude, Atziri, Aalayah and Marley, Andoni, Jenine and Dorian, Athalie, Andra and Andre, Leuren, Robin and Morgan, Anton, Charles, Chauncey, Hosea and Apple, Samantha, Joshua, Carlo, Aaron and Esau, Drewyan, Roben and Anya, Eva and Noah. And of course, nine great grandchildren: Jovaugn, Azalea, Ajay, Jayden, Rojaun, Ryder, Reighn, Jazziel and Ezequiel.
Grandma’s house was an open house. She always had food or found something to eat when you visited. She took care of many of her grandchildren, some of whom up to now refuse to move out because of the love she showered on them.
With so many children and grandchildren of her own, she still had more love to give and opened up her heart and her home and was a foster parent for some years. She kept in touched with the children she fostered and prayed for their well being the same as she did for her own kids.
As a result of all her achievements in the Public Service, fostering, and the service to the community as a Senior Justice of the Peace later Commissioner of the Supreme Court, in 2016 Grandma received a Meritorious Service Award, an award granted by Belize to a person who has contributed greatly to Belize. No one was more deserving of this award! She was very proud that day.
Next to her family, Grandma’s Christianity was her passion. Grandma dedicated so much time to her church, both in prayers and physically. From a young girl she did novenas to San Jose, patron saint of her home village. She was a lay minister for many years right up to the time when COVID brought restrictions with it. She was also an avid Resadora and many a times it was like we had to make appointment to catch her at a time convenient to both of us when we visit because she would be out doing a good deed for someone.
Grandma was traditional. Two of her favorite traditional celebrations, and ours, are the Finados, All Souls Day and Christmas especially Las Posadas. Every 2nd November she would get together with her siblings in Succotz, and they would prepare a feast of espacha, chilidrin with hot chocolate, tamales, bonuelo, maja blanca, stewed pumpkin and soaked craboo. All the children and grandchildren get the opportunity to see all their cousins and Tias and Tios at this occasion. If one of us was unable to make it, expect your little package the following day. No one gets left out – that was Grandma.
The Christmas celebration always started early in the Harrison’s home because Grandma was very involved with the church. She was always a busy body at the beginning of December to get ready for the Sacred Heart Parish Christmas fundraiser, normally the first weekend in December, baking and cooking up a storm for the food sale. Her birthday is the 23rd of December. Every year The Posadas arrived home on the date of her birthday. It was a huge celebration every year. All her church friends, and their followers would come to pray the rosary with her (during which most of the children and the grand children would normally be hanging around in the kitchen wanting food but Grandma’s instruction is that no one is to have any food until all the guests have been fed … something that Aunty Aline and Aunty Olga were good at ensuring that the food was not touched). After the prayers we would all sing happy birthday for her then serve a little glass of champagne or wine for a toast, cake and a plate of food to the guests. Then we all get to have some food.
Christmas lunch was almost always her Rice and Beans, ham, Turkey, gravy, stuffings, potato salad, cranberry, fried plantains (gramma style) and onion sauce with black and white fruit cake, something that she has taught her girls well to do. (Even though they like to think they do it better, Granma’s will always be the best. But kudos to Aunty Olga and Aunty Patty who have taken over the cooking – we still enjoy yours so don’t stop. And of course, Aunty Aline’s cakes!) Andrew and my children are not fans of rice and beans, but once its grandma’s rice and beans with her gravy, oh yes! Oh … I hope one of you guys learnt to do salbutes like grandma too!
Grandma’s birthday celebration was a big thing from way back. Her brothers recall clearly how her birthday celebration was always a big duo in the village as Grandma Alicia used to raise her own animals to be used for her birthday party, sewed her own dress and made her own cake. Due to her caring personality, she had a huge circle of friends so her friends would help her with her birthday preparation and the celebration would continue into Christmas, mañanitas and all.
Just before the pandemic, grandma was hospitalized for a few days. She never felt that she fully recovered and remained on so many medications. For Andrew’s birthday in July last year, we came to San Ignacio and picked up breakfast and we had breakfast with Grandma and Grandpa downstairs in the open. That was the last time my family saw Grandma in good health. Thereafter, Dementia started to creep in on her but yet swiftly as by December it was full blown. Even though she had dementia, she never asked anyone of us “who are you?” That to me is proof enough of the love ingrained in her for her family. We had a family get together on her last birthday. There is one moment which really stood out for me, and thankfully, I captured it on camera. We were doing group photos and after all of us got our family photos it was only Grandma and Grandpa together. So Grandpa sat a bit closer to Grandma and he put his hand on her hand, and she looked at him and looked down at their hands and looked back up at him … even though she had dementia, the smile and the reaction on her face and in her eyes was that of first love … I could only imagine that it was the same look she had when Grandpa first held her hands when she was a mere 22 year old girl.
Grandma was a dedicated wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother, sister, aunt, cousin, sister-in-law, friend, neighbour and parishioner. She has left us in physical form but has left us with so many beautiful memories and lessons.
I would like to end with the poem “Legacy of Love” by an unknown author:
A wife, a mother, a grandma too,
This is the legacy we have from you.
You taught us love and how to fight,
You gave us strength, you gave us might.
A stronger person would be hard to find,
And in your heart, you were always kind.
You fought for us all in one way or another,
Not just as a wife, not just as a mother.
For all of us you gave your best,
Now the time has come for you to rest.
So go in peace, you’ve earned your sleep,
Your love in our hearts, we’ll ETERNALLY KEEP.
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