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Mary Rebecca Gillett – Eulogy and Reflections by Edward Ireland

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Posted: Sunday, May 29, 2022. 10:05 am CST.

By Edward Ireland: Even if I should know better, I keep telling myself a story. Long before there was a you and I, long before there was a long before, long before there was any form here, long before there was any thought here, long before there was any mind here, long before there was a here, in the immediacy and the ‘spacelessness’ of the Eternal, Beauty spoke unto Beauty and Love spoke unto Love, and the universe came to be.

I probably lost you in my rambling, so let me put it a bit more simply. The world was created to reveal the glory of the Lord through the beauty of creation, and in my grandmother I witnessed that beauty every day. It is the type of beauty, though, that can only be fully appreciated in retrospect, when, in the quietness of our souls, we contemplate the sum of its parts. It is an honor, therefore, to be tasked with the responsibility of ‘essentializing’ my grandmother’s gargantuan life and beauty and sharing it with you all today. Though I know words can never truly capture the magnificence of my grandma’s character and life, I believe in the practicality of approximation and, in that light, will try my best to do her life justice.

On the 4th of April, 1955, in the village of Sittee River, the world welcomed Mary Rebecca Gillett, an absolute force of nature. Though she never played sports, my grandmother’s physical prowess was second to none. By all accounts, she enjoyed the outdoors from a very early age and frequently went hunting, fishing, and farming with her dad as a child. The love of fishing she developed in these tender years would endure for the rest of her life, as I remember accompanying her to the Iguana Creek river on many occasions as a child. We would sit on the banks of the river, my grandma and I, for hours on end, an entire day, and I would marvel at her patience. Sometimes the catches were few, and I, with a child’s naiveté, would be blown away by the fact that someone could dedicate themselves so fully and persistently to a task that offered no guarantee of success. To me, fishing was devastatingly boring. I did not understand at the time that she was modeling for me some of the most valuable traits a person could possess in life: patience, persistence, sustained alertness, the ability to surrender oneself to the unknown, equanimity in failure. At the very least, I think my mom can attest to the importance of sustained attention, as she is still complaining of the time she lost focus and stepped too close to my grandma in the motion of casting her line, only to be greeted with a hook, line, and sinker to the side of her head. It’s okay if you want to laugh at her a bit. No serious injuries came of it. All jokes aside, though, in modeling these virtues for us, my grandma was Christlike long before she accepted Him as her savior.

I mentioned, just a moment ago, her physical prowess and would like to share with you a few details about my grandmother’s life to illustrate that my estimation of her strength was by no means an overstatement. My grandmother really was strong. Of the many stories I enjoyed listening to her tell, I particularly enjoyed when she would talk about the obstacles she had to overcome to work and earn a living for her and her family. My grandmother would tell me, for instance, about when she used to ride her bike all the way from Black Man Eddy village to Belmopan every morning in order to work at the Western Regional Hospital as an attendant. She would complete the return journey every evening. Be mindful that this was on unpaved roads in the sun and my grandma was only 16 years of age. That is strength, both physical and mental. Another testament to her strength was the way she, along with her dear friends Ms. Elizabeth and Ms. Sandra, would frequently be out on the river, just the three of them, paddling upstream in difficult to navigate waters that would tire even the strongest of men. Their goal was just to catch enough fish to treat their families to a hearty meal.

I could go on for days with stories such as these, but one of the strongest testament of my grandma’s strength was the way she battled against kidney failure in the last months of her life. I could see my grandmother suffering every day, but she made a pact, with me personally, to continue battling just to spend a bit more time with her grandkids, particularly the younger ones, Ahmad, Rashad, Ronica, and Ronae, as I was hurt at the possibility of her leaving them so soon.

With this in mind, she opted to do dialysis in November of last year. We had no idea where the funds would come from, the transportation, or how we would manage the day-to-day logistics of the situation. Nevertheless, my grandma held on to her faith. Shortly after, the finances came and with the generous and unyielding kindness, love, and assistance of her brothers and sisters who took her to her dialysis sessions every week and who came every day to make sure she had her necessities, along with the love and support of her children, my grandma put up a valiant fight. She gave it everything she had until she had no more fight left, and she did it, at every step, with a heart of praise and gratitude, thankful to her God for his unrelenting grace and compassion and thankful to her family and friends for allowing themselves to be God’s instruments of kindness towards her.

I am saddened that I no longer have my grandma here with me in physical form, but beyond the sorrow I am proud of her resilience and strength. Pride and love overshadow every emotion I could possibly feel when I think of her. My grandmother kept her promise to me and I am eternally grateful. I remember that she believed in a God that overcame the grave, so just as she believed that death could not hold her Lord, so too will I believe that death has no power over her. My grandmother lives on and will continue to live on.

So far, I have referred to my grandmother as my grandmother, but truly, my grandmother was a mother to me. To me, she is ma or mommy, and I can’t know her as anything else. She raised me. Since I was born until now, I have been by her side, and I truly don’t know how to exist without her. She provided my meals, taught me the importance of an education, stressed it to me really, housed me, forgave me when I was wrong. She did everything for me. Beyond this, my grandma would often take me to visit my paternal grandmother. She took me to visit my great grandmother, even though she had long been separated from my grandpa. She always wanted me to know and love my family, even in cases where they had wronged her or me in some way. This was my first introduction to forgiveness and grace, without which none of us can get through life. She was not, however, just my mother, but a mother to her own children, and long before that, at the passing of her mother, a mother to her siblings, Wayne, Louise, Delvorine, and Dembeigh Jr. As they can verify, she defended all of us fiercely, physically if she had to. She would provide, she would work, even in illness. She raised three generations, for the most part on her own, with her sheer will and determination. She was also a mother to all the kids in Blackman Eddy Village who wanted a plate of food or a welcoming place to be. She was a mother, a strong mother.

Apart from the interests I have already mentioned, my grandmother enjoyed singing, sewing, and cooking, and she was very good at all these pursuits. Numerous karaoke venues remember her fondly and her delicious cakes will be greatly missed by many family members and friends alike. My grandmother also had an intense love for San Luis. It was her favorite place. I have saved for last, however, her biggest interest, education. I remember keenly the pain in my grandma’s voice every time she would tell me that she was never afforded the opportunity to go beyond primary school, even though she was intelligent and passionate about learning. She wanted an education badly and made sure that all her kids, including me, got what she never had. Not having an education was out of the question for us. It was an urgent necessity. The pride she would express when mentioning how well she could write, read, and reason, despite being dealt a bad hand in life, left an impression on me that would dictate the rest of my life. I became a voracious reader myself and sought knowledge at every corner. The acquisition of knowledge, in its many forms, is one of the few things I derive pure pleasure from and this facet of my personality is a direct result of her powerful example. She was, in her on way, a living library. She was our griot, a repository of cultural and historical knowledge, our storyteller, our genealogist, the custodian of our history. We will honor her by carrying in our hearts and minds, the knowledge, wisdom, and values she has passed on to us.

Mommy, we love you. Now and always.

 

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