The Spirit that Guides Us
Saying Good bye
Papa has always showed me that doing whatever was required to live in peace with your neighbours was a priority. You did so by recognizing that the respect of your family must always take priority over self or one’s personal feelings about the issues. Still despite his hard outer shell Papa was a kind family man first and foremost. I remember one year in late September he paid his nephew a large sum of money to do work at our farm in addition to a small amount of maintenance around our home. His nephew took and spent the money but failed to do either the work at the farm or the maintenance at the home. Papa became very angry with him. His nephew’s response was to have avoided Papa at every turn.
It was the week before Christmas of that same year, when Papa myself and Auntie were sitting on the verandah, we observed Papa’s nephew riding past our home, on an old bicycle Papa had given him. His shirt was a dirty rag just barely attached to his upper body. One of his shirt sleeve remained in tack whilst the other was completely torn in half just below the shoulder. The pants showed signs of having once been a full length pair of dress pants. Now however, the pants were no more than a tattered semblance of half shorts and a make shift cover for his manhood. When Papa saw his nephew he became very sad almost weepy. He gave Auntie some money and told her to buy some clothes for him before Christmas. Before giving Auntie the money, Papa demanded from Auntie her word that she would not disclose to his nephew who was his benefactor.
Later while in conversation with Papa, he revealed to me that while a man’s family can be disgraced by the actions of a single family member more disgraceful can be that of the actions of the family towards the behavior of one of its family members in need. I understood.
“Ok, Mrs. Delia I will take care of it.” With that simple statement spoken my life would begin to change and things were never, ever going to be the same again. As I watched Mrs. Delia walk out the gate I could not help but to think she had done something vindictive to me and my Bruna. When you are perceptive to change you feel it long before it comes. Animals are more sensitive and perceptive to change than humans. Bruna and I both knew change was inevitable. I remember much later in my adult life seeing some movie where the lead actor had the ability to see things two minutes in advance. The lead actor, in relating the outcome of a pending event, stated to the villain, “I have seen every possible outcome and none ends well for you!” I guess if I had seen that movie back then I too would have said the same to my Bruna.
Papa believed that life would always send you three messages in preparation for the things that were about to change. He believed that when someone said I did not know it was going to happen, they were simply saying, I did not believe life’s messenger or I simply did not open the door when the messenger was knocking. Papa further believed that if we pay close attention to life’s messengers we are given two opportunities to take action. A failure to take action on our own will leave us in the hands of the actions of our third messenger, rendering us victims of life’s consequences.
The first time we had a complaint about Bruna’s egg eating habits it came from a neighbour that said. “Mr. Luther, I can’t be certain but I think your Burna was in my chicken nest and may have eaten her eggs.” Papa’s response to this was to boil an egg and while still hot call Bruna and threw the hot egg for her to catch. She caught it and dropped it instantly. That was a year ago and until this very day not a single complaint had been received about her. Still both Papa and I knew this was the second message for Bruna and me.
After that fateful summer of the second message I did not see my Papa again until after I had spent my first semester in a Canadian college. I had lived each and every single day from my departure dreaming of my return to see both Auntie and Papa. When I saw him late in the evening on the day of my return he told me he had been waiting to have supper with me. Auntie said, “I am glad you came before he died due to a lack of food, he is still just as stubborn!” We ate and ate and talked almost the entire night. It was a wonderful visit. At the end of my first returned visit, after being in Canada for almost eight years, returning home to Canada was even sadder than my first departure. On the occasion of my very first departure Papa had hugged me and told me no matter what happens, “Do not cry!” Auntie cried alone. This time Papa cried, I cried. Auntie remained dry eyed and silent.
Just as soon as your mom and I were married I took her to meet my Auntie and Papa. Papa, who had been in poor health, was able to gather strength enough to travel short distances with me to visit with friends and neighbors. My Auntie was especially happy to know that I had met someone she very much approved of. Auntie remarked to both your mother and I, “I am so glad you guys came. I have not seen your Papa so happy for a very long time.” I spent lots of quality time with Papa on this second visit and what would prove to be the second to last time I would see my Papa alive.
The next time I saw them came as a result of receiving an emergency phone call that my Papa was not doing well and was not expected to make it beyond the week. I remember that time very well because on the Friday of the week in which I was informed of my Papa’s illness your mother’s mother, your grandmother, died. I had been at the hospital earlier that Friday to visit with your grandmother. Later that same Friday night your mom was called to the hospital and there she was informed of her mother’s death. It was while in the hospital that Friday night that I received the message of my Papa’s illness. I traveled to Jamaica that Sunday. I missed your grandmother mother’s funeral and having arrived and spending two weeks with Papa, leaving him alive, I also missed any unpleasantness in Port Antonio. To this day your mother still believes that all that timely traveling was just my way of avoiding funerals.
Not only was my Papa still alive when I departed, he was up and feeling much better. Auntie commented, “Your visit seems to have been better medication than that of the doctors.” Secretly Papa told me he had a dream. In his dream he was visited by his father. His father came to him and removed a rather large stone that had been anchored to my Papa’s legs, secured there by a rope. Once the rope was untied Papa remembered that in his dream he was able to get up from the bed and walk again. Most important to Papa yet remaining a puzzle to him were his father’s words just before departing from the dream. Papa remarked to me that his father had said to him, “You are not yet the guide you will need to be.” However what I remembered from my Papa’s recalling of his dream were memories of my Bruna.
This time my return to Canada was far less stressful than both previous goodbyes. I knew however that each of my previous visits were messages sent to Papa and me. Much was said about Papa’s recovery over the next few months. So much so that just as soon as your mom and I thought you were old enough to travel she took you to meet my Auntie and Papa. Again Papa remarked with joy, at the sight of seeing you, “little Tony returned to me.” Later in the following year both your mom and I returned to Jamaica along with you to visit with Auntie and Papa. Auntie was the most grateful for our visit. Auntie remarked to both your mother and I, “I am so glad you guys came. I have not seen your Papa so happy for a very long time.” I spent lots of quality time with Papa, on my forth and what would prove to be the last time I would see my Papa alive.
On this last occasion of visiting with my Papa we spoke about many things. We spoke of everything about life before and after my immigrating to Canada. We spoke of the joy and sorrow of many things. We never spoke of Bruna. Even as your mom and I prepared you to depart for Canada my Papa still seemingly unsettled, as if he had not yet had an opportunity to tell me in its entirety the things he would have wished but never a word spoken about my Bruna. I did ask in many different ways if there were things he wished to talk about but his response to all inquires was the same, “Do not worry yourself everything is good with me.” However at the conclusion of our visit I was extremely settled and prepared myself for the final message.
When I received the news of my Papa’s death I was not able to travel to his funeral. However putting together whatever contributions along with my prayers, my adopted brother carried out the duties of his internment. My Brother, who was much older than I, had also been living in Canada at that time. In my mind Papa’s death was not possible. I had decided that his physical absence would never be allowed to replace his presence within me. I did not then nor do I now feel that we had any unsettled matters between us. As strange as it may sound what few things that remained unspoken at his passing have long been said between us after his passing. To this day we have many discussions, with me getting his views prior to traveling many a new roads.
When news arrived about the seriousness of my Auntie’s diabetes I went home to see her. Auntie’s diabetes had been undiagnosed for many years. However three years before Papa’s passing she was correctly diagnosed as having this illness. Her approach to treatment and proper eating was summed up this way. “If and when my Lord comes for me he will find me eating all the things he has placed on my table. I am not going to allow them to take me one limb at a time. So I will continue to eat what I want and enjoy my life.”
When I arrived in Port Antonio my Auntie had already been sent to the local hospital. She was in the ward for those patients placed on death’s watch. This was the ward for those who did not have much financial power to pay for more than the bare necessities of dying.
I along with the live in family member that had been hired by my adopted brother and I to be her caregiver, changed diapers, turned, bath and feed her when the nurses were busy elsewhere.
For two weeks I saw and understood what it must have been like for my Auntie accompanied by the live in caregiver to have looked after Papa for so many months prior to his passing. I was glad to have been there for her. I was glad not for myself but more so because I knew Papa would have wanted me to have done this. Within a week of my return to Canada I got the news that Auntie had died. I returned and was there for her internment. If I were to have missed my Auntie’s funeral my Papa would never have forgiven me. Auntie was laid to rest beside Papa. While in Port Antonio for my Auntie’s funeral I took the opportunity to have a long and peaceful conversation with Papa. He seemed to me to have been without any of his previous anxieties, wished me well and reminded me that we will never have to say goodbye again.