A Part of Me Died Today
I had today’s blog post all planned. Over the past couple of days I had been preparing another product – Caribbean-style to share with you. And while it’s not exactly a culinary treat, I’d hoped it would have brought some cheer. But this morning, I awoke to the sad news of the death of my Uncle Moses in Barbados. As my mother asked the words over the phone, “Are you sitting down?” I started screaming, “It better not be my Uncle Moses, not my Uncle Moses.” It’s no secret to anyone in our family that among my mother’s 10 siblings he was my favorite. He was my grandparents’ third son and the child born just a few years after my mom. Had he lived to see his birthday on May 9, my Uncle Moses would have turned 52.
I struggle to find the words to write as I eulogize my Uncle Moses. My tears today could fill an ocean. Whenever I think of my Uncle Moses, his perfect smile first comes to mind – glistening white enamels against pretty pink gums and a dimpled cheek.
Yes, he loved to smile, especially when he saw me. I’d walked into a room and from the moment Uncle Moses noticed me, he would exclaim, “My niece. My beautiful niece, come and give me hug.” And he’d hug and kiss me. He was the first man to tell me I was beautiful and all my life he never ceased to remind me of that.
Uncle Moses was always looking out for me. As a young girl, he taught me how to iron a pair of pants “with seams as sharp as a knife.” He also made sure I could iron a man’s shirt with equal expertise, citing, “These things will help make you a good woman and a good wife.” To further hone my skills, or perhaps out of a bit of laziness, whenever he was going out on the weekend, Uncle Moses would bring me his trendy outfits to press and slip me a $10.
Years later, when we were no longer living under the same roof, I was no longer ironing his clothes and had indeed become a woman, he would still give me money on the occasional times a year we saw each other. My protests were in vain. Over the years, I came to realize that it was with a sense of pride and obligation that he took take care of me, that no matter how I old I got, I was still “his little niece.”
While in Barbados over the Christmas holidays, we got a call at my mom’s house that Uncle Moses had been hospitalized for severe liver problems. It was my last week home before returning to New York. I immediately started to panic. For many years he had fallen into some heavy smoking and drinking – not the Uncle Moses I knew as a child.
I remember countless times expressing my concerns to him and asking him to stop. It was early 2008 when he finally promised me he’d quit. According to reports from other relatives, he eventually quit both habits about a year or two ago.
He confirmed this with me the first day I arrived at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Bridgetown to visit him. Alas, the damage had already been done. I was not prepared for the sight before me. Uncle Moses was swollen all over and visibly in pain. But as always, his face lit up on seeing me and it was if he was using every ounce of strength to hold me in a lingering embrace, “You look beautiful, my niece.” And he turned to tell his neighbors on the bed next to and across from him, “Look, this is my niece, see how pretty she is?” I was able to hide my tears.
Every day until I left Barbados I went and spent time with him. On the last evening, I said, “Please don’t die on me, I can’t afford to come back home anytime soon. Hold on, please.” This time, he saw the stream running down my cheeks and reminded me that he loved me and I said, “I love you Uncle Moses.” And then I joined my mom and we both held his hands in prayer.
My Uncle Moses, a one-time preacher/evangelist, laborer, construction worker, truck driver, chauffeur, loving son, husband, father, brother, uncle and friend was a man of God. I will miss him eternally. Our Heavenly Father knows best. Rest in Peace, my Uncle Moses.
~ I Keep it Irie ~