“Unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” – Matthew 18:3
Helen and I have just completed the first week in our lives without the living reality of our mother Rita. This heralds a change in our lives. We have confidence in our capacity to show our resilience but the real test will come as we manage the withdrawal systems associated with our duties to her on a daily, weekly, monthly and an annual basis. We shall call on every vestige of humility to take us through this period of change.
From all reports it seems that the service of praise and thanksgiving celebrating the life and work our mother was relatively well executed. We are grateful to all members of “Team Rita” who worked assiduously and in a timely manner throughout the week to make it happen.
The tributes on Saturday from her descendants were threefold: I briefly and officially celebrated her life by chronicling, over the four quadrants of her circle of life, her activities and her legacy of peace and harmony which indeed was her purpose of life; Helen, in a more anecdotal style, interpreted and shared some of the pithy pieces of Mummy’s 2001 memoires entitled “Precious Memories”; and Kevin, in his inimitable style recalled the relationships as seen from the perspective of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
The first quadrant in the circle of her life was between 1914, her birth year, and 1939 when she established herself as a resourceful person, notwithstanding the start of the Second World War. After her secondary school education, she was thrust into the workforce without the benefit of formal tertiary education. She had a general interest in many things in particular domestic science.
The second quadrant in her circle of life ended in 1964. She was married to Charles Reginald Courtenay Springer in 1940, our father, and later that year her mother passed away after which her father Archie invited or perhaps commissioned her to run the household. This was the period when she set about the upbringing of her two children ably but rather quietly and firmly supported by Charles. After marriage Mummy was never employed full-time outside of the home and became the consummate homemaker.
In the next five years most of her siblings gradually departed the nest to establish their families and my grandfather remarried giving her the opportunity to establish her own family domicile. In 1950, our parents embarked on a project to build a house. I venture to say that this would not have been easily achieved given the financial sector culture that obtains today. The collateral was faith and hard work; also, the fact that her father had hardware business connections and had developed a record of integrity was not to be ignored. I remember when the foundation was being dug that Mummy was there in a straw hat sitting on a limestone block supervising the process to ensure that there were no costly errors at this important stage.
In the 1950’s, I attended school in Barbados and Helen in Barbados, England and Trinidad. The diversity in Helen’s educational exposure was occasioned by Daddy’s acceptance of government offer of a training course in Oxford and then his subsequent appointment to be a senior civil servant in the short lived West Indies Federation in Trinidad. After the Federation broke up in 1962, the family relocated to Barbados for two years.
The third quadrant in her circle of life was 1964 – 1989. It began with a major decision to reposition in England to pursue different professional careers. Mummy pursued a Nutrition course leading to Associate Membership of the Royal Society of Health. Apart from publishing the first Caribbean cookbook to be authored by a West Indian, her grandchildren Karen, Kevin and Bevan arrived between 1965 and 1972. Our parents returned to Barbados in 1970 where Mummy was very active in many service organisations.
The fourth quadrant 1989 to 2013 brings her full circle – from dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return. By this time her grandchildren were well entrenched in Barbados and we have recorded many experiences from that era.
Daddy and Mummy celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1990. Daddy passed away quietly at the end of 1995 after which she spent her time on various projects one of which was a Travelogue of Memoirs in 2001. Her twin great-grandchildren, Maia and Joshua, arrived on the 5th May 2005, Helen’s birthday. They were a great source of joy to her when they visited her annually from Dubai.
In 2006, she experienced a severe stroke which she survived but her lifestyle changed. Over the next six years, she suffered a series of strokes and transient ischemic attacks but seemed to partially bounce back after each one. In early December 2007 her final publication “A Lifetime of Recipes” was published.
It was evident since last Christmas Day, and this was corroborated by her doctors, that she was indeed coming to the end of her journey and that we should focus on making her as peaceful and comfortable as possible.
May we take this opportunity to thank you all, from at home and abroad, for the seemingly endless expressions of sympathy and comfort – verbally, by email and sympathy card as well as your presence at the service of praise and thanksgiving. Special thanks especially to those family members from abroad who made it their business to be at the service to say farewell to Mummy. May she rest in Peace!