Monday, June 17, 2019

CFS teacher Kerry Howard's grandmother, who lived to 103 in Barbados

Miriam Gertrude Wiggins, Mah Mah

as a parent,
as a grandparent,
my great hope
is that the next generations
come fully into their power,
that each finds the way forward
to exemplify traits I value
and seek to live with my own life,

Mah Mah, Miriam Gertrude Wiggins,
was a force of nature,
and, even more so, of her God,
a product of the island:
rich in what it can produce in crops and animals,
rich in community, whose roots reach deep
into the land, the past,
and flower into the future,
her personality forged in the trials
of being rich in faith, yet not in money,
of being blessed with family, and challenged by all the needs,
of being blessed with friends and community,
and called to hold all together,

she had common sense and the wisdom of how to use it,
she led by example, by advice, and by discipline,
she knew how to work with plants and the earth,
raising her own sugar cane to sell for some cash,
her own fruits and vegetables,
bananas every year for the church,
her own meat for weddings,

if a job needed doing, and it wasn’t getting done,
she would paint her house herself,
be a mason and build the step,
work in the fields, direct her children into purpose,

the matriarch of family and village
who knew herself well, and knew you, too,

though she didn’t read, she knew that education,
unlike money, can’t be taken from you,
while she’d cook supper, she had her children read to her,

she had the strength to be fiery, to speak her mind,
to stand up for herself, for what was right,
she had the strength to enjoy herself, bright colors, dancing,
for her 100th birthday she wanted ham and brandy,
generosity and kindness at the heart of who she was,

below it all was her faith,
her understanding that the Church, that the Gospels,
told her clearly how to live, and she filled in for Christ,
to be his eyes, his hands, his feet, to walk upon the world,
told her how to serve all across the island
as part of the Mothers’ Union and Church Army,

how wonderful that I can see her still live in her granddaughter,
who with her life carries forward what she can of Mah Mah,

the mango doesn’t fall far from the tree.

by Henry H. Walker
June 13, ‘19

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