NEW YORK (Jan. 31)--Last weekend, the matriarch of our family departed after many long and solid innings.
Shortly after I was led by the spirit to spend some quiet time in praise and worship on Saturday afternoon, I learned from my father and sister in Barbados that Rita Gwendolyn Springer, my 98-year-old grandmother, took her last breath, signaling the end of a valiant journey through life.
Hers was a productive journey, and while she fell short of a century, she lived an accomplished and dignified life. Through her example, she left a legacy of family values and healthy lifestyles for future generations of her many offspring to emulate.
Looking at the eroding values of both my current and the up-and-coming generations, I reflect proudly upon the lessons "Gaggie"--as she was affectionately called by her grandchildren--taught us three siblings in our youth.
She was not the lecturing type. She was a friend and taught us by example.
I have memories of spending time in her orchard in the parish of St. Thomas in Barbados, where she would take care of her gardens and teach us the importance of eating fruits and vegetables, which, of course, she would convert into many a culinary delicacy to savor around the family dinner table.
Indeed, the world got a taste of my grandmother's cuisine when she became the first West Indian author of a Caribbean cookbook.
During those warm days of youth, my grandfather, "Gung Gung," would serve the ice blocks for the beverages, which consisted of fresh fruit juices from their backyard, while we dug into the sumptuous Bajan grub.
I was truly blessed because my mother Kean, the other culinary specialist in the family, widened our menu to include Trinidadian and Guyanese delicacies. Living overseas for most of my adult life, encounters with my grandmother were, unfortunately, few and far between. The visits were, therefore, more poignant as we revisited the seemingly carefree days of the past.
Gaggie's loss is felt by many across several generations as she lived a rich and blessed life, and her children, grandchildren, relatives and friends are the better for it. She loved her family and she always conveyed her pleasure with the progress the boys and girls, and the men and women, were making with their lives. She was a woman of faith--a faith that grew stronger in her later days. She had that perpetual smile on her face, and those who encountered her felt the warmth of her spirit. Indeed, the peace of the Holy Spirit clearly resided within her.
I would often tease Gaggie in her later years, comparing her longevity to the batting prowess of West Indies cricketing great Brian Lara. "You're batting like Lara!" I would say.
However, acutely aware of the West Indies and Lara's poor performance in a recent game, she would quip: "Lara? What do you mean? From what I saw on TV yesterday, that's not very encouraging!"
Rita Gwendolyn Springer was awarded the Order of Barbados (Silver Crown of Merit) for her significant contributions to education, in particular the development of the hospitality sector. It was an even more impressive tribute in view of her having to eschew higher education to focus on teaching her young family the values we continue to hold dear.
Rest in peace, Gaggie. We know you will enjoy looking down and seeing the healthy fruit of your labor and of your love as you take your rightful place in the arms of the Lord.