Grief and Hope in Trinidad

Hello. I’m Desi-Ann,

I grew up in a matriarchal home, so everything was about mummy. My father lived with us for only a few years during my childhood. Thankfully, he and I have a wonderful relationship.

My mother cared for her five children, one of whom died before I was born.  There was never a day I went without. There were always meals, clean clothes, and a well- organized home which was our haven. 

My mother did it all. 

As a single parent, I’m sure it was not an easy road for her. However, she was never one to show it. I think she did well at masking how she truly felt. Whether or not she was ill, tired, or simply frustrated, mummy still did what she felt obligated to do. 

I was the youngest of five children. And as the baby in the family, I was often with my mother. She introduced me to crossword puzzles and word searches, which I still love doing especially on Sundays. Mummy and I would also engage in Scrabble. You could tell we had a love for words. Those were pleasant memories. 

I went through my childhood years and high school with my mother always there supporting me. She was a schoolteacher which added an interesting layer to my education experience. Not only did I attend the school my mother taught at, but I also ended up being one of her students. Hmm…to some that could have ended up disastrous, but for me, it was enjoyable. I guess because I always loved school and I loved my mother. So, it was the best of both worlds.

Eventually she transferred me to another school which she felt more suitable. Despite this change, mummy always ensured I got the best. 

I attended high school where I continued to excel. I got through our two levels of examinations in the Caribbean and was preparing to enter the world of work.  By this time, my mother had retired from teaching and was enjoying her hobbies. 

She loved baking and creating floral arrangements. I could remember the smells of freshly baked goods as they came out of the oven. I could also remember trying to control my temptations to sneak an item or two from the trays. But that inner voice told me to stop since they were usually orders, for her catering jobs. 

As time went by, my mother and I spent more time together. I was now in my late teenage years. I cannot recall the year, but I remember my mother starting to feel unwell almost immediately after retirement. We soon discovered that she was diabetic. My mother had Type II Diabetes. 

The months that followed were not anything I would’ve imagined. 

She had to make several changes to her lifestyle: new diet, exercise, just life in general. I watched as she deteriorated. I saw how she suffered. I cried when she wanted to just have one more fruit or a mint. It was a difficult time to see how my mother transitioned from being active to barely having energy to do basic activities.

Yet, we were hopeful.

I remember praying and asking God to heal her. To let us have her for a longer time. But today I’m reminded by the scripture: “…not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:42)

We often feel that things should and will go our way. But our Heavenly Father knows best. Yes, He knows all things and sees all things. So, we have to depend on Him to make the decision that is best for us.

I celebrated my 19th birthday in 1996. It was a memorable moment for me as I felt I was one year closer to adulthood. My mother celebrated with me. A few weeks after, my sister was going to be welcoming another year of life, an occasion we were also looking forward to.

It was in the same month that my mother’s condition worsened. She was hospitalized. I remember a visit to see her and she was all smiles and chatting. Then shortly after, I was told that she slipped into a coma. The reason I said I was told is because I didn’t know how to deal with the news. Should I go visit her? Should I stay at home and pray? What should I do? 

What I did do was question God. Don’t we all do this? When we don’t see any logic in a situation, we ask God, “Why?” And so I questioned Him. I got upset. I also grew numb. 

I eventually mustered up the courage to visit her. All I could recall were tubes and machines and the beeps of the heart monitor. My beloved mummy laid helpless on the hospital bed, fighting for her life. The only thing keeping her alive was the life support machine.

Several aspects of her departure from this earth remain blurry up to this day. I believe it’s because I didn’t accept what was happening and had happened. My mother left us on October 23, 1996. It was just two weeks after my birthday and one week before my sister’s.

We had just celebrated another year of my life, so why God? 

She didn’t even get to say happy birthday to my sister. Why God?

She was only 59. Why did you have to take her at such a young age, God?

Yes, question after question. Anger upon anger. 

How was I going to continue life without her? What about my husband and children to come? She’s not going to experience those moments with me. Why God? 

The days leading up to her funeral were challenging. And life after. How was I going to get through this? 

But God had a plan, as he always does. He sent me a Hope Hero. 

My best male friend from primary (elementary) school stood at my side through it all. Dennis listened…for hours if needed. 

He acknowledged that I was in pain. 

He prayed for me and my family to help us cope during our time of grief. 

And he was patiently present…that included taking me for a drive and allowing me to grieve. 

I recall one afternoon he drove me to a park. He was giving me the opportunity to release. I had so much pent up hurt and sadness. I showed little emotion the whole time, so this was my cathartic moment. And I thank him for considering me.

I continue to thank God for him and his support. Today, I could say that he is still my best male friend. And, with smiles, I’ll share that he’s my husband.

Life has a funny way of putting us in situations to teach us how to treat each other. It teaches us how to show gratitude and to support each other during the good and tough times.

A few months after my mother died, my Hope Hero lost his father. It was now my turn to extend support to Dennis. 

We both understand how it feels to lose a loved one. We know how important it is to have someone in your corner, cheering you on.

Who do you need to reach out to? How can you be a Hope Hero for a family member, friend or stranger?

Picture of Shirley Thiessen

Shirley Thiessen

Author and speaker helping you bring hope to broken, grieving hearts.