Comes a time
when you’re drifting
Comes a time
when you settle down
Comes a light
Lift that baby
right up off the ground.
Oh, this old world
keeps spinning round
It’s a wonder tall trees
ain’t layin’ down
There comes a time.
Comes a Time, Neil Young
I was standing on the Shore of Peace feeling not very peaceful.
Watching the family of Grace Dolsingh prepare her body for cremation, the air heavy with the scent of flowers and camphor and death.
Grace Dolsingh, who I knew only as a vibrant, committed elder of her community who decided that she didn’t want a smelter in her back yard.
Grace Dolsingh who was at every meeting, every protest, articulating in a way that only sweet grandmothers can articulate their concern for future generations.
Watching huge grey clouds gather in the Gulf of Paria refusing to burst like all the sorrow I feel for home that doesn’t want to pour down my cheeks.
Watching other families put their loved ones to rest.
There are several cremations taking place on the Shore of Peace and it is such a tief head that these people were walking the earth a few days before.
I dislike funerals as much as the next human running from coming to terms with mortality.
I dislike even more when there is a possibility that death could have been avoided. I resent it when death turns up unexpectedly, uninvited. Death is inevitable but an unnecessarily prevalent reality in the lives of too many Trinbagonians these days.
Because I do think that some people know when it’s their time to ride out. To leave aside this place and return to the big void or heaven or the vast nothingness of non-existence.
I don’t know if Grace Dolsingh was ready to go. And I as I stood on the Shore of Peace talking with her family and friends, they say that they didn’t expect her to die.
This being modern times, civilized times when we exceed our expectations and make it to developed nation status ahead of our dear politicians projections, you would think that we would have the technology or the medical know how to ensure that people survive mild heart attacks.
But when Grace Dolsingh was taken to the Point Fortin Hospital and made to sit on a chair for 25 hours after having a heart attack, clearly someone was playing a sick little underdeveloped joke.
At the Point Fortin Hospital just up the road from those monuments to our industrialized economy, I hear women are still having babies on the floors.
At the Point Fortin Hospital, still devoid, after a century of commercial oil production, of a burns unit, maybe the doctors say prayers to God who is a Trini that we don’t have any real disasters.
I was standing on the Shore of Peace trying to come to terms with Grace’s death. As if death is something you can come to terms with, when you’re sad and angry and powerless.
Watching the pundit’s assistant hit a flat brass plate with a tiny hammer.
Wondering about karma and reincarnation. Wondering if politicians who can afford to send themselves away from treatment, when they eventually die, do they come back as their constituents that they show so much contempt?
Do they come back to live under the infernal roar of a gas flare with nothing but faith and mango trees to keep them sane.
No answers come in the constant drone of amplified prayers. My eyes smart from the smoke and the camphor and the reality of my mortality.
I know from the hundreds of people who are turn out to say a final goodbye to Grace Dolsingh that she lived a good life.
I wonder if politicians hope for such noble endings. Or do they, like young gangsters simply put aside plenty money so that they can afford an expensive suit and a blinged out coffin.
Signs of a life opulently lived, with no evidence of the terror inflicted on the lives of so many families.
Her face has a kind of peace that suggests a pleasant dream, which is what I imagine death to be.
I find that I have no tears for Grace Dolsingh or for myself. But I hope that when my time comes, later rather than sooner, I am able to give as good an account of myself to my peers, my community, loved ones and country.
And not only for karma’s sake, I find that I want to keep fighting.