Return to Jamaica - Winsome Arana
I don't know of any other airline that lands to a round of applause when the flight was smooth and
uneventful.. But Jet Blue landed at Montego Bay Airport to a round of applause on a hot Tuesday
afternoon in July, and to euphoric shouts of 'Thank you, Jesus!” “ Alleleuia!.”
My niece picked me up and we traversed the mountains to get to Black River, a town lying in a valley
in the west of the island. It was a very scenic drive through high mountains and deep valleys, green and verdant, emphasizing life and vitality and energy. Added to this was the sound of reggae music on the car radio, the reggae music of a bygone era when One with 57 year old ears could understand every word of the song.
I was visiting Jamaica to spend a few weeks with my sister. She was not expecting me, so this was a
surprise visit. We arrived at my sister's house and I made my grand entrance. We were both shocked to see each other. She was shocked because she was not expecting me, and I was shocked becausemy
|My sister, her husband, and 2 of her 5 grandchildren.|
sister was all 'skin and bones'. My arms encircled her and where there was a lovely, comforting size 12 padding just 11 months ago, there was now a hard feeling of bones, such that I was scared to hug her too closely. The skin drooped on her arms and her face, her legs were spindle-like and sharp, I could barely see her breast anymore. She seemed to have aged 10 years in the 11 months since I had seen her last. Whereas she could express her surprise in seeing me, I choked on mine and had to keep it buried deep in my stomach as this was supposed to be a joyful moment. I wondered briefly, among all the greetings, when I would be able to make time to cry alone. Her voice was strong and determined, and herein laid the mystery: In speaking to her over the phone she sounded just like the sister I had always known, as if everything was normal and there was not a barrel of malignant, angry, liver cells suspended over her head, waiting to drown her. Then on seeing her, the sad reality struck and the barrel seem to move an inch closer to her head.
My sister, Doreen, is my eldest sibling, she is ten years older than I am. She was diagnosed with liver
cancer about two months earlier. She has stoically accepted this, and has manifested what the Bible
describes as 'the Peace of God which surpasses all understanding'.
Black River holds a wealth of memories for me: It was the place where my younger sister and I spent
our summer holidays with my aunt and uncle who were the adoptive parents of my sister, Doreen.
There are delicious memories of picking and eating guavas from the trees, eating bammy and fish,
swimming in the sea early in the morning when there are no waves and the sea is as flat as a glass-
perfect for lying on the back and floating; There are grunting memories of helping my aunt to feed the pigs, and rounding up the pig that had a mind of its own and was always escaping the pen. There are working memories of helping my uncle to label all the goods in his store in dollars and cent to replace the old currency of pound, shillings and pence when Jamaica converted to the dollar in 1969. There are parental memories when we now stayed with my sister in the summer holidays after our aunt and uncle died, the parental memories extend to my sister denying me the opportunity to go on a date with a boy with whom I had corresponded for months via the snail mail of the day as a penpal. My memories included the summer when my sister gave birth to her twin daughters. I was in Black River with her and her husband for the summer. I was a university student at the time. My memories included the last time I saw my mother alive. I still remember saying goodbye to her with my husband and three small children as we left Jamaica to return to Belize. She stood by the door of her room in my sister's house and waved us a sad goodbye. I can still see her frail hands fluttering in a queenly wave. My mother had been living in Kingston, 100 miles away. As she became older, my sister and brother in law, added another room to their house and took her to live with them. She lived here until she died. I walked into the room in which she lived before she died and I am reminded of her, I feel somehow closer to her in my sister's house. I want to tell my sister to give her a special hug for me when she sees her in heaven, but this is premature, we are still praying for a miracle and that my sister will be healed of her visit with the big C.
Now I watch the wasted form of my sister as she moves around the house, I can see the disconnect
between her mind and her body at times. Her voice is the same… strong and determined and
opinionated. At other times, I feel that the toxin building up in her body as a result of an impaired liveris affecting her mind as she is less lucid, forgetful of the command she just gave to bring her orange
juice, and miserable and quarrelsome as a result of her perception of everyone ignoring her wishes.
I watch the interplay between my sister and her husband. He is soft and father-like in his treatment of
her. I can see the fear in his eyes at time, but he is tender and caters to her every need. He did put his
foot down one night though, where it concerned a crab. Yes, earlier that afternoon, my sister was sittingon the front porch when a large crab decided to come a calling, she got up painfully, got a plastic barrel
and shooed the crab into it, she added water and food for the crab. Now at seven pm in the evening she
was trying to get her tired husband to check on the crab to make sure that it was ok, he refused to do so.
I guess his care did not extend to his wife’s newly acquired pet! My sister is not sure what she wants to
do with the crab, but I am happy that it has taken the focus off her illness for a little and allowed her to
focus on another life, however lowly an arthropod it may be.
As I leave Jamaica to return to the USA, I wondered if I would ever see my sister alive again. I will bepraying for the miracle of healing for her, even as I pray that if this is not granted, then she remains
pain free as the end approaches. I pray that she continues to have the supernatural Peace of God which surpasses all understanding.