We do not speak of Arianna in the past tense, she lives in us all -Ventura
“Am I my spouse’s keeper? Indeed you are, indeed each one is, and again to turn on that person and to destroy the image of God, the gift of God, is a contravening of God’s law.”
This reminder was delivered by Monsignor, Michael Stewart, at a Memorial Mass of slain nurse and mother, Cuban-born, Arianna Taylor, at a packed Cathedral of the Assumption on Wednesday, February 12.
Pain was visible in the Cathedral as mourners reached for tissues and handkerchiefs as they said goodbye to their friend, and colleague, who was shot on the compound of the St Martin’s Secondary School on January 30, in view of one of her sons, a student of the school.
She was pronounced dead shortly after at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital, where she worked. Her husband, Mitchell ‘Mitch’ Israel, has been charged with causing her death.
Seated directly before the monsignor were Taylor’s family members, including her two teenage sons, and sister.
In the pew opposite, Members of Government, including Health Minister, Luke Browne; Minister of National Mobilisation, Frederick Stephenson; and Minister of Housing, Montogomery Daniel, were seated, as well as the wife of Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, Eloise Gonsalves.
In the aisle between them, before the altar, the coffin, draped with the Cuban and Vincentian flags, rested in front of a picture of the smiling nurse and mother, with RIP (rest in peace) written on it.
“Crime and violence in the society continues to call forth from the people of this nation a cry of distress, a visceral coming from the gut, coming from the bowel,” the cleric commented during his homily.
He questioned “What is happening to our land; what is happening to our country, are we no longer the home of the blessed, why are we no longer our brother’s or our sister’s keeper?”
The monsignor addressed the pain caused as a result of death, and stated that the society, the family, the nursing fraternity, one day, would need to heal. He indicated that they cannot do this by themselves but need to take the “high route of faith.”
This involves, he said, repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
“Repentance because all of us need to repent, because we do violence in some way every day. Repentance because ‘Mitch’ Israel needs to repent, to turn around to ask God for forgiveness,” he commented.
“Repentance means turn around. Vincentians we need to turn around!,” Stewart stressed, “We need to go back to God.”
He also spoke about cancelling debt through forgiveness.
“I’m not saying today, I’m not enforcing any measure on you, I’m not saying today, but eventually the high road of faith means that one will come to the place where one will say, you do not owe me any longer, I cancel your debt,” he commented.
Finally, he told them, that if there should be any consolation at this time, “she is in the hands of the Lord and because of that no torment can touch her.”
Another section of the final farwell mass involved moving tributes, both musical and written.
The Starlift Steel Orchestra and Cantemus, groups in which Taylor was a member, played and sang multiple songs and hymns. Members of Cantemus could be seen trying to hold back tears, which halted their singing for a moment, before continuing.
Many told their stories of the person- nurse Taylor. The tribute from Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves’, read by his wife Eloise, described the nurse as a person who “worked tirelessly, humbly and with distinction in her selfless service of our people.”
Gonsalves met Taylor in 2001 when a contingent of Cuban nurses came to SVG to fill a nursing shortage. She fell in love with St Vincent, and also with a man who she would marry, the Prime Minister said.
In 2003 Taylor had to return to Cuba, as circumstances were such that, after her two year stint in St Vincent, she was mandated to return. She did return. However, at Taylor’s request to stay in SVG, Gonsalves intervened and pleaded the case with the then Cuban President, Fidel Castro.
The Prime Minister said that Taylor’s violent death shocked him to the core. Mentioning a candle light vigil held in memory of the fallen nurse held last week Thursday, February 6, Gonsalves noted that Vincentians of all walks of life attended, and that was a testimony of how much Vincentians loved Taylor.
Further he noted “…our determination to stand firmly against all forms of criminal violence especially against our defenseless women and children”.
An emotional tribute came in the person of Lotier Rose, who previously served as Minister/Counsellor for SVG to Cuba, said she remembered Taylor “as a loving and protective mother, totally committed to her two boys,” and a genuine dedicated nurse.
“I remember Arianna as a wife who really, really wanted her marriage to succeed and to that end she tried, she tried, and she tried again,” stated Rose,who is herself Cuban-born.
She continued, “My prayer and my hope is that all this suffering all of this pain will not be in vain,” and that it would instead serve as a wake up call.
“Let it serve as a united call especially for those who are suffering in silence,” she urged, “a call to stand, a call to speak, and a call to act.”
The Cuban Ambassador Jose Manuel Leyva Ventura, in his tribute, noted that Taylor’s children will not be alone and that “we do not speak of Arianna in the past tense, she lives and will continue to live in her two children, in the beautiful legacy of simplicity, joy, love and patriotism that she leaves us all”.
Taylor’s body will be cremated and her ashes taken to Cuba, where the last rites will be conducted.