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Eulogy for the life of Errol Morris

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by Leopold Lewis

I welcome the opportunity to say a few words on the life of the deceased, inasmuch as I was his first link to our side of the family. Errol and I became friends when I was living with my grandmother in Chile Village, where he also lived.

Ours was an interesting relationship, because he was a few years older than I. He might have been fifteen or sixteen and I eleven or twelve at the time. So on the one hand he was very protective of me, acting as the bigger brother I did not have; and on the other hand he was quite comfortable sharing some of his innermost, intimate thoughts with me. {{more}}

He was also a good influence; and the religious path he chose to follow early in life inspired many young people in the community to attend Sunday school at the Gospel Hall, and grow spiritually.

Errol started his career as a teacher in the public school system in Georgetown, but later switched to private tutoring at Orange Hill estates. His dedication and conscientious efforts to prepare his students with a solid educational background for further studies abroad earned him the respect of the entire Bernard family, to the extent that the children remained in touch with him well into their adult life.

It was during his time at Orange Hill that he got closer to the rest of my family in Caratal. Quite often, on his way from work, he would drop by to see Leopold or leave a gift with my mother for me, and of course fall in love with my sister at the same time. It’s what, I suppose, is meant by killing two birds with one stone.

Errol and Ursilla got married and migrated to England in short order. Things went well for them in England, as diligence and hard work enabled them to enjoy a quiet and comfortable life. For Errol, gardening was not a casual activity to be engaged in occasionally; it was a passion. In fact, his well-organized vegetable garden in the backyard was the showpiece of the home.

Apart from interest in his garden, Errol’s devotion to his pet dog Cloe was quite another thing. While it is not unusual to refer to dog and master as best of friends, in the case of Errol and Cloe, they could only be described as inseparables. In fact, people in the neighbourhood, watching them take their regular walks in the park, began to refer to them as “the man with the dog.” Furthermore, it would be fair to say that Errol’s loyalty to his dog was second only to his loyalty to his wife Ursilla.

I can tell you also that the man to whom we have come to pay our last respects today was a most generous individual. On one occasion, after I had taken up residence in Canada, he called from England to say that he had learned that someone within our circle of friends and relatives in these parts was in some difficulty. He wanted to help, but had no details, and did not know the level of urgency. His decision was to send the help to me, and my job was to gather the information and relay that help expeditiously.

There is something else that many in the congregation are probably aware of: Errol and Urcie were always welcoming guests to their home in Luton. I cannot count the number of times that I have spoken to people who would say to me: “When I went to England on holidays,” or “When I was studying in England I stayed with Errol and Urcie.” Their home at 13 Newark Road was a virtual open house for friends and family locally and abroad. And they went out of their way to make everyone feel literally at home.

When a heart condition and subsequent surgery seriously restricted his activities and left him with more time on his hand than was desirable, brother Errol’s first Christian impulse was to get involved in volunteer work with the needy. And true to his deeply religious background, he committed himself to visit and pray with some disadvantaged soul on a regular basis; and he tried sincerely never to miss an opportunity to light a small candle in someone else’s life.

As time went by, however, illness took its toll, and that was part of the reason why the decision was made to hasten a return to St Vincent. Naturally, readjustment posed a challenge. For one thing, brother Errol had a unique way of looking at situations: In his world, things were either right or wrong; black or white. Of course most of us would rather operate in the grey area where actions could be a little bit right or a little bit wrong. It is always easier and safer that way.

Needless to add, with time on his hand to reflect on life, Errol did not always find it easy for example, to relate the past to the present, or to resolve the conflicts within. But that can be said about all of us.

How many of us still insist, as did he that “the good old days” were better than the present – that people were harder working and more polite then? The difference is that he likely would have stated his case in stronger terms.

But during my visit about 3 years ago, he and I sat together several times and had some enjoyable exchanges as we did long ago. One day I came in and found him with a copy of Charles H Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening devotions in his hand; and he turned to me and said: “I just read a passage in this book that left me wondering why I allow myself to get upset at times. I really should not be worrying about anything.

As I paused to reflect on, and interpret Errol’s life from the early days to the present – and to some extent my own – because it’s natural today that – I found it helpful to use as a backdrop a famous and wonderful piece of music: Mozart’s Requiem.

If you believe, as I do, that the artist, whether as composer or painter, inevitably projects his own being into his work, then we must believe that Mozart was reflecting on his own life – his own mortality, the ups and downs in life – when he wrote the Requiem. Some even speculate that he was thinking of his own impending death. In any case, as one listens to one of the songs in particular: “Confutatis Maledictis,” one can visualize inner conflict, questioning, struggle, and doubt. But the following song: “L’Acrimosa,” presents an entirely different picture.

The music is glorious, heavenly, uplifting, peaceful and serene, all at once. It is said that the ailing composer invited friends to sing the Requiem with him, and when they sang L’Acrimosa, he broke down and cried. Hours later, he passed away.

When I called my sister Ursilla from Canada to express my condolences, and the word “peace” was mentioned, there was a sudden uplift in her voice, as if a cloud had lifted. She went on to say that what brought her greatest consolation was that when the time approached, brother Errol was prepared, ready, and at peace.

My friends, I believe that in this life, to find peace within, and to be connected or reconnected with one’s maker when the time comes, must be the ultimate triumph. And no one could wish for more.

We have heard from the principal witness at Errol’s bedside: his faithful wife of almost 45 years. She said he was prepared, ready, and at peace. May he enjoy that peace eternally.

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