Eulogy for Elfreda Yvonne Shirley Regisford
The Rt. Reverend Bishop Friday, members of the clergy, members of the Regisford family, members of the Williams family, sisters and brothers in Christ, Good Afternoon.
In Curacao, a little over 63 years ago, Mommy and Daddy, Myrtle and David Regisford, were blessed with their 7th bundle of joy, whom they named Elfreda Yvonne Shirley. Freda came to St. Vincent at age 4 with the family and lived the rest of her life here in Bridgetown/Biabou.
Freda’s life was a life of service to family, church and community. The core of her life was centered around Jesus’ commandment, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another”. John 13:34. Freda had a heart full of kindness and full of love. She was a giving, gentle, humble and beautiful soul. We, her blood family, the Regisfords and the Williamses, her church family, her friends and the Bridgetown/Biabou community are all united here today, because Freda loved us.
Yes, Freda loved her family very much and was the glue that held us together. Her love of family was manifested in many ways.
Freda spent time with our brother, Allan and sister-in-law, Methlyn, in England, helping them to ease the burden of having to juggle school and work with family life.
Freda was always here to welcome our brother, Sylvanus. Sylvanus could have come home suddenly at any time and Freda was here to ensure that he was fed and cared for throughout his stay.
Our sister, Olive and Freda were partners in crime, so to speak. Each time Olive visited; Freda made time to go all over the island with her. Their close friendship created several “inside family” jokes, jokes which Freda retold so well, that my son and I would crack up with laughter at the same joke, every time.
The bond between Freda and our deceased sister Joan was special. They were each other’s favorite sister and they loved each other beyond measure. Because Freda loved Joan so much, she was most deeply affected at Joan’s sudden passing.
And oh, how Freda loved our sister, Monica! At a very young age, Monica exposed Freda to traveling, thus fostering Freda’s love for travel to places like England, France, Belgium, and of course the Caribbean. Freda saw Monica as a role model, a mother figure. She looked forward to spending quality time with Monica and would often visit her in Trinidad. Freda’s love for Monica was extended to Monica’s sons, Johnny and Richie, especially Richie, who was one of her favorite nephews and Freda, in turn, was Richie’s favorite aunt.
Freda was here to welcome our brother, Carl when he returned to practice medicine in St. Vincent. She was instrumental in helping Carl’s family acclimate to our culture and society. Freda was also always here to accommodate Carl’s daughter, Natasha, to make her feel an integral part of our family.
At one time, Freda and our brother, Earl, were the only family members residing in St. Vincent. They loved and supported each other to no end. It was no surprise that Freda was extremely close to Earl and his family; his wife Kay and children Craig and Rochelle. Auntie Freda loved herself, some Craig and Rochelle.
And then there was Dave, our brother who was born after Freda. Freda loved and cherished Dave. To borrow a couple words from Celine Dion’s song, which was so beautifully delivered by Biabou’s own local talent, Zen….(thank you), Freda was “Dave’s strength, his voice, his eyes”. Dave himself adored Freda. He entrusted his son into her care. Dave asked Freda to treat Alec as her very own; and that Freda did so magically, by loving Alec with every fiber of her being. As I stand here today, I vow to keep alive, the promise Freda made to Dave; the promise that Alec knows and remembers that he is indeed a part of our family, that he is our nephew.
For many years, Freda, Dave and I were the only children at home with Mommy and Daddy. We were a team that supported each other, that rooted for each other and suffered the consequences together when we got into trouble with our parents and older siblings. Freda was the peacemaker, often saying, “Dave, Gloria, for peace sake, don’t talk back, don’t fight, when Dave and I wanted to stand up and fight for what we thought were our own rights as children and teenagers. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” Mathew 5:9.
Together, Freda, Dave and I played, we laughed and we cried, then we turned around and laughed at the silly things we cried about….; like not being allowed to go into town for carnival when we were young teenagers. That fateful carnival day, the three of us cried for hours, then we stopped, laughed and teased each other for years about it.
Freda also always teased me about the fact that I hated school when I was four, five, six years old. (Of course, I don’t remember that!) Freda would tease me about eagerly walking to school with her and Dave. Then at school, I would cry from the moment the school bell rang until I was sent home about an hour later. You see, Freda was the one called upon to take her baby sister home during morning recess, practically every day. Freda sacrificed her time at school, class time and play time with her friends, to be the wonderful big sister that she was, even at an early age.
As time went on, when our lives took different paths during the day, Freda and I would come together at night, in the room that we shared for 20 years. We would talk late into the night; actually, I talked and Freda listened. She listened to my escapades, my complaints, my fears and all my secrets. (Maybe she told Mommy, with whom she had the most beautiful mother/daughter relationship, everything the next day, but that now, I will never know!). Freda supported me, encouraged me, kept me grounded, kept me sane. Freda was indeed, my very first best friend. And again, I borrow words from Celine Dion’s song, “I’m everything I am, because Freda loved me”.
Freda’s love branched out to my son, Zane, and her love was ever so strong to the end. At my home in Texas, I have a picture of Freda and Zane at age 2. Freda was holding and looking down at Zane, and Zane was looking up at her. It was one of those priceless moments captured on camera. However, the picture that is and will be forever etched in my memory is that of Freda in the hospital bed spontaneously asking Zane for a hug. As they hugged each other, Freda said to Zane, “You are so sweet, I love you!” … and Zane’s response… “I love you too, Auntie Freda!” Precious, oh such precious memories!
A lifetime member of this, the St. Matthews Anglican Church, Freda served as a Sunday school teacher, a choir member and was godmother to many. Freda loved her church family and attended every church function and patronal festival possible. At church, she created lifelong friendships with many people, one of whom is Roxy. She loved and trusted Roxy. Feeling extremely comfortable with Roxy, Freda asked Roxy to bring her a Ju-c in the hospital, knowing full well that Ju-c was not a part of her diet. What an advertisement for Ju-c!
The extent to which Freda loved her neighbors could be seen in her kindness towards them. It was not unusual for someone to drop in and ask, “Freda oii, whey yo ha fu eat dey?” Freda would respond with giving them a plate of food and some juice, “Ena much, but come eat dis!” Even while her own physical heart was failing, that innate kindness shone forth! One day, during visiting hours at the hospital, Freda was finally awake and hungry, having not eaten for three days, yet Freda turned to me and said, “Gloria, go and get all of these people something to drink!”
Her friendship with our beloved Cousin Marie showed that age was no boundary for Freda’s love. Her recent bond with Bella, her caretaker, showed that her emotional well-being was sound to the very last; and her friendship with her neighbor, Claire, each with completely different ideologies, showed that love can erase any division. The Apostle, Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, 4:2, wrote, “With tender humility and quiet patience, always demonstrate gentleness and generous love toward one another”. Such was Freda’s love for everyone, patient, gentle, humble!
Freda, we, your brothers and sisters, are gratefully indebted to you for allowing us to roam far and wide. We could not have done it without you being here to care for Mommy, Daddy and our brothers, Carl and Dave. You were here, you kept the home fires burning and that was significant work. Extremely significant, at a time when so many families are fractured, with children abandoned all over the world, with people not knowing where or whom their families were. Most importantly, you loved us, you loved us with a love that held us together as a family. For that, Freda, we are profoundly grateful.
Freda, because you were such a joy and a blessing in our lives; because you were so easy to love; and because you loved us all so fiercely, it is hard to say goodbye to you. So, until we meet again in paradise, rest well, Freda!
Author and Eulogist: E. Gloria C. Regisford, PhD