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A tribute to my sister Pearl Cyrus

A tribute to my sister Pearl Cyrus

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By Dr. Cecil Cyrus

PEARLIE, as she was known in Layou in her childhood, was a seemingly serious little girl as she grew up. But that was only an outward appearance, common to both of us, and inherited from our mother and father. For, behind that forbidding, non- smiling countenance was a happy, pleasant, gentle child. Like our mother, she learnt early in life that labour was rewarding when it came to the caring of the family. And so she willingly assisted in the numerous household chores that ensured the cleanliness of our house and yard, the cooking of food for the many hungry children, especially the lazy boys who spent most of their time frolicking at cricket or swimming at Jackson Bay, and the washing and ironing of clothes almost continuously. And that laid the foundation and prepared her to take in her easy stride the caring of her own children in later life, both in St Vincent and in America. Like our mother, she liked to work, and so, in the United States she was known to hold as many as three jobs at the same time, so as to ensure the welfare of her children mainly. And she had to be reminded to spend some of her earnings on herself as well.

Having left my mother’s home in Layou to further my education in Kingstown in 1939 at the age of ten, I did not grow up further with Pearl and the others continuously, and so I do not know all the little family episodes during her life in Layou. Her children are better equipped to share them with you. But there are a few which I can recall. When she was a tiny child, she spent a week or two with family friends in Union Island in the Grenadines. The entire family was amused when she returned to Layou with a distinct Union Island accent. I remember her speaking of the ‘wangoo’ in this amusing accent which sounded like Barbadian. So malleable and impressionable are the young.

All of us used to be amazed and overjoyed at the fact that whenever we had fish with our meal, Pearl used to exchange her fleshy portion of fish for the bony fish head as she preferred this. So there was great competition for this bargain by those of us who had been served the head of the fish. And so, we always looked forward to this seemingly unfair but legitimate bargain!

Once, she was to be the bridesmaid at the wedding of a friend from Union Island. This was the very first time she had had this much-desired honour. On the happy day, as she donned her bridesmaid dress for the wedding, someone accidentally spilled a cup of what was known as ‘cocoa tea’ on her. For her, life seemed to have come to a sudden end. But, a smart person in the room tried to console her by saying that it was not a catastrophe because the spill was on the back of the dress. He received many ‘bad eyes’ for this silly attempt at consolation.

All during her life, though having diverse heavy responsibilities, Pearl never lost her dignity and her way forward. Like our mother Dorothy, she remained a generous, caring, loving person, always ready to respond to the urgent needs not only of her family, but others close to her.

Pearl, while we mourn for you, yet, kind, relieving death was not totally unwelcome, as it rescued you from that state of being a virtual vegetable for the past three years. We will miss you. But we are consoled by the fact that you lived your life in the service of others, and so you will always dwell in the hearts and minds of those whose lives you so happily touched. And, therefore, your immortality will be assured. Moreover, your own children, by their gifts of grandchildren to you, will ensure, further, your immortality, as generation after generation of newborns will guarantee the survival of your flesh and blood. Rest in eternal peace, my dear sister.