Beacon of the day | Jamaican abroad finds inspiration amid family’s loss

Tiffany Smith, a Jamaican native living in the United States, is pursuing medical studies and has written a book – all in honour of close relatives she has lost.

Most of those relatives are from Portland.

That is where Tiffany spent the first five years of her life before she, along with her mother and siblings, migrated to the United States.

A few years later, her father, Raymond Smith, better known as ‘Wayne’, also left Jamaica.

Her father died of cancer in January last year, and was interred in Portland where he worked as a teacher prior to migrating.

Before losing her dad, Tiffany lost a number of maternal relatives to heart disease, which she now considers to be hereditary.

Two of her close relatives are still battling the heart condition. They are her brother Raymond Smith Jr., and her mother Karen Mason-Smith.

Tiffany told The Beacon that the spate of illness in her family has bolstered her desire to pursue a career in the medical field.

“My cousin and grandmother both passed away within seven months of each other… My uncle and father then both passed away during my first year of medical school. Additionally, shortly after my father’s death, we learned that my younger brother needs a heart transplant,” she explained.

“These series of events all forced me to reflect on my journey into medicine. I have had to accept that the very people who gave me the courage to pursue a medical degree will not be here to attend my graduation… I am dedicating my life and my degree to honour their memory, and to help people the way they helped people throughout their lives.”

Tiffany, who is also pursuing a Masters of Arts in Urban Bioethics, will complete her medical degree in May 2023.

Prior to starting medical school, she gained invaluable experience working at two medical facilities – Connecticut Children’s Medial Centre, and The Institute of Living, which was a psychiatric hospital.

Tiffany hopes to eventually use her expertise in medicine to help people – including her ailing relatives.

While taking care of those who are alive, Tiffany takes tremendous pride in honouring the memory of her loved ones who have died.

She has written a book – This One’s For You – in honour of them.

The book will be available for sale in September.

Elaborating on the inspiration behind the publication, Tiffany commented: “Losing a loved one is never easy. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to make it easier. It’s always the funny memories that I find are most helpful. So, one day, I decided to write them down. This book serves to highlight the happier memories I hold of my loved ones who’ve departed.”

Tiffany developed a penchant for writing during childhood.

She told The Beacon: “I think it started because I was always very shy and quiet. That was because, when we first moved to America, I had a very thick [Jamaican] accent and I was very young. People used to laugh at me at school, and so I stopped talking and wouldn’t answer any question in class.

“Although I wouldn’t speak to anyone, I would write notes to my teachers to let them know how I was feeling. I would also write poems to express my feelings. So writing was just always my way of expressing myself. I am not shy anymore, but I keep writing,” Tiffany further said.

She noted that, although she migrated when she was five, she has maintained a strong bond with her native land.

That bond is reflected in her book.

Tiffany explained: “Writing such a personal story provided the opportunity to share different aspects of our Jamaican culture, as I explore all the influences that made me who I am. True to our culture, I have chosen to reproduce conversations exactly how I remember having them, which was in Jamaican patois.

“The cover of my book features my childhood home in Jamaica. This cover is very personal to me, as the home represents where my story started, and where the story has ended for many members of my family, as they are buried in the yard beside the house [in Portland],” she further said.

Tiffany, in the meantime, intends to contribute towards the development of Jamaica, especially Portland.

“It is my goal to contribute to the progress being made in the healthcare field there, throughout my career,” she commented. “Though I now live in the United States, I have very strong ties to my home country.”


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