At 100 years old, Nerissa Crooks White, better known as Mum, maintains a magnanimous demeanor and an unflinching faith in God.
“She is still saying the Lord’s Prayer,” her youngest of nine children, Julius White, noted.
Mum’s health, however, has been on the decline in recent years. She lost her sight, became bedridden, and is now highly economical with words.
Her children and grandchildren who take care of her hosted two activities last month to belatedly observe the anniversary of her birth.
Born 24 December 1921, Mum hails from the rural community of Point Hill, St. Catherine.
She was the eldest child for her late mother, who sent her to Point Hill All Age School, now known as Point Hill Leased Primary.
“Sometimes when yuh quiz her about the past she remember little things, but not a lot,” Julius told The Beacon.
When her memory and tongue were sharper, Mum gave vivid descriptions of a childhood characterized by discipline and hard work.
“She said she used to get up early in the morning, feed cow, carry water and so on before she goh school, and when she come back home a pure work again,” Julius explained.
Mum later gave birth to her first child – her only daughter.
She also met Percival White, who became her husband and the father of her other eight children – all sons.
Her husband tilled the soil and planted a variety of crops, which she sold in Linstead Market and later in Spanish Town. She also sold cooking oil that she made at home using dried coconut meat.
Following the death of her husband in 1970, Mum redoubled her effort and quickly adapted to her new role as a single mother, raising her children. Julius recalled her sometimes leaving home for market on Thursdays and not returning home until Saturdays.
After raising her children and assisting with some of their children, Mum stopped going to market about 2003.
She travelled abroad in 2004 to spend a few months with one of her sons.
“She seh she nuh like foreign, soh she nuh goh back,” Julius said.
According to him, the family is “elated” that its matriarch has attained a century, becoming the first person in her immediate family to remain that long at the proverbial crease.
Two of her sons have died and two are not in the best of health. Mum has 44 grand-children and 66 great-grands.
One of her grand-daughters, Hansum Whyte, spoke glowingly of her.
“It was my pleasure to go to the market with her to sell market produce. She is a resilient woman and believes in the utmost best and in teaching us as grandchildren right from wrong,” she told The Beacon.
She added: “My grandmother is a stalwart in farming; she is a strong woman of God who loves her Bible very much. She often enjoyed cooking for the neighbourhood. Roast dumpling and shad with the chocolate tea that she made was her favourite breakfast… As a centenarian, she is blessed. I am very happy to have her as my grandmother.”
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