Mabel Matthews-Chambers, better known as Miss May, has been celebrated as an epitome of kindness and a devout woman of God.
The tributes rained down moments before she was interred on Saturday, January 9, roughly five months after she was electrocuted near her home at Top Hill district in Lluidas Vale Division, St. Catherine.
The Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), which supplies the island with electricity, has accepted liability, the family told The Beacon.
It added that Miss May was not laid to rest earlier because her relatives abroad were waiting to see if the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic would have subsided significantly.
That has not happened, and so the bereaved family went ahead with the burial amid several national restrictions imposed to fight the virus.
Anthony Lyons, a son-in-law of the deceased, visited the island for the funeral and delivered the eulogy during a relatively brief ceremony near the grave at Miss May’s rural home.
He said: “To eulogize a mother, mother-in-law, a friend or anyone for that matter can be a deeply painful experience. I have struggled to understand and accept this situation.”
Miss May was born on 9 August 1928 at Victoria Jubilee Hospital in Kingston.
Her parents, who grappled with economic hardship and job instability, sent her at an early age to live with her grand-parents in Top Hill district.
Miss May, after leaving school, went on to have eight children in two relationships.
Her husband, Gladstone Chambers, who fathered her two last children, pre-deceased her.
She made a living selling goods at Kellits in Clarendon and Lluidas Vale in St. Catherine.
She helped to raise a number of children in the community – not just her biological children and grandchildren.
Her son-in-law told the gathering: “She (Miss May) was a loving, caring and devoted mother to her children and grand-children – some of whom she had raised. She encouraged them to go after hopes, dreams and aspirations with a fiery passion and refusal to back down even when the odds are stacked against them.”
Miss May was also jovial and she could cook very well, the son-in-law further said.
He added: “Many people across the United States of America who knew her would often talk about her ‘ashes roast dumplings’ that kept them coming back for more. Food was never too little or short for her, because many people would drop in at different times and she would have something for them to eat.”
Miss May, in April 2009, migrated to the United States.
“Although it was not practicable, she would live the summer in America, and hibernated to Jamaica in the winter months,” the son-in-law disclosed.
He said Miss May returned home for good in September 2016 when she decided to stay with her husband because of his illness.
“She continued her buying and selling,” the son-in-law added. “Her last Grand Market sales was in December 2019 at Kellits Market in Clarendon!”
Miss May was also an ardent Christian, whose son-in-law said she was a founding member of Lemon Hall Anglican Church near Top Hill.
The St. Simon’s Anglican Church in Top Hill, where Miss May eventually worshiped and served on the choir for decades, joined in speaking glowingly of her.
Tajae Prince, a cousin of the deceased, said: “Miss May was a highly valued, loved and influential member of the St. Simon’s Anglican Church.
“She was a strong woman who dealt with the hardships of life just like all of us, but she persevered through it all. She would say that, from she was a little girl, she would always go to church barefooted. She was, most times, the first one to reach church on Sundays.”
Prince further stated that Miss May struggled to stay away from church when people in her age group were told to stay at home to avoid contracting COVID-19.
“Miss May was a very dedicated church woman of God,” she further said. “Miss May loved her God; she loved her church; she loved her husband, her children and her community.”
Miss May also did not forget her community whenever she traveled overseas.
“Each and every time she traveled, she would always bring back goodies for the young children,” Prince recalled.
“There is almost not one young person in Top Hill and surrounding areas that does not know or have not experienced the kind-heartedness of this dearly missed matriarch of our community.”
Miss May is survived by seven children, 19 grand-children, and 12 great-grands.
She died on the rainy afternoon of August 12 last year – three days after she turned 92.
Miss May was found dead at the foot of a wooden JPS utility pole, located on a sloping embankment across from the old post office in Top Hill.
She had come in contact with electrical wires, which were hanging from the JPS pole. In fact, the end of one wire was found in her mouth.
Miss May, who had a helper at her home, died while traveling from a grocery shop in her community.
Her death left many people ‘in a state of shock,’ her son-in-law said.
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