On a day when many people were celebrating their mothers, 10 siblings were still grappling with the remnants of grief.
They buried their mother – Mary Bryan-Simms, also called Aunt Mary – on the eve of Mother’s Day.
She was 92.
The matriarch of a relatively large family, Aunt Mary could have gotten one of the biggest funerals ever held in her native Pennington district, Lluidas Vale Division, St. Catherine.
However, the funeral arrangements were scaled down significantly due to national restrictions, which Government imposed to slow the spread of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
The restrictions include a 10-people limit at funerals, as well as the closure of the island’s ports to all incoming passengers – including Aunt Mary’s overseas relatives.
Aunt Mary had a combined total of 107 grandchildren and great-grands – some of whom she took under her roof and raised.
“She was a family woman,” declared her grandson, Denroy Forbes, who delivered the remembrance inside the Pennington Church of Jesus Christ Apostolic.
Forbes further said: “Aunt Mary shared as though there was no tomorrow. She gave not only of herself by means of wise counsel offered and times spent nurturing and caring for family and community members, but she gave of her resources…”
Aunt Mary also made her mark in the kitchen. “Anyone who came in contact with her cooking and remained the same is not yet born,” Forbes told the congregation.
Another family member, Angella Wynter, in a tribute, spoke highly of her late mother-in-law, describing her as ‘loving, caring, giving, and no-nonsense’.
When the hour-long funeral service ended, some of Aunt Mary’s male descendants quickly found other ways to show their respect. Beaming with pride, they carried her casket past the waiting hearse, and through the main street of Pennington to the family plot, where Aunt Mary was interred beside her husband Luther Simms.
Aunt Mary, who worshiped at the church where her funeral service was held, spend many of her younger years as a dressmaker – cutting and sewing fabrics into elegant dresses or whatever outfits her customers ordered.
She also owned and operated a grocery shop, and would travel on Tuesdays to replenish her stock mainly at Mongol Gunter Wholesale in Linstead, St. Catherine. The grocery shop also served as a venue for nocturnal banters and debates, which Aunt Mary entertained mainly with a group of her esteemed male peers.
Aunt Mary did not only match wits with the men of Pennington; she worked harder than some of them in the field of farming.
Her enormous strength has not gone unnoticed by her grandson, Horace Mills, an award-winning journalist and founder of The Beacon.
Mills commented: “My grandmother is immortalized as an epitome of strength. Shopkeeper. Farmer. Jill of all trades. She is the designer of an incredible blueprint for all brave women.”
Aunt Mary, who was bedridden for a relatively short period of time, proved her fighting spirit up to March 30 when she peacefully drew her last breath at Linstead Public Hospital.
She is survived by her 10 children – Jeffery, Dopson, Manley, Mary, Rosie, Lena, Gloria, Sybil, Darkie, as well as Karline who was her main caregiver.
Mary – the daughter, told The Beacon: “I am happy for the part I played in caring for my mother and for the part played by my other sisters and brothers – all of whom I love dearly.”
The family, in the meantime, is planning a post-COVID-19 memorial to celebrate the life of its super woman.
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