“Mom”; “Mamma”; “Auntie Monica”; “Grandma” was born in the parish of St. Ann in Jamaica to Scottish and Jamaican parents, David and Emily Stewart on November 21, 1921, the 3rd child with siblings Beatrice and Icilda Stewart. She lost her parents at a young age and was brought up by a family member who migrated to Cuba and took her with her, there she learned to speak Spanish fluently which became an asset in her job when she returned to live in Jamaica, especially when dealing with foreigners who came in to do business. She was trained in Shorthand which was a fast method of writing, using symbols to represent letters, words, or phrases, taught as a skill then.
She became the mother of four children, John, Daniel, Joshua and Maria who she brought up, for the most part, on her own, as a single working parent, ensuring that they had a good education. Maria recalls being given extra lunch money by Mom, “just in case anything happened on the road and she needed some money.” Once Maria had lost her money for her school books on the public transportation and was in trepidation when the school had to call her mother to report the loss. Although we grew up in an inner-city with not much money, our mother, in fine style, took her time and put some money together. Maria still had her books ahead of many in the class. She made countless sacrifices to ensure that we got a proper education and our needs were met. At the time of death she had nine grand-children plus adopted grand-children and several great-grand-children who she personally took care of and great-great-grand-children, all residing in Jamaica and the USA.
Her last job was assisting a pharmacist at Myrie’s Drug Store, from which she retired in 1980. She then migrated to the USA in 1989 to join her son, Daniel, who had gone ahead to prepare a way to help his mother while ensuring that as she waited in Jamaica, she lived in a comfortable home. Daniel was the one with whom she lived from then up until 2 years ago when she needed 24-hr care as she became a “fall risk” and he, being a male, could not render that service, had to release her to stay in a Nursing Home. This was the Rehabilitation Home, after a time of illness in the hospital, she was sent to for further treatment. She recovered from dementia and began to exhibit creative skills as she interacted with the other senior patients and residents. She was doing so well that her children wondered whether it would be a dis-service to her to take her out because she seemed so happy interacting with persons her own age-group. Maria recalls a conversation with Mom over a decade before when Mom was asked where she would prefer to live in her more-senior years. She said she would not mind living with other older folks with her family staying close to her, visiting, etc. She got her wish and was in the Nursing Home playing Bingo with the other residents, enjoying painting, singing and reciting the Scriptures in the Christian services held there and having great conversations with the nurses and aides who attended to her needs.
When we went to visit or called on the phone, if the persons we spoke to were new, they would stop us to tell us how gracious, humble, appreciative and sociable our Mom was. They did not even want her in the area where other residents sat and who due to their challenges might become boisterous. We are grateful to the staff of the Maefair Home in Connecticut for the care that was given to her up until her passing at 2:17p.m. on Monday, April 27, 2020. and for all their assistance in facilitating the many calls and regular visits, some visits until nighttime, from her children, grand-children and in-laws while she was there. Within the past year, all of her children were able to spend quality time with her, coming from Florida, Jamaica and within Connecticut, leaving us with thankfulness to God.
Our mother always had a peaceful disposition and even while we were growing up with her, we observed how quickly she forgave even neighbours who ignored her courtesies and acted malicious towards the family. She never stopped pleasantly saying, “Good morning”, etc. She always had a medicine-cabinet at home and whenever anyone got injured in the community, they came running to our house. Our mother was the “community nurse” as she would clean their wounds and bandage it. Joshua, for some reason, thought that Maria would follow her example and one day become a professional nurse. She would get on public transportation and visit the elderly in Jones Town, Gordon Town, etc. and would always have something in her hand to leave with them. She taught us how to be generous to others.
Her Christianity was important to her. She enjoyed reading and would spend hours reading the Bible and other literature. She enjoyed going to Church and would not want to miss a Sunday service if she didn’t have to. She loved to pray. She and Maria would pray together on the phone and on Maria’s visits to the home.
Her youngest son Joshua(Martin) remembers that every Sunday morning as a little boy, Mom would always get him and his little sister ready for Sunday School. She made sure that we had proper meals. My mother, he said, was just a very nice person! He always felt welcome back home no matter where he had been. He loved her very much.
Her eldest son, John, remembers her as a sharing mother who people could talk to and she would give good advice. Always loved, a mother you could always talk about and be proud of. He remembers her as always encouraging us to make progress in life. A nurturer, a counsellor, a community nurse, a friend to the elderly, a protector of children, a prayer warrior, a lover of humanity – that’s our beloved, Monica Stewart. She is now absent from the body but present with her Lord.
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