Sun-glazed days are filled with the weight of time in Jamaica. Shortly after arriving from Brazil, a close friend’s father — Uncle Clyde — died. Thus, those who knew and loved him gathered almost nightly, to reminisce, commemorate, break bread and chat.
His house, where I have lived at different times in my life, like a trickle, then a burgeoning torrent, began to fill with roses, orchids, and towering stalks of birds of paradise. Glimpses of countertop could hardly be seen under rows of bottles of white rum, red rum, vodka, gin, Red Stripe, water, sodas. Plates were filled with flavorful meat offerings and fruit-filled pudding, cakes and cookies. Music served as a background to rising voices.
Each day was a celebration. Stories recounted Uncle Clyde playing cricket in open fields, doing well in school, coercing his siblings and friends to do his share of the housework, opening his first and second businesses, managing a band, hugging his children, writing his books on legal pads, etcetera. I remembered his gentleness; the way he called me “Beloved;” how he would ask me as a child, “Have you been good today?” I remembered how much he enjoyed peanuts; how he would often pretend that he was going to pinch me, but never did; how he gave us sweets every single day; how he would call us into his room on Sundays to sit beside or lie on the bed for a prayer meeting. The meetings would end, and we’d run off to play or watch TV, but he remained in prayer.
While we have celebrated the life of Uncle Clyde, butterflies have overtaken Kingston. Pale yellow soars everywhere. On steamy streets, lined with draping bougainvillea, fenced white houses shaded by mango trees, blushing red hibiscuses, and street vendors selling newspapers with scandalous headlines, butterflies dart to and fro. The beauty is poignant. It’s a wonder to see them chasing each other over flowering pomegranate trees, over the heads of hummingbirds, around bird baths where small gray birds preen and splash, and into the green beyond. We, too, will go there someday and rejoice in life’s unfolding.
“You can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.”— Charles Bukowski