Devon Dick | Memories of the World’s Oldest Person
Memories of the world's oldest person, Violet Moss Brown, are quite pleasant in spite of the negatives that shrouded the last days of her existence. On a visit on March 11, I found her to have immaculate memory in spite of her 117 years. She immediately made the connection between another Baptist minister, the centenarian J.J. Williams of music fame and myself. She recalled with thanksgiving the scripture verses J.J. Williams taught her and the hallelujah chorus she learnt at his feet. She herself served as an organist at the Tritton Ville Baptist Church in Trelawny and was grateful for all the anthems J.J. Williams taught her. When I heard how glowingly and graciously she spoke about J.J. Williams, I immediately facilitated a telephone connection between both centenarians and, providentially, he was reading the story about Moss Brown in The Gleaner.
Violet Moss Brown was not in the best of health when I visited her, and for a while it seems that all I would be able to do was to leave her birthday gift and have a conversation with her 97-year-old son, Harland Fairweather, the then oldest person in the world to have a mother alive. In February, I met Moss Brown's caregiver at the Jamaica Baptist Union Assembly held at the Montego Bay Convention Centre and she made the meeting possible. After paying homage, I took my leave from her bedroom and after some more pleasantries with other family members, I indicated my intention to take my leave. However, I was told that I could not leave because Violet Moss was leaving her bed to come to the veranda to bid me farewell. She went the extra mile in graciousness in spite of age and infirmities. She was a celebrity, but she had class and an appreciative spirit. She was a warm-hearted person and a blessed soul. She is from a godly heritage. Her mother was a foundation member of the Baptist church in the district. The family members should not do anything to besmirch her legacy.
I did recognise that something was amiss on that visit because, originally, I was invited to attend her birthday party at Glistening Waters, Falmouth, Trelawny. I could not let the opportunity pass, especially since her former pastor, Zereal Williams, soon-to-be-missionary to Turks and Caicos, had encouraged me to visit her in my capacity as president of the Jamaica Baptist Union. At the birthday party, Wellesley and Jennifer Bolt, Usain Bolt's parents, and others were there, but not the guest of honour. I and others spoke and refreshed ourselves, but no birthday lady. The grandchildren outlined plans to raise funds from selling things associated with the oldest woman in the world, but no sightings of the lady of the hour. So when Leon Jackson, a friend of Moss Brown's family, told me that she was not coming to the party, I went to her home. Something was amiss.
Violet Moss Brown is, as Prime Minister Andrew Holness said, a 'national treasure'. This is bigger than the family members. This is also about Jamaica's name. It will be tempting for one side to say that her death at a medical facility proves she was not being cared for properly, while the other side can claim that it is because she was taken away from familiar surroundings why she died. She could be heartbroken at the death of her 97-year-old son. In the wisdom of God, nobody knows why she died at the time she did. In spite of our best efforts, she could have died. Therefore, let the family members bury the hatchet.
Instead, let the Government offer her an official funeral befitting her status.
- Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to columns@ gleanerjm.com.