Egerton Chang | Alpharian Angela - My first wife
"She is in Intensive Care," my son told me. It took more than a split second for me to realise he was talking about his mother.
I knew she had cancer and that it was pretty bad. But I thought it was under treatment and there was some hope of, at least, prolonging life.
(Later, he told me he hadn't kept me up-to-date as he didn't want it to rest on my mind. I feel he was in self-denial.)
Warren started to book a flight out for that weekend but quickly changed that to leaving the next morning.
There were tears in his eyes, and I hugged him, rather awkwardly, to console him, with some welling in mine, too. He said, "Dad, I'll be ok."
By that weekend I, too, was making plans to attend her funeral and had started to consider what I would say as my tribute.
Perhaps, everyone should consider writing a tribute to a loved one, even now, while they are still living. Or reflect on what others might say about you should you die now.
In recent years, I had become somewhat of a recluse, missing several important family events, never travelling overseas for the last six years.
This time, I just had to go.
Angela Campbell Chang, who graduated from Alpha Academy in 1971, was my first wife.
We actually lived together for under 10 years. We had a girl and a boy.
But our lives continuously intersected and touched at major junctures in our children's lives.
Fought for children
In later years, we would share tidbits on their lives. So that while my life has gone on, we have not lived as strangers.
How can I be so thankful to anyone with whom I shared such a relatively short time?
The answer is through our children and how Angela struggled and fought for them, especially when I was an absentee parent and my financial support fell short.
For that, I will be eternally grateful.
Maybe it is best for my actual tribute, that was read by my daughter-in-law, Jenny, at the Woodlawn Cemetery, Mausoleum & Mortuary, Santa Monica, to tell the story:
Condolences are sent to Nadine and Warren from their brothers and sisters by another mother, two of whom are present here today, Hollanders and Bianca.
She was my first and I was her first.
We met in Jamaica in the summer of 1971 when she was 17 and I was 20.
She went off to nursing school in the United Kingdom and I went to Montreal to do my MBA at McGill.
But I could not take her absence for too long and soon sent for her.
We got married in Montreal on June 1, 1973. She was 19 and I was 22.
I bought a costume ring, and our honeymoon consisted of a Sunday day trip to Ottawa. We couldn't afford to spend the night. Such was the life of a student.
Nadine was born on April 20, 1974, right after my final exams, which was good timing.
Montreal sits on a hill, and snow was still on the ground.
The taxi men were always wary about carrying any lady who looked pregnant up that hill to the Royal Victoria Hospital, which sat near the crown.
So after several attempts to hail a taxi, I had to wave one down, with Angela hiding in the shadows,
Warren was born within two years, on October 6, 1975. (We didn't waste time.)
We lived happily together for a time. The times were the late 1970s.
Jamaica was going through a turbulent and violent political time, which often caused people to send some family members abroad.
We were going through financial and marital challenges and ended up separating when Angela decided to migrate.
The separation was painful. But much more so for Angela.
I remained in the safety of home turf while she was in a foreign land that wasn't too kind to a 'single' mother, especially a black one migrating to Texas, back then.
Angela did everything to keep the family together in very trying times. She often did whatever it took for the sake of our children.
I was far from being the perfect partner, and, as I have already said, my financial support often fell short.
Angela sought the best for our children, the best that she could achieve or obtain ... including the best schools.
We were never enemies. In fact, whenever we met, a bystander could be forgiven to surmise that we had never parted.
We were there for Nadine's sweet 16, both childrens' graduations from high school, Nadine's graduation from Stanford and law school, and we were there for both their weddings.
And now we are all here for Angela's send-off.
She truly loved and adored our grandchildren, Chloe and Liam. And they loved her in return.
Angela pursued her education too. Achieving her doctorate in religious studies, which she used to counsel other souls.
I truly wished that one day Angela would be rich because she deserved it ... but what I now realise is that she was always rich.
Rich in the souls she helped, rich in the children she raised (Nadine and Warren), rich in the partners they married (Maurice and Jenny), rich in our grandchildren (Chloe and Liam), and rich in her faith ... her undying faith in her God.
May her soul rest in peace. Amen.
Warren summed up his mother in his tribute:
"I finally understand that her number one purpose was to be a mother.
She left Jamaica to teach us children that in this life, you should not ever compromise yourself or your dignity for anyone but your children. That you should find some joy and humour in each moment, even in tough times.
Never let life run you. You run life. She taught us that lesson well.
All of my friends called her 'mummy'. I thought it was just because they thought it cute that I called her that.
But it was more than that. They called her mummy because she was a mother figure and a guiding light to all.
Mummy, your goal was to be a mother, and you were an expert. I am so lucky to have had you as my mother.
A brother's thoughts
My brother, Victor, wrote this tribute:
When Angela came up by herself in the very early eighties with toddlers Nadine and Warren, she never came with any great qualification, so I can tell you, it must have been very, very difficult for her.
I can say that despite the enormous challenges she faced, she never wavered.
She battled on with extreme love and devotion, unconditional love and unselfish devotion to her two children.
I always wondered how she could manage, and though her ways were unorthodox and even questionable at times, she succeeded.
When you stand before the Almighty, I believe the first and most important question He will ask is, "How did you take care of My children that I gave you?" Well done, Angela Campbell Chang - good and faithful servant."
Angela's funeral was like that of a movie star in the city of Angels. Her children spared no expense or organisation.
Angela will rest well as her burial plot was under a tree. In the city yet as far from the hustle as one could imagine. So tranquil.
She will be missed.