Fri | Jan 22, 2021

Mother’s Day without mom - Debra defied the odds for her five children

Published:Thursday | May 10, 2018 | 12:00 AMChristopher Thomas
Debra Ashman, who successfully raised her children despite a lifetime of various illnesses.
Kamar Ashman, eldest daughter of the late Debra Ashman, looks at a photo of her mother while reminiscing about her life.
Debra Ashman (right) sharing a meal with daughter Kamar Ashman at the Round Hill Resort in 2015.

Debra Ashman is not around to celebrate Mother's Day 2018, but her children will mark her legacy as they remember the challenges she faced and conquered to ensure that they have a good life.

Despite becoming an orphan at age 13, getting pregnant at age 16, and suffering multiple illnesses throughout her life, Debra bravely stood up like a colossus, creating an indelible mark on the life of her children.




"It dawned on us after she passed, the strength it took for her as a mother, despite all of her challenges," said Kamar Ashman, the oldest of Debra's five children.

"She really fought to stay alive for her family. She saw to it that we would stick together as a family," added Kamar.

Debra was born in Kingston on March 15, 1964, and lived with her parents in the Mark Lane area.

Her trials began when her father died and her mother developed mental illness.

"She lost her father to a stroke, and then her mother went through mental illness and also passed away. Before that, she was living a pretty good life, but after her parents passed, she had to be put in an orphanage," said Kamar.

"She was going to Immaculate Conception High School (in St Andrew) at the time, and she was very bright, but after her parents passed, she couldn't afford the school fee, and she couldn't even afford to eat," continued Kamar. "The principal recognised what was happening, and the school offered her some assistance."

But Debra became pregnant at age 15, and at age 16, she gave birth to her daughter, Kamar.

"My mother was the only child for her mother, but she had older sisters on her father's side. Persons were encouraging her to have an abortion, but my mother refused," said Kamar.

"She decided to carry the pregnancy, and had me at age 16. She was in her final year of school, so when she graduated, she was pregnant with me."

Debra would later raise five children with her husband, although by that point, she had become ill.

"She actually developed diabetes and hypertension as a result of the first two pregnancies. Diabetes at age 16 and hypertension at age 21. She had this illness all through her life.

"She eventually separated from my father in 1998, moved out with us, and got a home in Meadowbrook," added Kamar.

"We were living in the Waltham Park area at one point, and we grew up very poor. But being the determined woman that she was, my mother worked as a full-time secretary, then went to school in the afternoons, and by getting that education, she moved herself up the ladder."

Debra worked at different jobs to support her children, first at Telecommunications of Jamaica, then with the Citibank, and eventually with the United Nations Population Fund.

She kept working even while suffering with cervical cancer and kidney problems, right up until her death at age 52 on May 9, last year.

"Although she had all these challenges, she never stopped working, even up to a month and a half before she passed on, she just kept pushing through," said Kamar.

"And, we the children, all got a good education, because she saw education and family as being important, and she was there for every one of us.

"She eventually had to go on dialysis because of the treatment for the cancer, as the radiation damaged her kidneys, and then after years of being on the dialysis, she developed an infection that eventually killed her," continued Kamar.

"It was a struggle through the last couple of months, but she still went to work, even though she couldn't even walk properly."

Today, Kamar remembers her mother for the strength and her capacity to overcome obstacles. Although she will not be here physically for Mother's Day, she will be in the hearts of her surviving children, who will never stop valuing her inspiration.

"My mother would always say that 'your nose haffi run if you want to achieve something in life'," said Kamar. "She always talked about being strong; and even at her funeral, where I gave the eulogy, all I could think about was what a strong woman she was," declared Kamar.