Thu | Sep 24, 2020

‘He was my everything’ - Clarendon farm worker collapses, dies in US; family awaits COVID-19 test results

Published:Monday | August 3, 2020 | 12:18 AMCecelia Campbell-Livingston/Gleaner Writer
Earl and Marcia Edwards. Mr Edwards, a Jamaican farm worker,died suddenly in Washington state on July 31.
Earl and Marcia Edwards. Mr Edwards, a Jamaican farm worker,died suddenly in Washington state on July 31.

Marcia Edwards of Crooked River, Clarendon, has a sense of regret that she never pressed her husband, Earl, not to take that final trek to the United States to work at Gebbers Farms.

Mrs Edwards got the crushing news on Friday, July 31, that her husband collapsed in the bathroom while he was taking a shower.

The cause of death has not been confirmed, but Mrs Edwards said that her husband had undergone a COVID-19 test, the results of which have not yet returned.

More than a dozen Jamaican farm workers contracted COVID-19 in Canada, but the United States has been the epicentre of the pandemic’s explosion over the past four months.

There have been 4.7 million coronavirus infections in the US and more than 157,000 related deaths. A second wave of the disease has pushed infections in Washington state, where Gebbers Farms is located, to 60,000, with almost 1,700 fatalities.

Mrs Edwards remembers well the last conversation she had with her husband hours before he died.

Mr Edwards called her while she was in May Pen, the Clarendon capital, and told her that he was feeling unusually hot. He also urged her to be gentle with their last daughter, the ‘baby’ of the family.

The Clarendon widow, who has been in a relationship with Mr Edwards since 1996, said that on the night he died, he had called his daughter in Canada and repeatedly told her how much he loved her. After that, he told her he was going to take a shower.

He later died.

The Crooked River widow said that she is still reminiscing on their 18 years of marriage, which bore two children. Mr Edwards has two other children.

“His death has left me devastated and totally sad. In a strange way, I am taking comfort in a Bible verse that can be found in Luke 17:34: ‘Two shall be in the bed, and one shall be taken away,’” Mrs Edwards told The Gleaner on Sunday afternoon.

“My husband was a community person. He was a great father, and he was my everything as a husband,” she added.

Mrs Edwards’ grief is compounded by the fact that many Jamaican farm workers who travelled in the COVID-19 era had signed a Ministry of Labour-issued document indemnifying the Jamaican Government against responsibility if they contracted COVID-19.

Gebbers Farms, a leading producer of apples, pears, and cherries, has been employing Jamaicans for years.

Mrs Edwards is urging the Government to be more involved with workers when they leave Jamaica’s shores.

“He told me that they (employers) discouraged them from going on the road to the shops, as they said it wasn’t safe, but there were no preparations made for them to get food,” Mrs Edwards told The Gleaner.

Mrs Edwards is also warning Jamaican farm workers interested in enrolling in the programme to ensure that they have adequate medical and insurance coverage.