© Hazel Campbell 2017
Our community is rural, old-fashioned, close-knit, with a sprinkling of retirees – persons who had migrated to England or USA and returned to build their dream homes and live the rest of their lives in the calm and peace of home.
Aunt Meemi and Uncle Roy were one such couple. When the need for a librarian became acute, Aunt Meemi came out of retirement, but, very few knew that she was a cancer patient. By the time we found out it was almost all over. She was at work up to six o'clock on Wednesday evening and everybody was dismayed when on Thursday morning the library remained closed – Aunt Meemi couldn't get out of bed.
Everything then went into fast forward. She got weaker by the minute and the community went into action. All our health lore was galvanized to try to save her – 'bush' baths/sponges/body wraps and medicines. On Friday morning, a modern 'obeah' woman, with self-acclaimed miraculous dietary curative skills arrived and ensconced herself in the house. Her name was Joan.
She immediately captured the sick room; forcing Aunt Meemi to swallow strange, mushy concoctions – What on earth is wheat grass porridge? we wondered. She issued orders as if she was a matron in a sick ward and we were intruders. Nobody knew what connection she had to the family and I guess we were too distracted by Aunt Meemi's deterioration even to ask.
Our beloved Aunt Meemi died on Sunday morning, smiling as if she was glad to escape all the attention.
Her homegoing church service overflowed with people, and tears, and eulogies. The only jarring note was the presence of the Intruder, Joan, who managed to get involved in the service by singing a solo with some seriously off-key high notes. I imagined Aunt Meemi chuckling – she was once the choir leader.
Afterwards, Uncle Roy had Aunt Meemi's body cremated because he wanted to bury her ashes both here and in London, their former home.
So, a second homegoing service was held at their hillside home to plant half of her ashes under a young lignum vitae tree. Only close family and friends were invited, but Joan was still there – nobody knew why – trying to take over. We managed to shut her out of the cooking and other arrangements, and when she tried to lead the singing, Cousin Blossom's voice was louder.
When the men digging the hole were ready for the planting, Parson Jack called for the ashes and we looked up to see Joan, descending, open urn in hand dipping her fingers into the ashes, desecrating Aunt Meemi's remains.
You could feel the horror and resentment moving like a Mexican wave through the gathering. But, before anybody could remonstrate, Joan tripped on a stone on the steep hillside and the urn went flying straight into the hole – ashes intact.
"Leave!" Uncle Roy roared at Joan.
She picked herself up and we turned our backs on her, continuing the ceremony as if nothing had happened, but something had, we all knew – Aunt Meemi had had enough.