It was difficult not to write anything last weekend about my brother Alex’s death, not because I was as sad as I still am, or because I couldn’t, but just because I chose not to – and that’s what was difficult: each time I sat at my desk and watched my keyboard, I changed my mind…
Alex went to hospital Thursday, friends, family and colleagues spoke to him by WhatsApp on Friday and Saturday; and just when we thought he looked and sounded so much like his usual self to be out-of-there on Sunday and back at work Monday, we got a call Saturday night that he’d been rushed to the ICU.
On Sunday, less than an hour into my weekly TV program Earl@Large, came that call nobody ever wants…
Alex’s oldest brother alive, I naturally assumed the task of thinking how we’ll break the news to our mother, but (again) she got the news before we could figure-out how to break it to her.
That essential element out of the way, we started talking about funeral plans while awaiting a Death Certificate.
And then there’s the Death Announcement, with its tedious and complicated, sometimes even frustrating aspects, especially of trying to ensure everybody deserving gets a mention without making the list too long.
I’ve had to tap all reserved elements of my verbal elasticity and grammatic gymnastics to group relatives and friends by family, include fellow (DBS TV) staff and the entire media fraternity — and not exclude his Street Vibes, Friday Funnies and Saturday People fans and followers, at home and abroad.
The biggest task was to abbreviate the list in a way for everybody to feel ‘not left out’, but that being a virtually practical impossibility, I settled for keeping the entire list at 300 words…
Alex’s death on the 10th day of the 10th month of the year happened here in the middle of a Lockdown Sunday that had Double Meaning (Ten-Ten) for China and Taiwan — and also the 67th anniversary of the little-known visit to Trinidad & Tobago by Cuban President Fidel Castro and Argentinian Guerilla Che Guevara in 1959, ten months after the Cuban Revolution.
Fidel and Che actually held-back their departure flight to visit the Mount St Benedict Catholic seminary, located in the visible nearby mountains that reminded them of their years of guerilla battles in Cuba’s Sierra Maestra mountains. (Alex was also a near-perfect fine-artist who painted the only photo I have of Fidel in those days, when his hair and beard were still black.)
But the biggest task of all has been coming to grips with the fact that Alex’s death, from the time it was announced online, became the biggest news item of the day, placing me and the family in the headlines. Instead of me going after news, it was our colleagues hunting us down for ‘the scoop’.
The Old War Horse in me was prepared for the worse while hoping for the best, so when Alex’s death was treated like every other and press coverage on that Lockdown Sunday proved even more locked-out of the truth than in, I was disappointed — but not at all surprised.
By 5pm – less than four hours after Alex’s untimely death – I’d read six different Causes of death reported by media houses, all before a Post Mortem was carried out at Victoria Hospital, where he breathed his last breath.
I watch sadly as members of the family, in the midst of grief that fateful and deadly Sunday, reacted with surprise and outrage at the sorts of speculation and the statements being offered and broadcast on social media as facts, by persons unknown, about things we knew nothing about.
Understandably, the fact that Alex died at the National Respiratory Center (Old Victoria Hospital) gave rise to speculation, even expectations, that he died from COVID-19 – including what someone described as ‘Underlying COVID conditions’ — but we also heard (and read) that he died from everything from ‘Heart Attack’ and ‘Pneumonia’ to ‘Diabetes’ and ‘Insomnia’…
Those inescapable foibles and consequences of professional colleagues rushing more to be first than accurate in these times of Fake News and Conspiracy Theories were however drowned by the overwhelming responses from people everywhere — near, far and wide – who said the most commendable and deserving things anyone could muster by way of elusive words, to describe someone.
Everyone who spoke either initially refused to accept Alex had died, recalled how he helped them personally, commented on the value of his contribution to ‘giving a voice to the voiceless’; and most concluded ‘He can never, ever be replaced!’
And then came the loud calls for permanent tributes, including for the Castries Mayor to name the downtown street corner where he gave voiceless people voices and recorded his shows, after him.
And as well, the wider comments by the likes of former Senate President and Cabinet Minister Calixte George and Monsignor Dr Patrick Anthony for the massive show of Folk Hero-type support and appreciation for Alex be the start of a serious effort to honor ordinary people who made extraordinary contributions, instead of mainly politicians, academics and retired or deceased public figures.
But perhaps my best takeaways to date include the fact that Alex, in one decade, has accumulated more support and appreciation than any of our departed colleagues ever had in living memory.
Alex the Seaman traveled The Americas and became fluent in Spanish while developing his art on the waters and across the oceans, returning home to yacht his way between Marigot and Rodney Bay for quite some time, while performing as a popular Dancehall Reggae Music toaster called ‘Fathead’, singing in three languages and developing his ability to combine humor and comedy in the most laughable ways…
And all-the-time doing good for everyone and leaving each person he talked to with everlasting memories.
Yes, Alex was truly my mum’s most talented son!
Earl, remember, beautiful memories softens the pain of loss
Each time you reflect on his humor, the laughter will echo in your heart ,it will burst out of you, and, for a warm and beautiful moment, it’ll be as if you and Alex were together sharing the joke.
My condolence to you and the family.