Grace James was born to Willmoth Augustus and Magdalene Olivia Peddie on the 17th day of May 1955. She died on the 14th day of January 2013 when her soul returned to God from where she came. On the 2nd day of February 2013, her body was committed to the ground from where it came. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them…And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 1:27 & 2:7). God gave her to us as a gift and while she was here on earth she was simply, Aunty Grace, to me.
Aunty Grace testified of God’s love through her life. In sickness and in health, in little and in much her faith remained rooted in God. She was beautiful inside and out. I admired her style, her wit and her passion for life.
My aunt was 17 years older than I. She was, therefore, perfectly positioned to act in the role of a big sister. As the years went by she became a mother figure to whom I could turn to for advice. When the storms of life began to rage she was there as a confidant and prayer warrior, interceding on my behalf. She would give words of comfort encouraging me to hold on to God’s unchanging hand, reminding me that God is always in control. In the most challenging years of my teen life she was the one I would turn to for guidance as my mother was living abroad. We had a great relationship which continued to grow when I relocated to England. We would call and share with each other. At other times we would write letters and send cards to each other. I got excited when she got her first mobile phone as I was able to send an instant message telling her I love her, updating her on events, sending a Scripture reference that finally made sense to me or sharing what my pastor said in a sermon. It was also used for prayer requests, words of encouragement and thank you notes.
Aunty Grace made me feel loved and accepted. In my teen years I would always travel to her work place after school and we would travel home together. During those years she was in the catering business and sometimes I would go through the school day on an empty stomach, due to lack of funds, and aunty would always have a plate of food ready for me when I arrived at her work place after school. How could she tell I was coming or that I would be hungry? She was very caring, giving and affectionate and I learned so much from her just watching her in action. I saw her as a big sister then, rather than my aunt. I thought she was just so cool! I always wanted to be around her. I remember always looking forward to Aunt Grace’s visits, while I was living with grandma and grandpa. She was so full of life. We would hear her singing as she walked towards the house. When she arrived the first thing we would see was her smile and then we would receive big, lingering hugs. She was always smiling and she always had something other than her hugs to give us children—I used to look forward to my ‘sweets’, ‘patties’ and ‘cheese curls’.
I used to enjoy visiting her at her home, where I would always feel welcomed. On my last visit to Jamaica, I took my husband to meet my aunt. This is what he had to say about aunty Grace as we shared our memories of her today:
“I met aunty Grace in 2000 when we went to Jamaica. I have to say she came across as being somebody who was very kind, caring…I didn’t see her looking sad at any time. She always seemed to have a smile on her face. She always seemed happy…laughing, joking. She had a good sense of humour. The words I would use to describe her are kind, compassionate and humorous. She introduced me to her father-in-law and he asked her, “Who is this?” She replied, “He’s my toy boy!” She was obviously making a joke out of it. She had a very good sense of humour. She came across as someone who was very down to earth.”
Aunty Grace was a great cook and I particularly liked the way she presented her meals. She had a special way of decorating her cucumbers by using a fork to make straight lines down the cucumber before slicing it up. Staying with my aunt, on our last visit to Jamaica, my husband was also able to experience authentic Jamaican cooking. One of my favourite meals (which I now regularly cook) I learned from aunt Grace. She cooked it for us the Sunday of our one week stay with her. My husband enjoyed it and it is now a favourite in our home:
Rice and peas (red kidney beans) with brown stewed chicken (sometimes fried or oven baked). It was accompanied with a salad dish comprising of slices of tomatoes, beetroot, lettuce and cucumber. Added to that was a mixture of grated carrots and white cabbage with a hint of lemon and sugar or half of an orange squeezed as dressing over the salad. And to “wash it down” as uncle Donald would say, she would make a delicious jug of carrot and beetroot drink. Mmmm mouth-watering!
Many happy memories of aunt Grace floods my mind, and despite the tears that continues to flow, I have those moments where smile replaces tears and I give God thanks for the way she lived her life in serving others. However, she has had her share of pain and it was through the years of hardship that brought her to a place of surrender and seen her faith soar. The way my aunt coped with the struggles I watched her endure has helped to strengthen my faith in God. Even when it was obviously hurting physically, mentally and emotionally, she was a pleasure to be around. She never lost her joy and that was obvious through her sharing and the beautiful smile that would greet those who had the pleasure of being in her presence. Whenever you were in her presence you would feel God’s peace and the world would seem like such a beautiful place to be.
I now think of that Kirk Franklin song, “I Smile” whenever I think of aunty Grace. I now have the understanding that she was able to endure those struggles only by the grace of God. Learning to forgive those who have hurt her had to be one of the most difficult things she had to do but she did forgive and allowed God to heal her heart, teaching us that there is healing after the pain, if we forgive and allow God to heal our brokenness. Praise the Lord!
Your sister in Christ
Janice S Ramkissoon
2nd February 2013.
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