The following was written for Nana (Cynthia Powell), my grandmother’s funeral on October 15th at St. Mary the Virgin Church in Kingston, Jamaica. She was 85. I presented it with my cousins, Craig Melbourne and Anyssa Coverston.
“Nana”, “Cynthia”, “Daphne”, “Mrs. P.” and “Mrs. Powell”, these are all names that are used for our grandmother but also names that I’ve actually used with her playfully. For the longest while she would tell me “you must call me Nana” when I spoke with her on the phone until she eventually gave in and said “Yes, Mr. Small” one day – joining in my fun.
Our grandmother was quite an influential force in our upbringing, teaching us manners and etiquette: fork in the left hand, knife in the right, don’t chew with your mouth open, “please” and “thank you”, “good morning”, elbows off the table and so on. Let me tell you, those little things created some friction at the time but boy they’ve gotten me far. I’m appreciative of having learned those skills and put them into use daily.
Nana can also take credit for a lot of my diction and grammar as well. Want to know why? She incessantly corrected my speech even in our everyday conversations at home. You’d think at home you’d be relatively free to express yourself as a child, right? Not so much with Nana. “Chat bad” just once and be corrected. It was annoying but let’s just say I get compliments on it now. I even recall one day in high school at Campion someone asked me if I was English – as in, from England English. I found it to be a funny question given that at the time, and even today I hadn’t traveled to, much less lived in England.
I won’t even mention her comments about my penmanship on holiday or birthday cards I’d send her as an adult. “You must take time and connect the D in your name” but you know what? That was my Nana…and besides, I type for a living. Not write. I think I’ll be fine.
Nana had her priorities in place: love and care for family; no question about that. Love for and devotion to the church. Love for her friends. Love for keeping busy in the kitchen – her territory. You don’t dare to use the kitchen when she’s in there doing her thing. You don’t ask what’s for dinner either. You’ll see what it is when it’s ready. And let me tell you one thing as I mention the kitchen and food. I will not forget how whenever Nana would try to convince me to eat something, her reasoning would be because “it nice”.
“Come, have a piece of mango – it nice”
“See some paw-paw (papaya) here – it nice”
“You must eat the fish head man – it nice”
I’m only kidding on that last one though. She’d keep the fish head for herself; she really enjoyed it – even capturing my leftovers to have at it.
I remember as a youngster how whenever I’d tell her to stop serving something out for me – whether goat, rice, vegetables, whatever there was always that “have a likkle more man” as she plated more food. I have no idea how I managed to keep this figure!
Nana also had a love for cleanliness. For Nana there was always sweeping, dusting or raking to be done to keep our house spic ‘n span. You’d think the Prime Minister was scheduled to drop by for some Pimento Liqueur, a new crocheted piece or a mango in the near future.
Lastly but certainly not least she had a love for her precious plants – her other children if you ask me. While anyone would be doing the raking I mentioned earlier, it wouldn’t be unusual to hear “mine you bounce mi plants!”, “watch out for the plants!” Of course, as a child who wasn’t thrilled to be doing chores in the first place, you’re thinking to yourself “who cares about the stupid plants?!” but in reality Nana did. A lot.
Nana also had wisdom to share, reminding me to “be careful of the company yuh keep” as I spent my years in college abroad. Another popular piece of wisdom was “you can’t keep spending spending spending” and “you must save yuh money”. Something you know she lived by – judging by the mini Jamaica Gleaner archive which spanned a few months good that we kept in the house for spills and as temporary rain mats. There was also a seemingly infinite collection of scandal bags.
All in all, I end with this. When I first heard about her transition, I found it difficult to look at the photos in the very programs in front of you. After some days, however, you know what happened (besides the obvious tears) when I finally went through them? I had genuine smiles alongside those tears. We’ve created and captured some good memories of Nana that will remain with us. We’ve all got pinpoints in time of her phenomenal character and influence and she’s left her mark that will continue on. She’s at peace now and I am absolutely, 100% happy for that.
Nana, thank you for all that you’ve done for us. We love you.