Celebrating Melvina Chin Harris

Leave a comment

Sunday, March 31, 1935 – Friday, May 6, 2022

The year 1935 dawned with expectancy. It ushered the signing of the Franco-Italian Agreement on the world stage, and a couple months later on March 31, right here at home in Canque Village, Biche, Trinidad, a pair of little rays of sunshine lit up the lives of Joseph Anastacio and Louisa Anastacio (nee Ragoo). The baby girl was given the name of Melvina. As is typical in Trinidad, a nickname was lovingly assigned and Melvina promptly became known as Chin.

Sadly, her baby brother did not survive beyond a day, and the twins, naturally, never knew each other until May 6th when they were both introduced in Heaven.

Mum’s father, Joseph Anastacio, was of the First People of Trinidad. Mum was number seven of the 11 children, a family of eight girls and three boys. Their names were Lena, Eugenia, Rosa, Allen Joseph, Octave Whiteman, John, Melvina, Veronica, Eleanora, Mary, and Ruffina. (I won’t go into their nicknames but they had many.)

My aunties and uncles are all special, but I like to think that Mum was extra special because of her place as 7th in the line of siblings. God’s number of wholeness is 7. He created the world then rested on the seventh day. And Mummy was also born on a Sunday. And while her twin brother went to be with Jesus, Mummy was permitted to live a full life. God had a plan for her on earth.

Mum’s life was literally this village. She took her schooling at Biche Roman Catholic School, and in her mid-teen years, met her sweetheart, Conrad Harris. As you may know, Daddy went to be with the Lord in 2014 (and now both are joyously reunited). They spent 64 or 65 years together right here in Biche, during which time they raised a family of 11 children. It seems that 11 was the unique number where Mum was involved!

We, her children, are myself Thomas (nicknamed Patrick) Kenrick (nicknamed Ricket), Avian (called Avi), Maureen, Verna, Daphne, Karen, William (called Willie), Peter, Angela (called Angie), and Frederick (called Freddy).

Many of you here have known Mum–Chin–during your lifetime. She was caring and compassionate to her community. She loved you all, and in turn, your presence here shows your own love and respect for her.

Mum loved the Lord. She was adamant that we all go to church, so each Sunday we would get dressed and walk to church to worship God. In fact, it is in this very church, Biche Roman Catholic Church, that the roots of our faith were planted. It was here that we were introduced to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Mum was family-oriented and cared for us well. She loved to make food, baking up a storm as the saying goes. She was an excellent cook and served us many delicious meals. Susan remembers that once when visiting, Mum made curried potatoes and roti. Mum apologized that the food might not be tasty as she had not cooked in a long time because as my sisters grew older, they had taken over the cooking. Susan has repeated over the years that it is the best curried potato she has ever eaten!

Mum herself enjoyed almost every food, except for dumpling. And don’t give her anything red! Because that’s where the ordinarily gentle Chin would see red! She would never drink anything that was red – no sweet drink or sorrel. And she detested ookoo (or roucou) the red liquid of a native plant used by the First People/Amerindians.

Mum had a great connection with nature. Her favourite fun spot was by the river. A big one flowed behind our house through the estate, and she spent endless hours there. This water baby also found great joy in flowers. She planted every variety she could find, and they coloured her world, and ours, with beauty.

Mum shared our love of sports. Cricket is our passion, and this seems to be genetic on both of our parents’ sides. Mum could follow bat for bat, and we spent countless hours in sporting activities in the savanna in the village. Mum created other lifelong memories such as taking us out on Sunday afternoons or to Carnival festivities in Sangre Grande, and too many others to mention.

She had giftings in music and song. Blessed with a nightingale’s voice, she was a popular choice at functions and get-togethers. She would often be asked to sing on-the spot much to the delight of the listeners. Mum was an expert on the drums, and many wedding celebrations featured her drumbeating. (Coincidentally, Herb Alpert the American jazz trumpeter and bandleader was born on the same day as Mum, on March 31, 1935. It’s interesting that they both had musical giftings!)

Mum left this earth on May 6, 2022. This date is significant as it is designated Child Care Provider Day. And the question is – With Mummy no longer here, who will be caregiver and lend comfort?

You who are alive must now be caregiver and provider.

Mum took her children to church to learn about God. Who will carry on the legacy of taking the young ones to church?

What impact will you leave on the village, and in the neighbourhood where you currently live?

Who will use their gifts of song and music to draw individuals to the Lord?

Will you find an oasis of rest in the beauty of God’s creation to refresh your weary soul?

Friends, well-wishers, family, Chin lived a fruitful life. As the Scripture says in Hebrews 13:14 “For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.” Mum has gone to her permanent home where she is with her Maker and loved ones who lived for Him.

The void will not be easily filled. Mum will be mourned by her surviving sisters: Eleanora Anastacio, Mary Tom, and Ruffina Orosco. And her sisters-in-law Mary Anastacio, and Marion Harris, our father’s sister.

Mum will be grieved for by her 11 children and their spouses and partners, 17 grandchildren, and 9 great grandchildren. In birth order are their respective families:
Her oldest child and son Patrick (Thomas, who supported Mum and travelled often to visit her), daughter-in-law Susan, and granddaughter Radiance.
Her son Kenrick.
Her oldest daughter Avian, son-in-law Amzo (Amzad), and grandchildren Nigel, Donny, Shara, and Sarah (all who travelled much to visit Mum).
Her daughter Maureen (who helped with care) and her grandsons and their families: Amir and Ajay; Ashmir and Tylon; Rawle, Charmaine, and Renissa.
Daughter Verna and her grandchildren and their families: Sherma, Isaiah, Sherlana and Angel. And Kevin & Sarah, Kiara and Kayon. They helped cared for Mum and the little ones will be bewildered that she is no longer here.
Her daughter Daphne (who visited Mum frequently) and son-in-law Ashford, and grandchildren Nadia and Ronnie. Mum would have already met her grandson Ronnell in Heaven.
Daughter Karen who cared for Mum.
Son William and Charmaine.
Son Peter (Anthony) who cared for Mum.
Daughter Angela who cared for Mum.
And son Freddy (Frederick) and daughter-in-law Marie, and grandsons Justin, Josiah, and Jovon.

There are too many to name who will undoubtedly feel the loss of Mum – Aldwyn, Patsy, and Chantelle; as well as her many nieces and nephews, and everyone who called her Aunty.

May this service be a reminder of your own mortality. May you pledge to live your life so as to meet Mummy, Granny, Chin, when it’s your time to depart earth. May you live so that your life will glorify the Lord and lead individuals into Eternity.

(From Susan to Peter) That you are named Peter is not by chance. Names carry meaning and often that meaning is lived out in the life of the bearer. Jesus sealed the name Peter which means Rock. “Peter” declares that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Peter Harris, you are a solid bearer of the image of Christ. As you lead the family in Trinidad daily, being present in the same home, may you draw on Christ to be your lead. Then you will never go wrong.

(From Susan to Avian) “Big sister”, your name means bird-like in French. May you soar high on wings that will never tire. May you tap into the eyes of faith that offer a 360-degree view as you rise. The family will look to you to fill in for Mummy and you will do it well. For you carry her sweetness, a gentle and compassionate spirit. You are a peacemaker, a totally selfless and kind soul, a daughter of the Most High. I’ve loved you since the first time I met you. Thank you for providing Mummy’s life details to write this tribute.

(From Susan to Thomas) That you are named Thomas is not by chance. Like the disciple Thomas who was called the Twin, you are also one of a twin (and Mummy now has met her other little boy in Heaven). Thomas was the first to acknowledge Jesus Christ’s divinity after the resurrection through his proclamation “My Lord and My God”. Similar to Thomas the apostle who spread the news of Jesus throughout the nations, you do too. As you exercise leadership of the family from Canada, may your influence and wisdom, prayer and faith, motivate the family to adopt this lifestyle and keep afloat. Thanks, too, for providing information for this legacy.

Thomas, Peter, Avian, and the others – be reminded that you carry the genetics of the first Governor General of Trinidad through your father’s heritage. You are descendants of British baron George Francis Robert Harris, 3rd Baron Harris (14 August, 1810 – 23 November, 1872). Lord Harris was also a Liberal politician and colonial administrator. He served as the Governor of Trinidad from 1846 to 1854, and Madras (India) from 1854 to 1859. During his tenure in Trinidad, Lord Harris revamped the education system and laid the foundation for the present-day system. Harris also mooted the idea of importing indentured labourers from India to replace the plantation slaves who had been freed following the abolition of slavery. Lord Harris is considered to be one of Trinidad’s best ever administrators and his name hails on many prominent locations throughout Trinidad.

Leadership runs in your veins. With the physical and spiritual DNA you possess, you have exceeding abundantly above what you can ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). All will be well.

May the comfort of the Holy Spirit rest, remain and abide with us all. May He strengthen us in the days ahead as we adjust to a different normal without Mummy. Though she is gone yet she lives in the reminders around us. She left us memories to treasure.

Our family wishes to thank the Biche Outreach Health Centre for the care they provided to Mummy, Lightway Pentecostal Church, and the Biche Roman Catholic Church for today’s going-away service. We are appreciative of the support from the community, well-wishers, friends, and relatives both in Trinidad and abroad, in person and on social media, by phone and by email. Your prayers and kindness have meant a lot to us in this difficult time.

Nonetheless, the Word of God tells us to give thanks in everything. Let’s give thanks for the life of the woman we are proud to have called mother, sister, friend, aunty, Melvina, and Chin. We thank Father God for the 87 years, 1 month and 5 days that she graced our world. We celebrate the impact she made. She will always be alive in our minds until that glorious day of reunion.

Farewell Mummy. We will meet you in the Resurrection. Enjoy Heaven’s peace.

Thank you.

 

(Written by Susan Harris)

Press Release for TOUCHED BY ETERNITY by Robert White

Leave a comment

 Sometimes a person you have never met impacts you greater than those in your daily life. Such was journalist Robert White whose company Canadian Christian News Services did the press release for my memoir TOUCHED BY ETERNITY. I have the email where Robert wrote that the release had garnered a higher-than-average response by those opening it. We had many conversations about Eternity and today Robert went to behold it in person.

I can only be wistful for Heaven, and happy to have had Robert read my book and launch it to the world.

Love and prayers to all who shared his wonderful life.

Below is the press release that Robert wrote on May 2, 2019.

COMPELLING, TRUE STORY OF HEAVEN, HELL AND ANGELS

MELVILLE, SASK. – (CANADIAN CHRISTIAN NEWS SERVICE) – In her newly-released memoir, Touched By Eternity: A True Story of Heaven, Healing, and Angels, and 20 years after her first trip to heaven, author Susan Harris unleashes the closely guarded secrets of her three near-death experiences, miraculous healings and encounters with angels.

In 1998, 2015, and 2017 Harris’ ill-health and pain rendered her unconscious and she crossed to the other side. She has entered heaven, seen hell and been shown signage in the eternal world. Harris has been escorted by angels in the heavenly realm and had two encounters with angels on earth, one of which was shared by her husband in Las Vegas while on their honeymoon.

A high school teacher of 12 years, speaker for three decades, and television host of Eternity, Harris’ training in biblical theology has prepared her to interpret and articulate her experiences with confidence. Christian psychiatrist Dr. Andel Roberts of Trinidad & Tobago describes Touched By Eternity as “An eye-opening and thought-provoking account of the reality of life after death.”

Harris, the author of 10 and co-author of four books including the Little Copper Pennies series which memorialized the iconic Canadian one-cent coin, has had the rare privilege of experiencing the dynamics as the human body exhales earth and inhales eternity, and came back to talk about it.

Her husband was witness to the changes in her body while she lay dying in 2017 and she has her own vivid clarity of her soul transitioning. Their accounts form an indisputable “two-sided coin of the physical and spiritual aspects of dying.” Harris’ insights and ideas on what occurs before arriving at the pearly gates may challenge certain long-held assumptions about life and death, and life beyond death.

Kathleen Gibson, author, faith columnist and broadcaster of Simple Words in Saskatchewan, sums up Touched By Eternity: “This book clearly serves as witness to a truth: the other side of eternity lays barely a whisper from us. By her testimony, though at the cost of repeated bouts of ill-health, God has shown Susan Harris treasures in hidden places. Her impeccably detailed recounting of her visions and their interpretations both fascinates and invites.”

Peter Black, pastor, freelance writer, and author from Ontario says, “Readers who delight in checking out symbolical matters should find her closing chapters fascinating, for there she presents intriguing numerological parallels that she views as reflective of the heavenly.”

Black concludes, “The spiritually hungry and those who experience severe suffering may gain understanding and receive comfort through a thoughtful reading of Touched By Eternity.”

Touched By Eternity is a relevant read for anyone longing to know more of a loving God and the life that awaits us.

ISBN 978-0-9949869-4-8 (pbk) ISBN 978-0-9949869-6-2 (ebook)

– 30 –

For interviews or further information, contact:

Susan Harris

Email: susan@susanharris.ca Web: www.susanharris.ca

 

Gladys, Dennis, and Val

Leave a comment

Gladys Mc.Dade

The night Val greeted me as “Barbie’ when I walked into the Christmas dinner held by the River Church, I knew ours would be a great friendship. Ten years later it flourishes strong, and this week it went to a new level.

I haven’t activated messenger on my phone, so messages, naturally, are ignored while I surf. Three days ago I was happily replying to posts, even one to Val herself, oblivious to her whisper sitting in Messages. Later I picked it up. Val had written: “Just with Mom right now.” and described that Gladys was on her passage to the afterlife after 91 years on earth.

Gladys Mc.Dade April 5, 1930 – February 12, 2021

I’ve never met Gladys in person but I followed enough posts, and “liked” and commented on photos of her to count them as if I have known her. Yet, to speak of Gladys is to speak of her wonderful daughter Val and her equally wonderful husband Dennis.

Vivacious, extroverted, joyful Val. I pray that these words will help you navigate the uncertain terrain of grief in the days that follow.

 Gladys was born on April 5, 1930. The pictures Val posted of her showed the beauty that she was (such as the ones in this blog). Gladys and her husband Bill had two delightful children, George and Val, and both speak of being blessed to have such incredible, loving parents.

Their hearts were so large that they opened it to fostering over 100 individuals during the 35 years they shared together. As God was their refuge, they extended refuge. Such love reflected the heart of God in both Bill and Gladys, and it filters down to Val as we know her today. (She still collects parcels for me as courier does not work in the rural countryside.)

For decades Val and Dennis drove to the care home to visit Mom. Their world was wrapped in hers. Val fed her meals at lunch and supper at the Home, while she ate her own around these hours. The times we met for coffee at A&W were sandwiched between the hours she had to feed Mom. Few mothers have experienced such devotion as Val showed her mom.

Val, she was your world; you, her only girl.

The pictures on social media showed Mom’s hair and makeup immaculate. Her nails were pristine, acts that your smooth hands painted on fingers twisted by arthritis. Dennis, you danced Mom on her wheelchair at the recreational activities.

Covid-19 made it difficult to share the last few months but you managed with Facetime for a while. You stood outside the window and talked to Mom, touching her face through the glass pane. Mom did not understand why she couldn’t see you up close in person. Words like pandemic and social distancing were not in her vocabulary. But I’m certain she understood your arms stretched towards her.

As with all the memory pieces I write, I pen this from my heart. Last week I experienced a miraculous week of unexpected, huge blessings. They were tangible and physical, and I was pensive when the week drew to a close. I discussed it with my husband and he wondered aloud why only a week. Why not a month or a year to live like this. I asked the Lord to help me to live like this ongoing. And He spoke to me that it is possible – the secret lies in daily consecration. And so began a second week of tangible unexpected blessings.

 While I need physical elements to live in this physical world, my spirit yearns most for the things of God. The most spiritual, revelatory experiences I have had have been my visits to Eternity. Those near-death experiences where I have been taken up to Heaven and came back healed. In Chapter 7 of my memoir Touched By Eternity I write, “I want to be near the dying, the fearful, and the ones with questions…”

When I read Val’s message on February 10 a surge went though my body. My spirit leapt. This was the purpose of God awakening for the greater reason why I was sent back to earth three times.

 When I released my book in 2019, Val was among the first to purchase a copy. At the reading at Melville Public Library, Val and Dennis arrived before I did. Since 2019 to now we have had many holy conversations that we’ve kept to ourselves. I know their experiences and faith align in totality with mine. So that God would impress on them to invite me into the ministry to their dying mom was not by chance. It was waiting for such a time as now.

On Wednesday night Dennis, Val, myself, and Gladys held a prayer vigil by phone. Val held the phone to Mom’s ear and I prayed and talked to her as the Lord impressed, even to calling her “Mom” as Val and Dennis do. God often speak to me through pictures flashing in my mind, and I shared those with Val as they unfolded. Mom had lain with her hands on the bed all day, but during the prayer she lifted one and held on to Val’s. This was the literal joy of the Lord producing strength. Heaven was here. The powerful movings of God that night are not mine to share. I am merely to point others to the Lord as Comforter, Healer, the Giver of Eternal Life. It was the most powerful hour of an already successful day

On Thursday we moved to text messaging, which allowed me to respond more promptly and privately to the photos and messages. I knew a “regiment” of friends and relatives were also praying for Mom, and God was hearing us collectively. That night we held another vigil by phone. Using a theme God impressed upon Val, I prayed for and talked to Mom of Heaven. The contents of that session are not to be shared here, but suffice to say that the reports that came by phone and text were beyond what we could ask or think.

Later I pondered how in a season of pandemic and death where physical visits are denied, that the Lord would unfold this ministry of hope to those who are on their deathbed. To bring reassurance in many forms to them of where they are going. To speak to their spirit in a language that they understand. And this pondering was the best aspect of a day that had already gone super well. Surely, He makes a way where there seems to be no way.

 It was not without humour. I was alert to the fact that a text could come anytime of the night with news, so shortly after midnight when my phone beeped I grabbed it. The news – my internet provider was informing of data usage.

Friday unfolded with more real time updates and photos. But mostly I continued to pray for you, Val. I knew you had been strong, a constant presence with Mom, yet when the final exhalation ushered her out there’d be the grief that is a result of being human.  The praying had been done. The peace had been established. The permissions to leave this world and go unfettered to her Lord and King had been released. The reunion with her dearly beloved husband was anticipated.

So at 10:40 p.m. Mom breathed her last, and Heaven gained its newest citizen. After 34 years Bill and Gladys hug each other, never to be separated again. Pain-free, young, and in their prime.

Gladys’ funeral will be held on February 20, 2021. Due to the protocols of the pandemic, only a few people can be accommodated. Val and Dennis will determine those few.

Val, Dennis, George and family, grandchildren and relatives, friends near and far:

May the Lord bless you and keep you;
May He make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)

With love and prayers,

Susan

In Memory of Mrs. Dhanraj

Leave a comment

 The population of Standard Road has dropped by two in one week. Today Mrs. Dhanraj passed away at age 90. (Last week it was Balliram.) I don’t know her first name as we often referred to her as her children’s mother e.g. “Sandra mother” or “Asha mother”. (We were not grammatically correct to use the possessive apostrophe s in the names.) The adults called her “Dhanraj wife”. (They cared less about grammar.) But no matter how she was called, we all knew it was the kind, jolly, hardworking woman who was as strong as the cattle she raised. Tanty planted rice and grew vegetables and was simply a woman to be admired. There was not “one lazy bone in her body” as the saying goes.

Tanty’s middle daughters (Maune, Sandra, Baby, Molly, and Asha) were of similar ages as the older girls in our family (my sisters don’t like to be named) and together with Cinty and Seeta, we spent many delightful hours liming and laughing. (Liming means hanging out.) It was a good life.

Tanty raised all of her children to be respectful. She had five sons  and not once were they ever disrespectful to the girls in our family. They never said a crude joke in our presence. I remember the siblings being happy. They got along with each other and celebrated often, a tightly knit family to this day. They were fun indeed. Tanty would often interject her sentences with a mild swear that brought on giggles because her way of speaking made the most mundane topic interesting.

Tanty’s yard was a big one. Around her house were flat green vegetation, which made her property appear more expansive, and relaxed. Tanty’s religion was Hinduism, yet when the pastor of our church wanted a spot to hold open-air meetings in the village, Tanty graciously gave permission to use her place. Many nights of praising God, film, and sharing the salvation obtained through Jesus Christ were spent on her premises. I believe that Tanty gave her life to Christ at those meetings.

Those who know them would agree when I say that I think the Dhanraj gene carries an extra chromosome of beauty. Tanty’s children were attractive and handsome.  I believe she had 14 children so there were many celebrations to which we were invited. Notable were the weddings. Friday’s saffron, Saturday’s farewell, Sunday’s wedding, and Wednesday’s return of the bride, which, invited or not, we were bent on seeing our buddies when they returned mid-week as was the tradition under Hindu rites. We grew to also love Tanty’s daughters-in-law as our friends.

Soon there were the grandchildren that widened the circle of beauty and joy. After years of not seeing them, I was able to make friends with Kimberly, Kelly Ann, Navita and Indira on Facebook, as well as with Usha, Tanty’s daughter who is younger than me. They were kids when I left but I grew to knew them now as women with families of their own.

Tanty lived a good life but she had sorrow too. The most grievous thing a parent can do is to bury their child. She buried three of her daughters. I hadn’t known of the two older girls’ passings, but I knew of Asha’s back in 2017. Asha and I were classmates as well, and I wrote a tribute to here which can be found by clicking on the link: https://www.susanharris.ca/remembering-asha/

On my trip to Trinidad in 2018, I longed to visit the Dhanraj girls  in the village. I couldn’t as I had no transport to get there. But I have words for my young friends and their beautiful families on the loss of their nanny. She lived long, just as the Bible says with long life God satisfies those who love Him. Nanny had the privilege to see not only her grandchildren but great grands as well. Living next door to Nanny makes the void even greater, the visual is always there. But nature shows us that voids do to remain void for long. Take, for example, a hole dug in the ground. It fills with rain water, or dirt caves in and fill it. Leaves falls from the trees into it, and the void begins to be a source for life. I pray tonight that the void left by the passing of Mamee as her daughters call her, and Nanny and Ajee as the grandkids call her, will be filled with the warm presence of the Living God.

I saw on Facebook that Kimmy had written that 46 years ago on this day Mr. Dhanraj passed away. That’s quite the thing that husband and wife would pass away on the same day decades apart. Truly the ribbon of spiritual connection weaves in signature-like fashion, and knowing what I know of death through my visits to Eternity, I believe there is significance to this. God sure knows what He is doing.

I pray that Dolly, Sandra, Shiann, Molly, Shamella, Usha, Shawn, Sookdeo, Persad, Deodath and Russell will take comfort in knowing that they were privileged to have their mother for nine decades, and that one day through faith in Jesus Christ, they may be able to reunite with each other. Your tears and grief are sacred testaments.

To Kimberly, Kelly Ann, Navita, Lisa, Mukesh, Barry, Indira, Sabita, Anjanee, Tracy Ann, Stacy Ann and Shelly Ann and many more grands who I don’t know, may you know that God is only a whisper away. He has placed people to comfort you and He will be your sustenance when there is no one around. You are never alone.

May God hold the neighbours, relatives and friends dear as you close the earthly chapter of  Mrs. Dhanraj. 1930-2021

I think of you, my lovely friends. Though far away you will be on my heart for a long time.

For God so love the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16.

 

 

 

 

 

Balliram Sookdeo Goes to Heaven

Leave a comment

 The harsh wooooz on my iPhone roused me to action. Likely it was the notification of fees and other expenses I had been paying over the last few days. Quickly I voiced my morning praise “From the rising of the sun I will praise You” then committed my day into the hands of Almighty God. Through the window the pink glow of twilight tinged the light grey morning sky.

I opened the text message. University fees would have been far more welcome. Instead, the terse words were from my brother “Balliram pass away. He was sick.”

Forget the grammar.

Remember Balliram.

September 28, 1947 – January 7, 2021.

The sincere, kind, jovial husband of my cousin Roselyn. He called her Rose. We called him Bandan. Their son Teddy had pronounced Balliram as  Bandan when he was a child and the nickname stuck. My mother and Roselyn’s father were siblings, and my early memory is that she visited our house every evening to wait for Balliram to return from work, then together they would walk to their home down in Small Trace. It was a beautiful marriage, and although this is a tribute to Balliram Sookdeo, it would be incomplete without details of Rose.

Bandan was of medium height, brown-skinned with black hair, and a heart of gold. Rose was a beauty, light complexioned and vivacious. Bandan doted on his Rose. As most husbands do in Trinidad, he brought Rose a treat each time he went out. Caramel was a favourite that I remember. Rose loved my younger sister Karen as her own and saved the daily treats to share with her.

A few years after their first child was born, Balliram and Rose built their new house close to ours. The proximity made both families fixtures in each other’s  homes. As a preteen I was sent over to help Roselyn on occasion.  Rose had inherited the Khadaroo gene for cooking, and her meals were lavish and exquisite. After the birth of their second child, I was at their house helping to prepare dinner. You have to know that I never even helped to cook at our own home, but with Roselyn’s instructions, I would provide a gourmet meal such as Bandan had never tasted before.

The menu that day was dhal, rice, and something I don’t remember. From the hammock Rose instructed me to half-fill the pot with water. I filled. Then I washed the dhal (split peas) until the water ran clear and placed it in the pot.

“Slice an onion and grind some garlic,” she said next. I sliced, and smashed the garlic pegs and those went in the pot.

“Anything else?” I asked.

“Put some saffron in the dhal” Rose replied. I took the glass jar with the saffron (turmeric) and  a spoon to her and she measured the amount. She also measured the salt. Gourmet was in action. I burnt the garlic and geera (caraway seeds) in hot oil, and the dhal made the satisfying shhwwiissh as the oil was poured in.

Boiling the rice was easy-peasy: water, rice and salt. A tad soft didn’t matter, right? Cheers to me.

I served Roselyn a plate, inclusive of the other dish which I have no memory of either its prep or finish. She ate dutifully, and so did I. When Bandan arrived from work he heaped his plate and dug in. He paused on the first mouthful.

“Who cooked this?”

“Susie.” Rose replied.

Bandan ate the entire awful meal. (It was indeed a meal like none other.) This was typical of his appreciation to others.

Balliram’s presence in the neighbourhood was one of protector. The cool waters of the river were a constant invitation for leisure, and us girls spent many hours there. Once a rumour went around that a male was seen lurking near the river. Balliram made it known loud and clear that any male found near the river when the girls were there would have to deal with him personally. (This is a gentle paraphrase of what he actually said.)  His blunt message was heeded.

There are so many, many stories of the hardworking, respectable man who now is with his Lord and Saviour. Rose had lived for Jesus since a teen due to the influence of my mother. Later, their son Teddy became an active church member with us. Bandan and the rest of the family gave their lives to Christ later and practiced their faith openly in church.

Their children are Teddy, Steve and Sunil, each with beautiful families of their own. I pray that the blessings of being God-fearing will cocoon them from each direction, and they will be comforted.

Pandemic rules forbid travelling for the funeral but technology can bridge as a secondary measure. I pray that you find healing in the memories of fun and family. May you grieve without limit or time, for deep grief is the corollary of deep love. May you know that the Holy Spirit is always with you in solace.

When I spoke to Roselyn this morning her voice sounded strong in contrast to my quavering one. She said she has not processed the loss, and I pray that as the reality settles in that she will draw supernatural strength from the Lord. I asked her permission to share the details of Balliram’s death because diabetes is widespread in Trinidad.

The pre-disposition from our ancestors from India is accelerated by the tasty foods high in calories, fats and sugar. Our fore parent generations did not know about predispositions and the relationship to food. They were hard-working people who were physically active, yet the visceral fat accumulated in the belly. But today through education we know that there is strong evidence towards our genetic predisposition and insulin resistance. Too many of my friends are dying of diabetes.

And so on December 30, 2020  one of Bandan’s legs was amputated below the knee. The pain, the infection spreading to other parts of his body, the dropping oxygen levels, the minor stroke, his calls for his son and wife, his calls for Jesus…too heart-rending. My prayer was “Lord, you know best. Let your will be done for Balliram.”

Yesterday Roselyn visited him at the hospital and he asked her to bring him home. That was beyond her ability. But it was well within God’s, and this morning Balliram went HOME!

When I spoke to her I briefly mentioned my own illnesses, my three times death experiences, my visits and glimpses of Heaven, and my miraculous healings upon return. Rose’s voice was already strong, but there crept a different note of assuredness when I mentioned “healing” and she said “Really?”.  And I knew in that moment that the Lord was healing her in this sad, sore loss of a husband. That Him being a husband to the widow was setting in motion. Roselyn will be comforted, she will have a friend in Jesus, a companion in her golden years until she is reunited with Balliram in Heaven.

I do not follow a script when I write a tribute/eulogy, nor are two ever the same. I write as prompted from my heart, and so I speak to any who read this piece. YOU CAN BEAT DIABETES BY MODIFYING YOUR LIFESTYLE.

Replace the white flour with whole wheat flour. Replace white rice with brown rice. I know how addicting our Indian foods are – those silky parathas and scrumptious dhal-purees saturated with oil and butter. The deep fried doubles and saheenas and pies and poolories. Those delectable sweets  – kurma, barfi and too many to relate. Those everyday sugars like tamarind ball and candy and sweet drink (soda or pop).

My people, eat less, eat on occasion, eat differently. To continue consuming in portions as I knew were eaten when I lived there, is to give over yourself to diabetes, and eventually to amputations. Eat green foods, fruits and vegetables as used to be planted in backyard gardens.  Skip the fast foods when you can. And exercise daily. Walk in the warm air. You are responsible for the choice. It’s the choice of health over convenience. It’s a choice you can make.

Over 6,000 km spans where I am to where Bandan’s body lies cold and still at Boodoo’s Funeral Home in Penal. On Saturday there will be a service at the family home in Standard Road (which I hope to join in via technology). Then his body will be cremated at the Creek.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ sustain Roselyn, Teddy, Steve, Sunil and their families, the relatives, the neighbours who are also family in the Trinidadian way, the friends and co-workers. I remember Balliram’s sister Golina, the younger one whose name I forgot, Basha, and the other brother whose name I also forgot. I pray that you will live for Eternity so that you may all be a family again in the presence of each other.

A prayer to invite Jesus into your life:

“Dear Jesus, I have sinned and I need your forgiveness. I invite you to be my Saviour and Lord. Help me to be the kind of person You want me to be. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sin and for giving me eternal life. Amen.”

With love and prayers for a man I knew since childhood, a man who I will see in Heaven. A good man, Balliram Sookdeo.

Susan Harris

NASA’s Tour of the Moon

Leave a comment

Happy New Year. As I write the Moon is 88% in waning gibbous state.

(Waning means that the moon is getting smaller, and gibbous refers to the shape which is less than the complete circle of the Full Moon.)

I’m beginning to photograph the Moon more seriously and was doing some research on it when I came across the coolest video by NASA giving a tour of the Moon. The Orientale, South Pole-Aitken, and Tycho and Aristarchus, to name. a few are are eye-popping, but the landing site of the Apollo 17 is just wow. The Taurus-Litthrow Valley is deeper than the Grand Canyon. Dizzying!

https://moon.nasa.gov/resources/168/tour-of-the-moon-4k/

CLICK HERE TO TAKE THE TOUR.

 

Jupiter and Saturn in the Great Conjunction

Leave a comment

 The solar system’s two giant planets, Jupiter and Saturn, travel together across the sky nightly. Jupiter leads the way and Saturn trots contentedly behind. On December 21, 2020 Saturn caught up to and passed Jupiter in the astronomical event known as a “Great Conjunction.”

I was totally stoked to memorialize the Great Conjunction. (It’s the pinpoint of light to the left of my head.)

To the naked eye they looked like one star, but through the telescopes and binoculars they were distinct and apart. We did not actually see Jupiter and Saturn pass each other but even so, they are millions of miles apart according to NASA. “They’re not close in space – they’re still hundreds of millions of kilometers apart from each other said, NASA Astronomer Henry Throop. “But … they appear as two points very close in the sky … in fact they’re so close that if you extend your pinky at arms length you’ll be able to cover both planets with just your pinky finger.”

One of the best shots of Saturn and Jupiter in vertical alignment was taken by one Michael Sandford. The moons of Jupiter are visible in this wonderful photo.

Twas a wonderful night. Many thanks to my husband who snapped picture after picture in the chilling cold until we got the planets and me in one frame. This was particularly exciting as I had not captured Comet Neowise during summer. Grateful to God to see the “Christmas Star” as it was dubbed.

Many may have found the “star” over-hyped. Artificially created pictures floating on the Internet showed larger-than-life brilliance of the planets when aligned. None of it came true. Mars in the zenith was much more luminous that the conjunction. Venus on any given day surpassed the aligned expectation. Band of clouds teased the watchers, their gazes fixed on the southwest horizon. And Jupiter and Saturn were tiny glows as they faded into setting.

For me the astronomical event was glorious, counting down the nights and contemplating on the great God who made the giant planets.

The Great Conjunction culminated last night, and Jupiter and Saturn are now moving apart gradually, but over the next few nights they won’t appear much farther apart than the less than 1 degree of separation of December 21. Keep on watching.

 

Remembering Terrance Sookhansingh

Leave a comment

Hearing the news that the funeral of our classmate Terrance Sookhansingh will be held tomorrow (November 16) shocked me as his death shocked everyone else. In stunned silence I envisioned our class back at Iere High School – Haymatee who broke the news to me, Richard who broke the news to Haymatee, and the rest who had assimilated the sadness while I was absent from social media.

Tall, dark, and handsome were fitting adjectives for Terrance. In fact, “Othello” is how our French teacher described Terrance. Mr. Westmaas brought in all kinds of learning into French class, and repeatedly he would allude to Terrance’s looks and personality as a likeness to Shakespeare’s character in the play of the same name. Othello was the protagonist and hero, a Christian Moor and general in the armies of Venice.

Terrance was easily visible because of his physique but the trait that stood out the most to me was his gentle manner. Terrance was a gentle man, a true soft spoken gentleman. Terrance smiled a lot. I don’t remember ever seeing him anything but pleasant. If he had bad days, no one could tell from his deportment. Terrance was jovial and carried a dignity that complemented his Othello-ness.

On Sundays I post a reminder that ETERNITY with Susan Harris (my show on cable television where I live) will be aired today. My thoughts are never far from Eternity, the afterlife where we can live with God the Father forever and ever. When I came on to post, that’s when I read the message of the tragic news that our classmate’s funeral will be held tomorrow (Nov 16).

 Tears filled my eyes. I have been spared death many times and I know my purpose in life is to invite men, women, boys and girls into God’s kingdom. Becoming a citizen of Heaven is not automatic. Citizenship has a process. Countries observe it and likewise, Heaven requires citizenship. The route is through Jesus Christ, who says in the Bible “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.” John 14:6.

Iere High School gave every student an opportunity to know of Jesus through the daily worship which started  our day. We prayed to the Lord. I believe that Terrance carried that sacred opening of the day into his adult life. I’ve never seen him since we graduated high school, but the fruit of the Holy Spirit was evident in him from a young age.

Every Othello has a Desdemona, and I learned from the obituary announcement that Haymatee sent to me (thanks Haymatee) that Terrance’s was the beautiful Angela. I went on their social media page and saw that Angela had posted a wedding photo in which Terrance looked more as he did in his school days, and I snipped his portrait for this blog memory. Angela, I pray that the Lord will uphold you in this time when the foundation of your world has been shaken irreversibly so. May you feel His everlasting arms carrying you. May you and your children be comforted, knowing that you will reunite with Terrance in Heaven.

Friends of Terrance, classmates and co-workers, neighbours and relatives, no one ever imagined that Terrance would never see a 6th decade, or turn 70, or have a party when he is 80. This could be the fate of any of us. We do not know what tomorrow holds. But I know who holds tomorrow. God holds every second of our lives. He knows what will happen with life on earth and He knows how we each will spend Eternity. Can I invite you to prepare to spend your Eternity with God? If you will pray the prayer below and mean it, Jesus will forgive you of your sins and you will reunite with Terrance in Eternity.

Dear Jesus, I have sinned and I need Your forgiveness. I invite You to be my Lord and Saviour. Make me the kind of person You want me to be. Thank you for giving me eternal life. Amen.

Mortality is frail, a whisper, dew on the grass. Here now, gone then. Death is a time to take inventory of what matters, how quickly what we hold dear can vanish. I pray that we will stock up what matters. Love and respect, kindness and faith.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be yours today as you grieve the loss of our friend. God’s grace is always present and all-sufficient. Speak to Him, and feel His strength and comfort fill your heart today and in the months ahead.

Because of Grace,

Susan

Not an Angel

1 Comment

Comet Neowise by James Dean

God didn’t want an angel when He called my aunt home on Sunday.

Usually I write a eulogy but this time I feel compelled to write what Scripture says. Like me, my aunt was a Christian. We called her Tanty Sahodra.

It was in her home that I first heard The Church in the Wildwood song. I was spending a rare night out so that my cousin Sita could accompany me to write an exam in San Fernando. I was 16 years old and travelling from Siparia to San Fernando was quite the journey.

Greeting cards and social media platforms hail the phrase “God wanted an angel so He took (name), or “ _____ gained their wings.” This is usually done of out of good intentions to comfort the grieving person, but the truth is that no one becomes an angel when they die.

Simply put, it is false theology to equate a dead person to angel status.

The Bible is clear in the order of creation that God made angels to do His bidding. And He made human beings lower than angels.

“What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?
For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.” Psalm 8:4-5 (NKJV)

So Tanty is not an angel, and will never be one. She’s likely doing similar things as angels by worshipping at the Throne right now. Matthew 22:30 says, “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.” The simile “like angels of God” refer to their immortality whereby angels cannot die (John Gill Expository.)

A simile is a figure of speech and not a literal interpretation. (To further simplify – when one is said to be brave like a lion, one does not literally become a lion and suddenly grow a tail and transports to the Serengeti. But it would be really cool if that happened.)

So as Tanty has run her race and her body lies cold to be buried on Friday, she would be pleased to know that her passing into Glory found a purpose for denouncing the falsity that “people die because God needed an angel”.

Tanty Sahodra at age 85

The fact is that people die because their bodies have become too old or they been very sick and the medical treatments didn’t work. Or they may have had an accident, whether it’s their fault or another person’s error. They don’t die because God needs angels. God is well able to create angels if He wishes. And telling both adults and kids the truth should be done with carefully chosen words.

I ask my relatives and friends to explain to the little ones that Tanty Sahodra died (yes, use the correct word.) Tell the children that to die means that her body stopped working. Tell them that her heart and brain and organs wore out. Tell them of the glorious Heaven in which she waits, and hope to see them one day, and tenderize their hearts to Eternity.

My cousins know the Lord. Most of them live abroad.  They cannot fly down due to the pandemic. I pray that their hearts will be filled with the Holy Spirit who is the Comforter. I pray for Sherry who carries the heavier part because she is there. I know the Lord has surrounded her with relatives and others to weep with her and uphold her this week and in the upcoming ones. Our Redeemer lives, and because of it Tanty does, and so does she.

I know what lies beyond the starry blue. I’ve been there and back, and each night I raise my gaze because I’ve peeked into what’s happening there. When I look up tonight it’ll be for more than the comet; I’ll remember my kind and gracious aunt who has been  added to the multitude that worships around the throne. Deceased people, and the angels.

Sahodra Goocool went to be with her Maker on July 26, 2020 just short of her 86th birthday which would have been in August.

Visit to Hell – from Touched By Eternity (Susan Harris)

Leave a comment

 I walk beyond the suburbs in Heaven towards the edge. There are no houses here. Instead, a big, tall double wall with a narrow gap in between falls to a sheer drop way down below. The walls seem to be made of cement and they are the gray color of unpainted concrete. I am reminded of the double walls that guard cities. I look down, beyond the wall, and know instinctively that it is Hell, although I cannot see the details from where I stand. I know that it is mammoth, that it is far more spread out than the city of Paris had appeared when I viewed it from the top of the Eiffel Tower.

As I survey this place of gloom from afar, my second vision begins. I become aware of someone walking beside me and that I am walking downwards. His is a large presence, and I see his shadow. It is similar to the shadow I had encountered in 1998 in the meadow, but I knew that shadow to be the Shadow of the Almighty, as in Psalm 91:1; this time I sense it is an angel. I cannot see him, but I know it through the communication process where thoughts enter my mind that he is dressed in black and is a warrior.

Whereas the large person had walked on my right as we went uphill in the meadow, this person is on my left as we go downwards. Interestingly, the right side is heavenwards, so the warrior is on the left where the danger lurks, to protect me from it. He keeps about half a pace ahead as we descend long, winding steps hewn out of rock. It feels as if we are inside a deep mountain, walking down dozens and dozens of steps in a dark stairway with thick rock walls on either side. The stairway is narrow, able to accommodate two people at most, and it follows the contours of the mountain.

I do not fear tripping because somehow I can see through the darkness, as my sight is also heightened and clear. Like a nocturnal animal I have perfect vision and agility. This is both amazing and interesting, because in the natural I am very cautious of going down steps and always look for a handrail or a person to hold on to. Yet here I am without a handrail in the dark and I am treading down confidently and surely.

The angel of the Lord leads me to a deep abyss. Former atheist, Rev. Howard Storm, describes horrors at different levels of his journey in his book My Descent into Death,1 but thankfully I am not shown those. The knowledge is transmitted to me that I am a visitor on tour. This is a place that I cannot come to alone, because I am a foreigner and do not belong here. I have not asked to see this place, but the tour is being offered to me and the angel is my tour guide. This parallel is easy to understand, because in my travels to foreign countries, and even my native Trinidad, I’ve accessed the services of guides for both security and informational purposes.

As we grow closer to where the angel is taking me, a dark orange glow becomes apparent. It reminds me of Halloween colors and sights I have seen on television. I shrink back, my steps slowing. I hear faint shrieks in the distance that grow to louder wails, as if people are being tortured. The anguish is undeniable. The dark orange glows and glowers. It is spooky and terrifying, and I move closer to the angel as we continue down.

We turn a corner to the left. And I see it.

Hell.

A place of fire just as the Bible describes.

The fire comes in waves, as water rolls in the ocean. Waves of fire. The fire “ocean” looks like an endless, flat surface. The fire waves are gigantic from far off and become smaller as they crash onto the burnt rocky shore with its blackened sand. The fire recedes and surges, surges and recedes, like swash and backwash on beaches. And in it are people, as if they are bathing in the ocean, tossed to and fro by the waves in the fire. They are screaming and many have their arms upraised.

I am extremely familiar with waves and oceans. My native Trinidad is a Caribbean island bounded by four bodies of water: the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the Caribbean Sea to the north, the Gulf of Paria to the west, and Columbus Channel to the south. Churning waters rolling blue and crashing waves with white frothy tips are the norm. They are cool and inviting, awesome and powerful. But Hell is the opposite–tormented and cursed, where the burnt-orange rolling fires are tipped with black.

I stand with the angel on the corner and watch Hell, witnessing the very real suffering of those who mocked the Christian gospel, who rejected the invitation that would have kept them out of the inferno. We do not talk, but there is an understanding that I am not permitted to go any closer. Nor do I wish to go closer.

I don’t know how long we spent watching Hell, because in Eternity a lot seems to happen in a short space of time. I can only extrapolate from my 1998 experience when I was unconscious for three minutes on earth, but saw, knew, and felt so much of Heaven. I also did not know how much time I spent in Heaven this time.

Our time is over. We walk up the stairs to Heaven and I go first with the angel behind me. At that point I came back to reality on earth, full of the dread and horror I had seen of the place prepared for the Devil and his angels. I do not know why I had been chosen for an unsolicited tour, but this would not be my last view of Eternity.

Copyright Susan Harris 2019, 2020