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Tribute to our mother in law

There is a tired imported joke, oft-repeated to define mixed emotions. The joke is that mixed emotions are the feeling a man has when he sees his Mother-in-Law driving over a precipice in his brand-new Mercedes Benz. We who married into the Harvey-Grant family are here to testify that Phyliss Agatha Harvey-Grant exposed the fallacy of this stereotype of Mothers-in-Law.  Our late Mother-in-Law only evoked feelings of love, admiration, respect, and gratitude.

Dr. Althea LaFoucade-Scott, Director of the HEO, Center for Health Economics of the West Indies, St Augustine the only daughter-in-law and Trinidadian among us and who is unable to be with us today has written and I quote:

“One could not wish for a more thoughtful, considerate, and caring mother-in-law.  I grew to love Aunty Phyllis as a mother. The first time I came to Jamaica with Ian and Maya Aunty Phyllis gave me a tight hug that spoke volumes to me.  I have never forgotten that hug.  I can’t begin to explain it, but it was special.  Aunty Phyllis was a special kind of mother-in-law.  She demonstrated the words she articulated “…welcome to the family.”   When Aunty Phyllis came to Trinidad in 2019 and spent 6 months with us, I extended the invitation to her and then asked Ian if it was ok with him.  I suspect, that not many daughters-in-law would want a mother-in-law with them for extended periods…but this said more about the woman Phyllis Harvey-Grant than her son or daughter-in-law.  Aunty Phyllis was a special gem of a mother-in-law.  During that period in Trinidad, I came to better understand what a strong, woman of grace, faith with a spirit of discernment ‘looked like. Ian always speaks to Maya about the qualities of a virtuous woman, but it was during her stay in Trinidad that I understood where Ian was coming from.  She was a lady with patience, understanding, insight, and plenty of affection.”

Winston Hayden, a St Ann man, and senior in the law of forty-seven years, and who knew Mrs. Grant for 62 years, also called her Aunty Phyliss. He explains that growing up as a boy in Dawson Town she was Aunty Phyllis to everyone because of her caring and generous disposition. So, he just continued to call her Aunty Phyliss even after he became her son-in-law. She was very protective of her children, especially her daughters, so the only unconformable experience he had with her was when she ‘bad him up’ concerning his intentions toward her daughter, Marjorie, aka Cutie. From the time he declared honorable intentions and recruited her sister Mrs. Benita Boswell to plead his case, their relationship was harmonious and joyous. Just to say that Mrs. Grant never bad me up. She was a woman of discernment as Altheaa has said and knew that if I drove from Kingston to Higgin Town to meet her my intentions toward her daughter, Sharon, had to be honorable.

Mrs. Grant was highly respectful to everybody. For example, because Winston be called her Aunty Phyllis she addressed him as Uncle Winston or Mr. Hayden. She addressed Dr. LaFoucade-Scott as Miss Althea. I could never get her to call me Errol. She insisted on Mr. Miller, so I called her Miss Phyllis. Whether we addressed her as Aunty Phyllis or Miss Phyllis, Althea, Winston, and I loved our Mother-in-law to the ground. She was generous to a fault. She made each of us feel special. If she thought that any of her children were even slightly neglectful of us, she would gently and openly chide them. She knew our tastes and likes and would unfailingly accommodate them. For example, she knew that Winston like beer, but Cutie adamantly disapproved. Hence, Miss Phyllis always had two cold ones in the fridge and quietly informed him when he visited.

Miss Phyllis was the Matriarch of the Harvey-Morgan family not by power or control but as the glue that held the family together. Her home was the meeting place for the family and the center for sound advice. Miss Phyllis listened first, then listened more before giving her considered opinion. A courtesy call to Miss Phyllis was on the itinerary of all family members vising Jamaica.

Miss Phyllis was salt of the earth Jamaican. She invested in people, not only in her children and grandchildren. She cared for people not only her family. She knew the truth when she heard it and was not deceived by imposters. Phyllis loved the Lord and trusted Him in all things. Miss Phyllis and I were kindred in the soul. I absolutely prized the myriad times we spent in one-on-one conversations in person or on the phone over thirty-four years. They were precious. There was not a single rye word spoken between us.

It is hard to think that we will no longer hear that calm and polished ‘Hello’ when she answered the phone. Or be charmed by her poised, stush, and dignified bearing as she quietly and graciously supervised family proceedings. Or see that smile that spoke so eloquently of her love. Althea, Winston, and I are only relieved that she no longer suffers the pain that plagued her final days.

Mrs. Phyllis Agatha Harvey Grant was a wonderful Mother-in-law. See you in the morning of that Great Day.