Vivette Elverine Miller, nee Johnson,
was the fourth child and second daughter of David and Agatha Johnson of Bensonton, St Ann. David Johnson was a farmer, a preacher and a politician while Agatha devoted her time to the raising of their nine children: three boys and six girls. Full disclosure requires me to say that David Johnson was, for some time, the PNP Councillor for the Bensonton Division in St Ann. Accuracy demands that we take note of the fact that Vivette was brought up in a salt of the earth St Ann family where belief in God, hard work and devotion to family were the preeminent values.
Vivette was educated the Waltham All Age School, Ferncourt High School and the University of the West Indies, from which she graduated with B Sc in Public Administration. It should be noted that between leaving Ferncourt and entering the University, Vivette met and married one Keith Miller and raised their two children, Shauna and Andrew, to the point at which they could take care of themselves. This illustrates one of the defining characteristics of this outstanding daughter of Jamaica. She was devoted to family and often put their interests and well-being ahead of herself.
Probably the best way to illustrate Vivette’s and Keith commitment to family is by way of reference to a Collage titled ‘Family’ that Shauna did and gave to her parents on returning home for Summer this year, and just a few days before Vivette’s sudden and unexpected passing. It said
“I was thinking the other day just about the sad lives of children that I deal with often and the horrible things that happen, and I guess I was thinking for that, for the most part, I was pretty lucky and I had a pretty happy childhood. Sure there are things that I wish had been different but overall I’d say 95 percent of my childhood was positive and safe and good. So I just wanted to say thanks for being great parents, for granting me random happy memories of which I share a few, for allowing me to have so many good things to hold on to. I have this heritage of love that I cannot possibly repay or adequately thank.” Among the random memories listed were:
- Lots of parties and events with family, cousins and your friends and their kids
- Being picked up from school, late when it was Dad’s turn, early when it was Mom’s turn.
- Hotel stays on the North Coast where every available minute was spent in the pool.
- Wiping out the cake pan at Christmas time till I felt sick.
- Walking the plaza’s on Christmas Eve and getting last minute presents for Christmas dinner
- Friday night takeouts
- Sunday night ice cream
- Lectures about creating a study timetable around every exam period, which never worked.
- Uncle Andy crab fests
- Getting my hair pressed with a hot comb for Vaz Prep Prize Givings and wearing a white dress with red ribbons.
- Jigsaw puzzles, trivial pursuit, Scrabble and Boggle
- Random tidbits about parts of the island that I will never ever remember while driving from coast to coast.
But Vivette was not only devoted to her immediate nuclear family but also to her family of the Johnsons. She kept close to her brothers and sisters. When they got together it was always special even if it was a sad occasion like three months ago at Dr. Robert Walker’s funeral, Dorothea’s husband, when the three sisters sat down together and dismissed the youngsters. Little did we know, at that time, that the three sisters were sitting down together for the last time.
If the truth be told Vivette became a Miller in every sense of the word. Without any disrespect to Keith, who our Father made President of the Family before he passed on, largely because of Vivette, Forsythe Drive became the second meeting place for Family events outside of Leas Flat. Vivette always found reasons to bring the Miller family together. About five or six years ago I remember being very irate with British Airways for delays that caused me to miss a Father’s Day Brunch that Vivette had organized for the fathers in the Miller Family. When any of the other members of the Family was having an event be it a birthday or just a get-together, Vivette would be among the first to arrive, punctuality was a defining feature, but having come early she would pitch in with the work that had to be done. In recent times, many occasions when I travelled I would call Vivette to tell her that I was leaving, where I was going and when I would be coming back. This was because Vivette was one of the persons who kept in touch with everybody. She always called. Hence, if anything happened Vivette could be relied upon to communicate with everyone. Ironically, having spoken to her a few days earlier, I did not tell her that I was going to speak overseas to speak at a Conference, only to be called by my wife, Sharon, to be told that Vivette had died the day after I left.
Vivette was a multi-faceted person. She loved a decent and properly conducted bashment and organized a few in her time. Vivette was not loquacious and often did not say much. At the same time, she was a very outspoken person. She would tell you exactly how she felt about a matter. Vivette loved to bake and many were the beneficiaries of her bounty, especially at Christmas time. Vivette was people-oriented and became involved with the persons in the areas in which I interacted. Those who knew her well know that she was a collector of dolls. Vivette loved dolls. This childhood fascination never left her. She kept a treasured collection of dolls. If you travelled to any country that she had not visited the price you had to pay was to bring back a doll from that country. On one occasion I remember Sharon coming home with a particularly ugly doll, from somewhere that I do not remember. Thinking that she had brought the doll for Catherine, but being absolutely sure that Catherine would not like it, I made a cautious inquiry. Whereupon Sharon explained that the doll was for Vivette and that she was sure that Vivette would appreciate it because it was a native doll of that country. Sharon was absolutely right. Vivette added the doll to her collection with visible pleasure.
Vivette was very involved in the Church and its activities. Even in ill-health she not only attended services but played her part in supporting various activities of the church. Vivette would call and say that she had my tickets for the Church Barbeque. I understood perfectly that this did not just mean the purchase of the tickets but attendance as well. For Vivette the fellowship was as important as the financial support. So, Father, I must confess that on the occasions that you saw me attending Barbeques here at the Church, it was by command of Vivette and when she commanded you obeyed.
Vivette worked with several organizations in the public service beginning with her first job at the Library Service, and then later after she joined the Civil Service and worked at Headquarters of the Post Office, and the Ministries of Education, Labour, Social Security and National
In a very dramatic manner, Vivette discovered that she had diabetes at age 27. While she took appropriate and sensible measures to control and cope with this disease she never allowed it to dictate the terms and conditions of her life. Rather, with quiet resolve and unbelievable determination, she decided to fight this disease at every stage. In so doing Vivette became an Object Lesson and an Inspiration to us all with respect to Faith, Spiritual Strength, Perseverance, and Optimism.
As in later years the disease took hold and attacked various organs, Vivette displayed an indomitable spirit. While she would tell how she felt, especially after coming from dialysis. But you would never hear her complain. There was never ever any sign of self-pity. No question of why me? No sorry for the suffering. Instead, there was just a matter of fact, stoic resolution to carry on no matter what.
Over the last ten years, there were several times that we thought that we might lose Vivette. But she just came bouncing back. Vivette was not given to speeches, so when at a Christmas dinner about four or five years ago, Vivette requested to speak and in that speech expressed her thankfulness to God, her joy in her two children, her appreciation of Andrea, her gratitude to Keith for being an exemplary husband, and her pleasure to be among family. We wondered if Vivette was giving up the fight. But that was not it. It was Christmas. The family was here together again. Vivette was only giving expression to how she felt about her Maker, life, and her family. In more recent times we all privately marveled at her resilience, her indomitable spirit, her will to live and her capacity to smile even in pain.
Vivette’s passing took all of us by surprise. We are all shocked by the suddenness of the event. She was at home. She was in bed. There was no advance warning, no hospital drama just a peaceful passing from this life to the next.
It has become almost commonplace these days to say that we are celebrating the life and not mourning the death. But I have to confess that I mourn the passing of Vivette. I am sure that this sense of grief is shared by her surviving brothers and sisters and other relatives of the Johnson family. It is shared by Keith, and Shauna and Andrew and other members of the Miller family. It is shared by the many friends that Vivette made along the way.
It would be remiss of me, to close without making special mention of two persons that I am sure that Vivette would wish me to thank publicly. First, Andrea who was Vivette’s right hand for over the nineteen years. In the process, Andrea became family, became daughter not by blood but by care. Second, my brother Keith who performed his vow, till death do us part, with love that did not shout in words but expressed itself through deeds of daily devotion and duty. To both of you, we all say thanks on our own and on Vivette’s behalf.
Vivette we are going to miss your laughter, your matter a fact down to earth no frills approach to life. We thank God for the time that he gave you to us. Goodnight, we will see you in the morning.