That was the best gift from Mama and over the years I tried to not let her regret allowing me to take that step of faith. She allowed me to publicly give my life in service to God. That is the single most important reason why I am who I am today.
Mama saw what life as a SDA youth did for me and she was impressed. She left the Church of God Church, got baptized at the next crusade and made this same SDA Church, her church home.
I remember Mama used to sew our clothes and we all had new uniforms to go back to school every school year. I used to wonder how she knew my correct measurements as she always sew my dresses when I was at school. Sometimes I would come home and see a new one hanging waiting to be hemmed, and I always suspected she did that to avoid me fussing about the style. My friends knew that I got tired of sweetheart necklines.
Mama took pride in how we looked for school because she was big on education. We inherited her smart brain power. She was a really smart woman who missed her chance at a high school and college education, so if you wanted it, you got the chance to receive it, even though we couldn’t go every day because truth be told, sometimes there was no money for bus fare or lunch. We always had shoes and our uniforms were always neatly pressed until we learned to do it ourselves and sometimes burn them either with the then luxurious Taylor iron or the one you heated in the wood fire.
Mama was a strict disciplinarian. I cannot re-count the many whippings I got, some meant for my younger sister Velvel, but I was the only one who would go and stand on her big toe, bring the belt, or get my own switch. Everyone else would run and hope Mama forget, but I knew better than take the chance of being awaken in the middle of the night with one of papa’s big belts.
Mama did not joke. Either you suck it up or you become a rebel. The latter was not an option for me. Her style of discipline was rough but looking back, I can see how it helped make me the kind of woman I am today.
Christmas was and still is my favorite time of year. That was one time of year when mama made sure we got new clothes. Mama made an effort to make Christmas special for us with the best Jamaican cooking you ever tasted. I will miss Mama’s world class potato pudding with the hallelujah on top. I remember when I was sooo skinny…some of you remember many, many, many years ago, when I wanted to gain weight that I used to eat so much of her potato and cornmeal pudding hoping to get fat. Mama used to let me scrape the bottom of the pudding pan. Yes, it worked…see, it was a delayed reaction.
As an adult she became my advisor and confidante although I didn’t always take her advice. One of her greatest quality was to encourage me to make the best of everything and to face problems head on. She was a proud woman who believed that there was no obstacle that couldn’t be overcome. I know I inherited that though I did not inherit her fashionista style. Mama has always been my support, strength and comfort when times have been tough. At times I got tired of tough love and learned to cope without her input because some things I just couldn’t burden her with.
Mama was not big on hugs and kisses like Papa was. When I passed my exams and expected praise, she would let me know that after spending money that is what they expected. Papa would see my disappointment and give me a hug and kiss. I will continue to draw strength from the things she taught me and live by the words that my mother always quoted, as if her own: “Accept the things you cannot change and change the things you can”. She also used to say to me “Expect the unexpected. Sometimes you prepare for the worst but deep down inside you expect the best.”
Mama was a philanthroper at heart. She had a routine of sharing Sunday dinner with a shut in older person. Each Sunday, one of us had to deliver the dinner and come back before any of us could eat our dinner. I liked doing it until one Sunday when I thought I was being chased by the dogs of the old lady I was taking dinner for. I turned and ran with the dogs at my heels all the while holding on for dear life to the aluminum carrier with the food and carrot juice. Mama sent me right back and my brother Texan bailed me out and delivered the dinner because he wanted to eat and none of us could eat until the food was delivered. I have been afraid of dogs since that day, but I never lost the love of helping and giving that I learned from Mama.
During her last days Mama was very aware but couldn’t argue about anything which ironically was a good thing because she couldn’t verbally disagree with the doctor’s orders. I spoke with her every day, prayed with her and reassured her that I love her. Friday evening I called and Barry was trying to get her to eat dinner. I put on my nurse hat and encouraged her as best I could. I ended with, “see you Tuesday Mama.” She answered, “See you next week, life spare.” Mama liked to say “see you if life spare.”
Mama will be missed, but her memory will live on in the Milka Clarke Stroke Awareness Foundation, founded by us to bring awareness and support to stroke victims, stroke survivors, and their families in Westmoreland, Jamaica. Her old telephone number will be memorialized also, as it is the new number for the foundation. Some of you have recently received a call or WhatsApp message from Milka Clarke. I did not mean to scare you, the foundation is using that number now.
Because Mama was so keen on Education and had a brilliant mind that she did not get to activate to her highest potential, our family foundation in Florida has a scholarship that will now be re-named the Milka Clarke Self-Actualization & Academic Award Scholarship. The scholarship is currently offered to students of excellence at Green Island High School.
Mama, you will be missed. I will cherish the many memories I have of you. Most of all I will continue to honor God knowing that was one of your most precious gifts to me…teaching me the fear and love of God. Rest in Peace with God Mama.