For the Walters Family: Fifteen Years Away From Ordinary

The morning of June 30, 1998 was an ordinary one.

We woke up; two uncles, my father and I. He made porridge. We ate. Laughed as we did each morning about the Richter shattering capacity of one uncle’s snores. They left to different destinations and I headed into the office. The office was only 25 minutes away then. The sun was shining. A morning remarkable in its un-remarkableness. When I got to work I did what I usually did, got my cases went into the courtroom and started organizing the return day list. The return day in Court 1 of Spanish Town Resident Magistrate’s Court is a zoo, a circus and I had had the reputation then of being an adept ring master. I had the defendants in the dock assembled in a row, those on bail lined up in columns. All we needed was the judge and we would run straight through the list until the 1 p.m. luncheon adjournment.

Family Is a Gift

Family Is a Gift

The judge came on the bench at 10 sharp. And we were moving with oiled efficiency, bail applications to the foot of the list, guilty pleas taken, sentence dates fixed, mention dates for the innocent and we were on a roll. The sight of the judge’s orderly having a discreet word was not amiss, not even her looking down then saying “Madame Clerk, may I have a word with you in my chambers?”. “With or without counsel?” I asked. Her ” alone” signaled nothing.

My father was a popular man. He was known in the four corners of that parish, probably the island to be fair. As his daughter and one of the assigned legal officers in the parish I had a sort of double notoriety. We both could track the other’s movements in comments such as ” What a gwaan me jus see yuh father/daughter a go down the road bout an hour ago” at any shop or bar in the town. The judge, an inspector of police and a probation officer were in her chambers. Quiet a few court staff members stood outside her door as I passed to go in. Again this told me nothing. She said your father has been killed. He had gone into the bushes with his crew of men. They were contracted to the national electricity utility to clear light poles. Daddy’s crew of four men had been working on the lines, while he waited in the cab of his van. He was a licensed firearm holder. He had a firearm. It did not help. In fact after he was shot, that and his life were the only things they took. Not his pouch, wallet, vehicle, or the gold chain with Virgin Mary medallion he wore around his neck. I made it to my car through sympathetic looks and consoling hugs and hand squeezes, drove home to our empty and too quiet house, sat outside on the veranda and knew I would never have another ordinary day again.

And I guess from every Walters and every one who loves a Walters they also took away ordinary.

Love is the Best Gift of All

Love is the Best Gift of All

When my father died, my nieces and nephews were babies and toddlers. Today they are teenagers and young adults, some with children of their own. When my father died I had three sisters and five brothers that I knew. Today I have three more sisters and I love them all the same even as we struggle to build our extraordinary family.

Family is a Gift

Family is a Gift

When my father died he was in love. Today the woman he loved is in love again.

When my father died I lived with him in Jamaica and thought I would never leave. Today I live in London and I feel sure enough of my place in this world that I can live anywhere.

Today I am fifteen years removed from the intensity of an unfamiliar pain. Today it is a dull, low-grade, ever present presence that operates in the background of almost everything I do. I now know that days can dawn, bright, blue and seemingly ordinary but as they unfold you have no idea what will happen or what you can make happen. That is what makes each day since then remarkable for me. I have not taken one other day for granted.

Family is a Gift

Family is a Gift

When my father died, then as today I thought the third best gift he gave me after life and family was the joy at being alive. Even on your worst days, when all your choices appear to be wrong and every dream you have wants to recoil from your grasp keep enjoying your life; a meal, a friend, your family, a conversation. Take something from each day and run away from ordinary.

11 Responses to “For the Walters Family: Fifteen Years Away From Ordinary”
  1. tracielaine says:

    I love this. I can totally relate having lost both parents.

  2. lisa says:

    Gaile…..tears came to my eyes… however in the midst of pain….there is infinite love….blessings!!

  3. Kerry says:

    Oh Gaile – I don’t know how, through your writing, you can distil what is sometimes wonderful, sometimes ordinary, and in this case, sometimes painful and make it resonate -across time and years and miles of space. Love you girl…a giant, consoling, appreciative hug from Ja…

  4. Keesha Whittaker says:

    Gaile, this was so beautifully written. You have a magical way with words:)

  5. Loved him. Love him still. Love you. Always.

  6. GEORGIANA says:

    Girl thanks for the timely reminder that tomorrow even the next minute is not promised; so while we can, make every moment of life count.

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