By Sham Ali
The Gods smiled and made this a glorious day and we felt the presence of our fallen colleagues in our company. It is 11:30am. The conditions were perfect for cricket, brilliant sunshine under clear blue skies, and the breeze felt like a gentle Caribbean breeze off the Atlantic Ocean or so we would like it to be in a land far far away from home. The Umpire says PLAY, and unconsciously the mind and body becomes oblivious to the existence of all the worldly endeavors that had existed just a few minutes ago. The sound of the word Play is like steroid to a cricketer’s ear, it ignited the flow of an abundance of adrenalin, and any aches and niggles that was present before suddenly disappeared.
Consequently, with so many other meaningful activities available to us, it is days like these that drives the cricketers and lovers of the game to the cricket ground in remembrance of their fallen colleagues. It revealed the true value of friendship and the ability of the sport to bring a community together. It ultimately drives home the notion that this is not just a game, but one that has played an integral part in the lives of the Caribbean people, and as such it must be enjoyed and protected, and that is what which brings so many on this day to remember and celebrate the lives of our fallen friends.
They were not just names or numbers among their peers, but friends, family, fathers, and championships in their own unique way, woven into the fabric of society. Some were dedicated to service and leadership, Clement ‘Busta’ Lawrence, Derrick Scott, Roy Sweeney, Hugh Pitter, Lloyd Scott, and Carl Patrick, others were driven by ambition, Jimmy Maharaj, Nizam Hafiz, Sheldon Gomes and a majority encompasses the grassroots spirit of camaraderie. Words fall short to fill the void that has been left through years of friendship. Memories are often illuminated in recollection of the many accomplishments on and off the field, the thrills endured some won and those lost, and the postmortem that saturated the airwaves for the entire duration of winter served as an antidepressant to alleviate the winter blues.
Subsequently, these occasions may bring a small measure of comfort to the families who carry the pain daily and bear their burden silently not only at times of remembrance, but in endless quite moments that often stretched on and on in traits of their kin. But, hopefully, remembrance at this time will bring some measure of closure and tranquility on this day in seeing the image of their loved ones in their many friends, and just as they once were on the field together. Some sporting an oversized pants, a worn boots,, an old dinged cap, a cherished willow, each piece with its own historical value, coupled with the exchanges of the many superstitions that once framed their character.
They took pride in sporting their whites, wool, cotton or polyester, buckle or pull-string, button or none, and they did so with yesteryears pride in limited haves and needs, but with an undying respect for the game; that sacred quality of generation with an incomparable culture of no proportional values. They were men with pure admiration of their heroes whose fame and framework were sculptured into their daily lives and often emulated on the cricket field, an admiration that comes alive in endless prose when enjoying a smooth taste of blended beverages.
The many tales told of missed opportunities, challenges endured and the appreciation of victories in small things, all designed to appease the mind. Some lived to a full life but always too soon, others shockingly to early leaving us to question the Almighty; nonetheless, it is through HIS will that we are able to accept the inevitability of life’s frailty where none will play a role in choreographing their departure. For many, today will be just another day of sunshine and another cricket match for our colleagues who once shared these greens with us. For the families, the day their loved ones passed is a day that will be etched in their memories forever.
But they will not worry upon their death nor be unduly concerned about their body for their brothers will do the necessary. They will disrobe, wash and enshroud and take them from their nice home and carry them to their new home (the grave). Many will come to participate, take time off their jobs or cancel appointments in order to attend the burial. Their belongings will be disposed of keys, books, tools, shoes, and clothes and oh, those cherished cricket gears and trophies that only a few could have touched will become meaningless.
The world would not mourn their passing, and the movement of the world will not stop because of their death. The economy will continue, and someone else will do their job, the wealth, if any, will be lawfully inherited by heirs, and cricket will still be played. The first thing they lose upon death is their name; they will ask: “where is the body?” Status nor fame will not help, how insignificant this world is compared to what lies beyond, those who really knew them will honor days like today, while others will remain sad for a few hours and then they will return to their discourses and entertainment after which they will be but a memory. Their story ended amongst people, but their real story just began, it’s the hereafter, and now begun the “real” life.
But we remember them, ALL OF THEM, in small, simple, thoughtful and meaningful ways. Come-if-you-care. The cricket match brought out some of the stalwarts and many who once shared the same space; Hemant Gangapersaud (Fmr. TT national player / Sims), Colville Brown (Fmr. Windward Islands national Cricket and Football player), Sohan Dass (Fmr. Guyana national player/ Cosmos), Dixeith Palmer (Fmr. Jamaica national player / Sims). Garnet, Darrell, Bahadur, Kawal, Narine, Andy, Balgo, and Choy graced the day and made their presence felt, while Neville Flowers and Shadi Khan had no arm left after their spell. In the finality, Sohan Dass’s team challenged Dixeith Palmer’s team to an exciting finish, and a fitting conclusion to one of the most impactful days at the cricket ground.
The half time ceremony was officiated by our ever competent Trevor Wallfal (Fmr. MCL president). Mr. Wallfal captured the significance of the occasion in a remarkably touching piece of peaceful oration under bright blue skies as he read the names our colleagues, all 39 of them, and highlighted their value that encompasses their tireless hands that once moved the cricket in this area. Mascelles Bailey (Fmr. MCL president) remembered the MCL stalwarts, while Gangapersaud recalled his days in the MCL. Dixeith Palmer then aptly captured real meaning of the occasion “It is a bitter sweet occasion for me. I looked at all the portraits of the guys who have passed, a majority of them I knew personally. I know where they have gone, and we all will go there one day. I don’t know when or if I will see them, but today I am comforted in remembering them, I am also happy to be in the company of guys who I haven’t seen for almost 20 years. I am humbled. This is an extra special occasion and a tremendous success. “Shadi Khan was understandably moved by the occasion when he stated that “all these guys who passed away were my very good friends, and I am indebted to their memories, and that is why this occasion will be an annual event to pay tribute and honor their memory.”
It was indeed a solemn occasion. And for all that they represented during their time, not free from flaws and imperfections, a SON, a HUSBAND, a FATHER, a CRICKETER, a FRIEND, extra special in their own way. In their numbered days they still had enough of that element of tranquility and goodness for a world they have left behind; a noteworthy legacy that lives on through their multiple endeavors and in the many lives they have touched, and in some small measure, when they flicked-the-switch to effect the lives of others, left it on, when they smiled, took one last look, blinked and bid a final farewell. So long boys.
Appropriately, today like so many others, we hold their memories close, but memories are often difficult to bear, however, we hope that the good ones often lighten your day. And on this day where memories of our beloved colleagues flowed like oceans and their image dance in the eyes of their loved one, a celebration of their lives is but a small measure of our appreciation, and a quiet reminder that we must be tireless in our duty to those who have left us and bound to cherish those in our presence.
We remain humbled for their friendship. May their souls continue to rest in eternal peace.
Clement ‘Busta’ Lawrence
Eswart ‘Cobler’ Thomas
Special thanks to Shad Khan for organizing this Memorial Match in collaboration with All Pro Masters and Cosmos Cricket Club. Cyril Choy, Jimmy Maharaj family especially his wife Asha, Austin Hutchinson, Rose, and Sammy (Queens United CC).