Ena Kim Fortuné (in photo) died June 5 at the age of 95. Her funeral was held at St Theresa’s RC Church, Barataria. The following eulogy has been edited for length.
Today we are here to celebrate the life of our mother, Ena Kim Fortuné, known to many as ‘Kim’, ‘Auntie Kim’, ‘Granny Kim’ and ‘Mrs Fortuné’. Her late husband Francis Charles Ramón-Fortuné, better known as Charlie, first saw her on April 1st, 1940 on the 4 a.m. train, and enchanted by her curls and anklets rode weekly from Princes Town to Tortuga on his bicycle to court her. They were married in 1942, and settled in Barataria raising seven children. She was the proud and loving grandmother of 14 and great-grand mother of 7.
Her early upbringing in Tortuga Village meant daily chores that began as early as 4 a.m. There were long walks to school, as well as from Tortuga to her grandmother Sal in Piparo… walks that Kim made easier by throwing a stone ahead of her to make the journey shorter and more bearable.
Life was hard, and called for a lot of creativity and innovation for daily survival. So much so that Kim in her adult life never wasted anything—she was the consummate recycler—water was precious and she saved her kitchen water for her beloved garden, composting her organic waste. She never discarded containers and devised ingenious ways of getting her yard clean while keeping us busy and responsible.
She loved to sew, a hobby encouraged by her Chinese godmother Auntie Yutee, and preferred being in the yard and breeze to staying inside the house. She would marvel at the perfection of a leaf or a flower, saying “Isn’t God wonderful”. Food security was never a problem for her as God always provided her with something to make a meal.
Her garden was a healing garden, and she was a storehouse of traditional knowledge on health and wellness—red clover for colon; sapodilla seed for spleen; turmeric for inflammation; pomegranate skin for stomach; soursop leaf for insomnia; fever grass, carpenter bush, shado beni, geritout, wonder of the world, dite paye, and shandilay for colds; vervine tea for nursing mothers; olive bush, and gotu kola – anyone who had an ailment benefitted from Kim’s remedies.
If you were lucky when visiting you would get a tour of her garden or be served with a ripe sapodilla, cut in half on a saucer with a spoon, or some fresh cherry, guava, or pomegranate juice, or hot roast bake with butter …… and you would never leave empty-handed.
Kim was a rich repository of knowledge about old-time Trinidad and she delighted in telling us about her childhood, sharing funny stories about village characters, teaching us African nursery rhymes from Nen and Ma Wamba or stories about how our Chinese family came to Trinidad.
She was destined to serve the world as a teacher: first as ‘Teacher Kim’ at the age of 14 in Tortuga School, and then to her children. By the time we went to school, we all knew how to read, spell and write. She always said that “Common sense came before book sense”.
She had subtle and ingenious ways of disciplining us. Psychology and prayers, lots of “Jesus, give me grace”, and “God bless you, darling”, combined with the occasional bit of ‘licks’ with the red and white belt, or some vigorous dusting with a towel when we decided to play in dirt.
A staunch Catholic and faithful parishioner of Malick Church, she often spent Saturday mornings and many evenings in confraternity and teaching catechism. Kim actively lived her faith, giving practical guidance and life skills to young men and women, teaching them about baptism and how to be good parents and to know and love God.
She was a founding member of the Housewives Association of Trinidad and Tobago, and was often asked to give an address to members as her message was always eloquent and simple, yet profound and practical.
Kim was the original prayer warrior, no sooner would someone call with a problem, than she would go on her knees, light a candle and start a Novena. She was committed to praying for others. You could always count on her listening ear, gentle voice, and loving guidance. Even in her final years, I’m sure that she was praying for everybody.
Her stroke four years ago was also a stroke of insight for us as we had to find new ways to communicate with her. She was still able to communicate with her eyes and through touch. She became peaceful and smiled when we sang old songs and hymns and prayed with her. As she continued her journey, communication was reduced to winking, blinking, and nods. Now that she has transitioned, the communication has to be through the heart.
Thank you to all who cared for Mummy over the past four years: children, family, medical team; to everyone else, too numerous to mention, thank you.
Mummy, although this is a sad moment for us, we know that it is also a celebration for you because you’re going home, being welcomed by those who have already crossed …. going home to your spiritual garden and continuing to share the fruits of spirit with those of us who are still going through the school of life.