Laura Charles, a stalwart of the Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH), San Fernando community was born August 11, 1915. She died July 21 at the age of 102. Her funeral Mass was held July 25 at the St Benedict RC Church, La Romaine. Her eulogy was presented by Thora Mootoo and Sheila Prince.
The Word of God says ‘Zeal for my Father’s house devours me’. ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work’. These are scriptures I repeat daily in my life, but these verses described how our dearly beloved Laura actually lived her life.
She started with us at the Cluny Eucharistic Centre from its inception 23 years ago and was part of every event and prayer sessions hosted. She would occupy the front seat always as she did at OLPH, not because she felt she owned the seat, but because she needed to see and hear all that was taking place in the Holy Mass or prayer sessions. Just to note: Laura always tried to wear the liturgical colours representing the day at each Mass.
When I got to know who Laura was, she invited me to do a thanksgiving service at her home on Chacon Street. I was told each year Laura will give Almighty God her thanks for the blessings received and she would invite poor families and lots of children. At times she did not even have the place to accommodate them, but she made sure there was sufficient food and goodies for all.
There was a time I dropped Laura home. This was an ordeal for me because to walk Laura up her broken-down steps, you encountered a yard with no pathway and had to step on one stone after the other before you could finally reach the stairs, which was a further and dangerous ordeal.
I asked Laura, “How do you walk out of this place?” And she said, “Aunty Thora, every step I take, I will call the name of Jesus.” I will like to think, by the time Laura reached her gate, she would have called the name of Jesus about 100 times, giving glory to God.
Laura evangelised lots of people even inviting them to church and Cluny. She would even be praying and encouraging people on her phone. One night she called me, and said, “Aunty Thora, you know I do not like gossip, but I came from church and I heard them saying some things about you, so I called you to let you know.”
After experiencing lots of hardships and her pension cheques being stolen a few times, and going to HDC over and over, Laura was finally able to get a new home. It was a good place, but too far away from the church and Cluny, but that still did not stop her.
Even though she was about 98-99 years old and using a walking stick, she hired a driver to take her to morning Mass daily and prayer group weekly paying him with the little pension. Each pension cheque Laura received she would put aside some for the church and some for Cluny. If she ran out of cash, she would borrow from Cluny and pay back as promised.
Laura tried to attend every event advertised in the Catholic News, even though she would have to travel by taxi. Laventille Devotions, Jesus Explosion, priestly ordinations, whatever was taking place, the Catholic News was her invitation and she would be there early and in the front seat as the dignitary she was in God’s eyes. It was all about Jesus, because she did not know anyone else there, but she was present.
She said to me one day, “Aunty Thora, I was not always living this kind of holy life you know, in my earlier days I was a battle axe, but when I encountered Jesus, there was no turning back for me, I love Him and want to follow Him always.”
Her greatest earthly love was her dear son who died before her. She was so affected by his death, but she trusted her Jesus. Her daughter-in-law and her granddaughter became her eternal joy and love of her heart after Jesus.
Laura was indeed the example and true meaning of Holy Scripture, when Jesus said “Pick up your cross daily and come and follow me.” And she did. Eternal rest, eternal peace grant onto her Lord, and may she rest in peace.