Eulogy of Margaret McShine whose funeral was Saturday, July 4 at the chapel of Clark & Battoo, Park St, POS. This was streamed live by her daughter Dale who lives in New York.
Margaret McShine was a woman of high standards who believed that people should strive for perfection and be passionate in that pursuit. She crocheted, knitted, tatted, made professional drapery, sewed by sight, prepared wines, baked and cooked incredibly and also ran a public health service for our twin island as the Director of Public Health Nursing in the Ministry of Health. She loved good music: Nat King Cole, Al Green, Sparrow were up there among her favourites.
Born to Anastasia and Eddy Julien, in a little village in Penal, she was one of many siblings. Their home was loving but strict and they were staunchly Catholic. Their mother died when they were all very young and she was one of the older siblings who helped her father with keeping up the home.
She eventually left that village and headed into Port of Spain to become a nurse. There were many tales of the fetes she attended, and Margaret was quite the dancer. She played hard but worked and studied equally hard. She always wanted to be at the top of her class, passing the test with flying colours.
In between becoming a nurse and finding a husband, our father, Frank McShine, she met Louis Edinborough and his wife. They taught her among other things, the importance of saving and acquiring a piece of land.
In the next few decades, she focused on honing her nursing skills, and climbing up the ranks to nursing leadership. She travelled abroad on several government scholarships. These trips allowed her to pursue her love of travel and refine her culinary skills, and she always brought back a variety of beautiful items.
She raised us under the strictest discipline. One cut eye was all it took. Her mantra was, ‘Begin your day early and keep busy as idle hands were the devil’s workshop’. She wanted us all to become doctors; nothing less. As a young person, it was difficult to understand her way and that led to many tension-filled moments to say the least. Over time though, we grew to understand the why.
Faith was her source of strength
On a professional level, she believed in empowering communities, particularly women, to chart their own course in life; community health was her platform. She loved to deliver impassioned talks/lessons (with a good dose of humour) on child welfare, family planning and using the simplest of methods to effectively manage the health of your home and therefore your community in spite of your circumstances.
She challenged her leadership to be empathetic and seek the best interests of the disadvantaged in the community. I once heard her say to one of the clinic patients, “You ask the doctor as many questions as you need to understand your condition and how to correct it”.
She challenged her staff to be professional, stand up for what was right for good patient care, go the extra mile to serve; long nails, short uniforms, no stockings, reaching to work late, sloppy reports could get you in serious trouble.
Once she retired, everyone who stopped her had a funny story to tell about how she educated or changed their lives and thinking. She mentored and guided many. Everyone knew ‘Nursey’.
On a personal level, she had an unwavering belief in the power of incessant prayer to change the circumstance of your life for the better; she taught several religious classes, and she was the first one in the church car park on Sunday. She had to get her seat in church.
She always had a prayer or psalm to share for whatever ailed you and gave strict instructions on how it should be used. Her Bibles and prayer missals showed signs of wear and constant use; she probably had a rosary from every country she had visited. That faith was her source of strength. Jesus was her ‘boyfriend’.
She lived to see her children become adults, to see grand and great-grandchildren and participate in many of the significant events of their lives, always giving her view of the world and pressing to get that doctor. She got one.
Margaret McShine was one of those special human beings placed on this earth for a God-given specific purpose and it can be said, “well done”.
Thank you all for coming out today to celebrate her life with us and I’d like to leave you with this thought: ‘A leader takes people where they want to go, a great leader takes people where they don’t want to go, but ought to be’. Mummy was the latter.