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A tribute to Latchmie – my role model, mentor, mother

By Camille Ramdial-Cumberbatch

My mom, Latchmie Ramdial, was the queen of our family in Cocoyea, San Fernando. The musical icon, Sundar Popo sang, “A mother’s love, you’ll never forget…” which is so true of the unconditional love I felt from my mother throughout my life. She died five years ago at 88 years, from dementia due to old age, but her legacy lives on in the values and attitudes she instilled in her four daughters and their families. Her inspiring life story is one of overcoming hardship and abuse, faith, and love of family.

Latchmie’s early life was challenging, growing up poor and illiterate in Williamsville. She was married at the age of 12 years but ran away and returned home shortly after many beatings from an abusive husband and in-laws.

At 17 years, her family authorised a common-law relationship with my father, Soolwah Ramlogan, who was 33 years and from San Fernando. It was the proverbial “jumping from the frying pan into the fire”, as he was an abusive alcoholic and gambler.

For most of their 33 years together, Latchmie was physically and verbally abused by Soolwah. He would gamble and spend his salary on alcohol, then beat her, fight with her, or steal the pittance she earned from minding cows and selling cows’ milk to her neighbours.

I grew up hearing my mother tell her horror stories, as I was too small to remember these incidents. My mother however, used these experiences to build a backbone of strength, courage, determination, and foresight!

Being illiterate did not stunt my mother’s intelligence as she was the wisest person I knew. Her vision for herself and her daughters motivated her to budget and save her pennies from her cow milk sales to provide food, clothes, and shelter for her family.

She was the first female entrepreneur I knew and a role model who inspired her daughters to become entrepreneurs also. I learned the value of money and financial wisdom from my mother. At the time of her death, she owned property and had funds saved to pay for all her home, medical and funeral expenses. My sisters and I did not have to spend a cent.

I recently read a quote from the international financial expert Suze Orman, which said that your self-worth is not determined by your net worth. My mother epitomised this!

I remember her telling the story of grating green mangoes from a tree and eating it with a pinch of salt, when she did not have enough food for everyone. Her children always came first. Although poor, she had pride and aimed for excellence.

After my father died, she would say about my sister and me as we left for school (12 years and 9 years at the time), “Look at them, no one can tell they don’t have a father.” She was also humble and instilled in us the work ethic of “do your best in everything”, reinforcing the importance of personal integrity.

My mother never smothered me, but trusted my independent thinking, as she said, “do what you think is best.” She never set any limits on my personal vision or dreams, and always supported my educational and other life goals.

The foundation of my mother’s strength was her faith in God. She prayed daily for hours and would repeatedly say “Leave that in God’s hands.” My faith was inspired by her example. She fully supported my baptism through the RCIA programme 22 years ago, and being a mother myself, I can now wholeheartedly appreciate the power of intercession for our loved ones.

In the last few months of her life, it was heart-wrenching to see the independent, strong, and intelligent woman we knew as our mother deteriorate in health. My mother’s life was an example of loving care and service to us.

Her dying presented us with the opportunity to reciprocate this philosophy in our daily care of her. She taught us to love and depend on God, and He gave our family the strength to help her journey through the last few months of her life.

In the end, the values of love, faith, and family were evident in our care for our role model, our mentor, and our mother.