Linda McCollin died on Easter Sunday (April 9). Her Funeral Mass was on Tuesday, April 18. The eulogy, delivered by her daughter Janine, has been edited for length.
Linda McCollin, née Carimbocas, was born to Paul and Catherine February 12, 1954, the sixth of 13 children.
As I got older, Ma and I would joke that I got my stubbornness, which I prefer to call ‘determination’, from Mummy.
I loved to be regaled by stories of her life growing up in Santa Cruz, and Ma told me that she always knew Mummy wanted to be a teacher. She used to try to teach one of the breadfruit trees in the yard to read and would blaze ‘licks’ on the tree when it hadn’t learned its lesson well.
That little girl from Cantaro Village, who started teaching after O’ Levels so she could help at home, then went on to earn her diploma at UWI and rise to principal before she retired.
Teaching was Mummy’s great passion. And she excelled at it. She was one of that rare breed who was dedicated to her students: their well-being and education always came first, as the many who passed through her over 20 years at what was then Diego Martin Girls’ RC School, and later at St Ann’s RC, can surely confirm. Like many of her golden generation of teachers, my dear ‘Mrs Fixwilliams’ (as I called her), and Ms Joseph… she didn’t just teach… she educated children, and she would not hesitate to put hand to pocket to buy copybooks and pencils for those whose parents couldn’t afford it, or cloth to make uniforms for the netball team or the school choir that she led for decades.
Diego Girls’ owes many a netball and Music Festival championship to her hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of dedicated coaching and choir practices, often assisted by Aunty Jean and Uncle Bryan.
She was a stickler for discipline and had perfected the cut-eye/raised eyebrow, elevating it to the level of an art form. One look would have you quaking in your boots, and you knew not to cross that line. But beneath that disciplinarian exterior was a heart of gold.
It was that heart of gold that led her, many a time, to come to the aid of anyone in her family in need even though we ourselves were far from wealthy, and literally take people under her wings.
I remember a few of my uncles staying with us at various moments. And if there weren’t family members living with us, our house was always a home where all were welcomed.
This was especially true for my cousin Vicky, whom she raised like her own, like my sister. People would comment how nice it was to see her and her “two daughters” as she took us everywhere, from Brownies and Girl Guides to First Communion and vacation camp, or karate and swimming lessons.
Voice of an angel
Mummy’s other great passion was singing. She had the voice of an angel… a sweet, clear soprano voice that plucked at your heartstrings and moved you to tears. I’m sure that’s what cinched it for a young and hopeful Bruce way back then, in their Rotaract days.
I will always remember the first time I saw her on stage at a La Petite Musicale concert in Queen’s Hall. We knew all the songs and all the harmonies; so much so that it was almost a no-brainer for her to start up a junior choir back in the early 1990s.
Many of the parishioners of St Anthony’s will remember her beautiful renditions of ‘O, Holy Night’ at Christmas in years past, so stirring that the congregation would burst into applause.
The first time I got to sing the alto part in that second verse with her, I can tell you, to me it felt like the highest honour anyone could ever have. And when she sang the ‘Ave Maria’ at my wedding, even though I’d heard her sing it hundreds of times, I was not ready for the waterworks… it’s a good thing my bestie, Nichola, whipped out some tissue for me.
I was proud to call Linda my mummy, though probably not half as proud as my Daddy to call her his wife. They had their share of ups and downs through almost 46 years of marriage —those of you who know Bruce, know he ain’t easy, and I can’t tell you how many of his friends I’ve heard refer to Mummy as a “saint” over the years— but the love they shared, you could see it in their eyes, you could hear it in their laughter, and you could feel it in how Daddy continued to care for Mummy.
She became, quite understandably, a little bit irritable, progressively weaker, less mobile and riddled with pain because of her illness; it became harder to recognise the Linda we all knew and loved.
It was a demanding and often thankless task being her caregiver, but you did it because of your enduring love, Daddy; you may not have been the saint in the relationship, but you were her knight, taking care of her, often on your own, as best you could, until her last breath. You certainly kept your wedding vows: in sickness and in health, ‘til death do us part’.
Her greatest love, however, was for her grandchildren. Every accomplishment, however big or small, was met with cheers and overflowing pride. And, as every grandmother does, she let them get away with things I never would have.
On our last visit, I was lucky to snap some pictures of her with her ‘grands’, and you could feel the love just emanating from those photos. I am certain that she knew how much they loved her; and I know that my children will hold on to the memories they have of their dearest “Granny”.
It was perhaps fitting that Mummy’s last moments on this Earth were filled with the sound of the choir of St Joseph’s Convent, our alma mater. I’d like to think that on Easter Sunday, those sweet voices lifted her up to Heaven, where she belongs, with the other angels.
Mummy, you are finally free of pain, in the arms of our Lord.
Rest in the perfect peace that you so richly deserve. I love you.