FEBRUARY 3, 2016 | BY KNEWS | FILED UNDER FEATURES / COLUMNISTS, FREDDIE KISSOON
People have to go. That is what life is made of. We all have to leave this life. Very old age brings
heartbreaking problems. My parents died at sixty; they did not suffer for any prolonged period. My dad took ill and died a few days later. My mom was heavily-built. She slipped down the steps of a neighbour’s home and her insteps were torn from her feet and left dangling. Her heart gave way about half an hour after and she died in her sleep.
My mother-in-law lived until 88 and was in bad health. She had to go to the bath literally every five minutes because her bladder was gone. Her lungs were gone too. Amnesia was creeping in.
When people reach that stage in life, you know it is the beginning of the end. We all get old and our end beckons. One has to accept that inevitability. It is important that when we reach that state of our nearness to death, we can look back and say life was worth it.
I took my dog to the vet on Tuesday morning. One of my favourite persons, Catholic nun and university professor (retired) Sister Mary Noel Menezes lives right next door in Prashad Nagar, in an orphanage she single-handedly built. While talking to the vet, he mentioned that Sister suffered multiple strokes and is confined to bed. I went over. The news was not good. I would like to leave it at that.
Sister Mary Noel will always remain one of my favourite persons in this life. I met some good people in Guyana and other countries that had a profound effect on me; Sister Marty Noel Menezes is one of them. I first met her in 1974 as a history freshman. Her class was the “philosophy of history.” I was already madly hooked on philosophy before I went into UG and Sister’s class increased my immersion. She took a liking to me and despite my loudness, left-wing radicalism and philosophical existentialist mind, as a Catholic nun, she never let my opposing philosophy deter her in her quest to help me.
From 1974 until the time of writing, I had a very strong bond with this lady. Her teachings and character traits effectively molded me into who I subsequently became. It was under her strong influence, I accepted that people must be treated fairly without regards to their views or philosophy. Sister taught me that people were entitled to justice, irrespective of how you feel about them.
She knew that I was not even distantly religious; she knew my views of God and she knew I was essentially left-wing. But none of that mattered to her. She told me that she saw in me the potential of a fine historian and she wanted me to realize that potential.
At the end of my first degree at UG, I was denied the President’s Medal in favour of Norman McLean. She knew it was wrong because my grade point average was higher than McLean’s, and she defied the Academic Board. If there was anybody else that had addressed that body and argued on my behalf, I would have lost the medal as the best graduating student.
She simply got up and said whether the people at the table hate or despise Freddie Kissoon, a person must be given their due. Not one person defied her. That was the beginning of my flight from poverty. As the best graduating student, I competed for a McMaster University scholarship, won it and never looked back. I owe that flight to a decent life to Sister Mary Noel Menezes.
When my daughter was born in 1989, my baby girl was the recipient of over-flowing generosity from Sister. My daughter is fully conscious that this Catholic nun is one of the persons I admire most in Guyana, and in life. I have profoundly strong memories of the time I spent with this wonderful human being for whom I have ethereal respect.
When I was about to leave for Canada for postgraduate studies, she gave me a parting gift. It is a tiny volume titled, “Great Thoughts of Freedom.” The selection was compiled by Hilda Noel Schroetter. On the first page of that book, she wrote the following words, “To Freddie, may the spirit of freedom continue to motivate you in all you do; with every best wish for all success.”
I would like to leave readers with one of my favourite choices from that book taken from one of my revered philosophers. It is reproduced from “Thus Spake Zarathustra” by Friedrich Nietzsche. “Distrust all in whom the impulse to punish is powerful.”