Centenarian Una Elise Callender still showers and dresses herself, and makes up her own bed –– if she is in the mood.
But she does not have to be in the mood to preach, recite Scripture readings and sing songs of praise in the comfort of her Lead Vale, Christ Church home.
She is always testifying to how much her God loves her, and how He helped her along life’s journey, giving her the strength and willpower to work long and late hours in the fields, planting and reaping crops, to financially support and feed her ten children, as a single mother.
And this morning she was in the spotlight when Governor General Sir Elliott Belgrave visited her as she celebrated her milestone with family and friends who filled the house to capacity.
In good spirits, Callender lifted her hands and looked to the sky as she sang songs of praise and recited poems that showed how grateful she was to see this day.
At one point, dressed in a long white dress, accessorized with a stylish hat, the centenarian, who enjoys relatively good health but has a hearing problem, was showing the versatility of her body as she danced and pranced in her chair.
Collin Callender, one of her eldest children, said that his mother, a Seventh-Day Adventist of 83 years, was “a very spiritual lady” who worked “like a man” to raise her children, all of whom are alive.
“She worked very hard, even though our father was alive and then he died and that made it even harder for her. With a fork she worked the land and planted food.
“She is as good as she possibly can be, due to her age because honestly, we never thought that she would have lived this long due to how hard she worked. But there is an old saying that . . . hardwork don’t kill nobody,” he said.
The son recalled that his mother who was very strict and popular for her stance of not sparing the rod and spoiling him and his siblings, “made sure that we went to school and church”, even if it meant that she had many sleepless nights.
The boys had one pair of pants and one shirt each, and the girls had one dress, and she would have them ready every week. Some evenings she would come home if the [school] clothes were dirty and wash them and hang them out.
“When I wake at sometimes one and two o’clock in the morning, she would be there ironing those clothes so that we can go to school the next day. She is one of the greatest mothers that there ever has been, and will be,” he said.
He added: “She didn’t let us play around as children. We couldn’t get into bad company, and sometimes we got flogged for things we didn’t do. Sometimes other children would interfere with us and if we got into a fight and she heard about it, she didn’t want to hear that that person troubled you. It would be a flogging for us and for that reason we had to avoid others.”
Callender has 30 grandchildren, 40 great-grands and seven great-great-grands.
Sonia Gaskin, one of the grandchildren she raised, said she would always remember her grandmother for the words of encouragement and sound advice she offered her.
“I would always remember coming home from St Patrick’s School and being teased because I was skinny and not the typical attractive young Bajan girl and she would always tell me to hold my head up high and be proud of who I am. I have always carried that with me [and] as you can see today, I am proud of who I am – because she instilled that in me,” said Gaskin.
The island’s fifth centenarian in three weeks will be going to church on Saturday where a special service has been scheduled to be held in her honour.
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