Mourners attending the funeral service Wednesday for the late Professor George Nicholson at the Coral Ridge Memorial Gardens, Christ Church witnessed a non-traditional send-off, with no cleric from any of the religious faiths on the island presiding and only one hymn, All Things Bright and Beautiful, being sung.
In another break with tradition, Louis Armstrong’s 1967 hit song What a Wonderful World was played, while the Scottish folk song, The Skye Boat Song, was sung by the congregation.
Several pieces of poetry, some written by the deceased, were read by his surviving daughters who broke down in tears during their presentations, while one of his favourite pieces, Scott Joplin’s The Entertainer was played at the conclusion of the two-hour service.
From as early as 1:30 p.m. several members of the medical profession and academics from the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies assembled in the chapel of the Coral Ridge Memorial Gardens to bid farewell to one of Barbados’ leading medical professionals who died last month, aged 79.
Among those attending today’s funeral service were Minister of Health John Boyce; Principal of the Cave Hill Campus Professor Eudine Barriteau; Chief Executive Officer of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Dr Dexter James; Sir Errol Walrond and his wife Lady Beverley Walrond, QC; Professor Sir Henry Fraser and Lady Carol Haynes.
In his eulogy, Professor Nicholson’s son, George Nicholson Jr, said his father devoted his life to serving the Caribbean through medicine, specifically in the field of nephrology. He said what the public did not see was the emotional impact this service had on his father.
He recalled that his dad had the unenviable task of dealing with the first HIV-related infant death in Barbados, adding that this was only confirmed after the child had died.
According to Nicholson, his father took losses such as these deeply and personally and they took their toll on him, so much so that none of his children was ever drawn to the medical profession.
Nicholson recalled that the process of dying crystalized the things that were important to the late doctor – love, family and peace.
He told the congregation that his father was content with his life, with his only regret being that he would not live to 80 years old, an age which no Nicholson male has reached.
In his tribute, Sir Errol Walrond recalled that the late professor was crucial in inspiring a number of his students to become nephrologists, and helped in the development of dialysis services across the region.
Sir Errol, who was one of Barbados’ leading surgeons, contended that Professor Nicholson’s legacy included leading a team of surgeons in the English-speaking Caribbean’s first-ever kidney transplant.
Meanwhile, in a brief tribute, Minister of Labour Senator Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo recalled the happy teenage days she spent at Professor Nicholson’s Sanford, St Philip home with his daughters.
“He was like a dad to me. I always looked up to him. He was glad when I decided to pursue a career in medicine. In fact, he was so excited about my decision that he called me just after the meeting had concluded at 11:30 p.m. to give me the good news that I was accepted in the medical school,” Dr Byer-Suckoo said.
Professor Nicholson was cremated last weekend.