The following is the second and final part of a reflection on the life and legacy of Sir Elliott Fitzroy Belgrave on the occasion of his retirement as Governor-General of Barbados.
Sir Elliott was the product of the era in which he lived and the institutions such as the family, the church and the school that bequeathed to him a lasting heritage that propelled him to the high office he occupied until last Friday.
It was both the strength and the quality of his character that empowered him to discover his talents, to enter the legal profession, to become a distinguished High Court Judge and ultimately to become this nation’s seventh Governor General.
His resume is not simply a compilation of his qualifications, experience and the various positions which he held but the manifestation of the stewardship of his talents which he used for the betterment and enrichment of the larger society.
In essence, his entire life was lived with a sense of purpose and meaning.
More than a century ago, the noted and influential painter, poet and playwright Pablo Picasso said that the meaning of life is to find your gift and the purpose of life is to give it away. He urged and exhorted us that we should discover our talents and share and use them for the betterment of others.
The meaning of His Excellency’s life has been displayed in an impeccable and distinguished life of service to the church, society and public service. It is to his credit that he has not allowed his accession to this high office to diminish one unique trait of his personality and this is his authenticity. He has not allowed power, status and position to deface or desecrate his self-image of sincerity. Nowhere is this most evident and powerfully manifested than in two particular and signature acts of his tenure -the visits to centenarians and his visits to many of the schools across the nation. We have heard it said several times that a picture is worth a thousand words.
The pictures of the visits to centenarians portray more of a pastoral than a ceremonial tone. They reflect an atmosphere of a family celebration lending credence to the fact that he has not lost touch with the people. His interaction is conspicuously genuine.
No one should underestimate the profound and powerful significance of the school visits where children’s worth and importance are validated and affirmed nor should we lose sight of the symbolic message which those visits conveyed to these children that irrespective of their social or economic background that with character, pride and industry, their highest dreams and aspirations can be realized.
The noted psychologist, Erik H. Erikson, claimed that as we reach our senior years, they can bring us to either of two emotional places and experiences which he called integrity or despair. An individual experiences a state of integrity when his or her life has a feeling of acceptance and satisfaction – acceptance of its triumphs and disappointments.
There are no loose ends, no unfinished business. That having done all, you can stand without a sense of guilt or a feeling of failure. On the other hand, an individual can reach a sense of despair when there is a feeling of incompleteness and vacuity.
Sir Elliott’s life, contribution and career unequivocally demonstrate that he has reached that stage and state of integrity – standing proudly on a character built on the pillars of pride and industry.
We are exhorted in Holy Scripture that we are to be the light of the world, that we should let our light shine so that others may not walk in darkness. Sir Elliott’s life has been a beacon of hope for all Barbadians. Because of the brightness and fullness of that light, it shall never be extinguished.
The occasion of Sir Elliott’s retirement provides us with the opportunity to honour him and to express our sincere gratitude for a distinguished career and outstanding service to this nation and its people.
(The Rev’d Dr Henderson Brome is an Anglican Priest, former Honorary Consul for Barbados in Boston and Professor of Developmental Psychology)