By Anesta Henry
Veteran Calypsonian Smokey Burke got an early Christmas present today.
Burke, who fell ill ahead of this year’s Pic-O-De-Crop finals and had to withdraw, was pleasantly surprised when a large group from the local entertainment fraternity visited his Dalkeith Road home.
As the entertainers, led by Ishaka McNeil, who along with Terry “Mexican” Arthur from the Love Day Project organized the event, entered Burke’s home singing “We wish you a merry Christmas”, a shocked, but delightful expression appeared on his face.
And though his living room was packed to capacity, Burke repeated that he was told by McNeil that only a few people would be coming to spend some time with him. He said he was grateful to all who showed up to make this Christmas one that would forever be etched in his memory.
Tears even came to his eyes at one point when he spoke about how good it was to see his entertainment friends, and even those in the crowd who he did not know.
He said he had been tricked, but was surely moved.
“You all made my Christmas and I want to thank you very much for going through all this trouble to come out this morning. Wunna make me cry man. My two nurses tricked me. The night nurse tell me that she waiting for somebody to pick she up, at 9 o’clock this morning, and what time it is now? She dress me up pretty and tell me ‘today I want you to look nice for a change’. So I would like you all to have a very merry Christmas because you have made mine,” Burke said.
“This will be with me for a long time, because this really surprised me. It was a total surprise. Even when Ishaka called this morning and said that he was going to pass with two other fellas, I thought I heard two other people. I didn’t know my apartment could hold so many people. So, when I get better I gine hold a party,” an emotional Burke said.
Not only did he participate in the brief sing-along session, but the Calypsonian who is known for delivering lyrically enriched thought-provoking Calypso hits, was his usual witty self as he shared jokes with the large gathering.
After his visitors left, Burke told members of the media that because he is unable to walk, he cannot go outside, or do things that he would love to do.
“I can’t get out because of the stairs, if I had two strong men to just come twice a week and help me down the stairs, I would go outside and move around in the sun which would make a big difference. But, I am thankful because I am still above ground.”
Sitting in his wheelchair, Burke said his path to recovery is going to be a long one, but noted that he believes in miracles.
“I contracted something called sepsis, which is what almost took me. But due to the vigilance of one of my sisters, my life was saved. And whilst recovering from sepsis, I suffered with a stroke which impacted my left side; the leg, the arm and the vision a bit. The vision is still recovering, the leg is coming along good, but the arm is going to be a long process,” he said.
“I don’t know much about it. I don’t know how and where and when and how I contracted it, I just woke up in the hospital not knowing where I was. About 10 days I had not a clue I was in the hospital. Once they moved me from hospital then I realized where I was, and like I said, just before they moved me I had the stroke,” Burke continued as he gave a brief insight into his health challenges.
Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening condition caused by the body’s response to an infection.
When asked if he had to make changes to his diet, Burke responded that he did not change anything, and that he still eats pork, pointing out that he was missing his Saturday pudding and souse.
Burke said that while he is not able to get out and about, he spends much of his time, at night, and throughout the day, tuned into various local and international radio stations.
“I want to thank all the people who offered their prayers for me, those who I don’t even know. Obviously the prayers are working,” he said.
McNeil, who said that Burke has always been a good friend to him, stressed that it was a pleasure to assist in organizing the occasion.
“He still has his wit as he always does. He is one person that I have always had a lot of respect for. Smokey, I decided to bring the Love Day family to you to show some love because you have always been a friend to me. You have always showed me that respect and that love,” McNeil said. (AH)