Light raindrops that gently fell from overcast skies this morning mirrored the quiet tears shed by family, friends and colleagues today in a bittersweet celebration of life for beloved broadcaster, advertising and communication expert, Dr Veoma Alisha Ali.
It was not a mournful atmosphere at the Coral Ridge Memorial Gardens in Christ Church, but warm laughter and smiles punctuated the brief tribute as those gathered reflected on the vibrant 38-year-old Trinidadian native who began her love affair with Barbados nearly two decades ago.
Ali, died last Tuesday at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. For many of those who fondly took one last glimpse of the larger-than-life young woman dressed in red as she lay in a dark mahoghany casket, she was gone too soon.
Not only a well-known voice, first on Starcom Network and then on Capital Media HD 99.3, hosting a range of programmes and presenting the news. Ali spoke several languages, including French and Spanish, and played a range of instruments including the guitar and the saxophone.
The former columnist for the Weekend Nation and Barbados TODAY, was also the Executive Director of the American Chamber of Commerce for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.
Above all, she was both philanthropist and prankster.
Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Capital Media HD Vic Fernandes amused the gathering which included Minister of Information, Broadcasting and Public Affairs Senator Lucille Moe, Minister of Energy and Water Resources Wilfred Abrahams, business leaders and media professionals with tales of a fun-loving Ali, whom he described as dear friend and the consummate media professional.
He recalled sitting on toothpaste plastered in his chair by the prankster employee and then making a surprise discovery in his bag.
“I was leaving after a long, long day of work at Starcom. I picked up my bag on the way out and, I noticed it was really heavy and I thought maybe I was just feeling weak. So I lumbered on to the car, and when I got home I needed to go into my bag and when I opened it every piece of portable equipment from the office… the paper weights, the stapling machine, even the AC remote. These things were piled into my bag and I knew instantly there was only one person who could have done such none other than Veoma Ali. “
Fernandes was even more touched by a selfless Ali who often cooked meals on Sunday and fed the homeless in Bridgetown.
Her father, Omar Ali, who could hardly hide his sorrow, shared the story of Veoma the daughter.
He recalled her persistence and determination to complete any task she had, her sacrifice for others, but most of all the love and care she was always ready to bestow on anyone.
He said: “She loved people and since she was a child she always cared especially, especially for the disadvantaged.
“She was just about 13/14 in high school when her mother noticed that every day some item of food was missing from the pantry and it was mainly canned food and eventually…she confessed that she was taking this food every day for another child in the high school who was too poor to even have a meal.
“And here in Barbados that continued. From her own pocket, she rented a house on the South Coast and she would have disadvantaged children come there and she would teach them, no charge. That was the type of person Veoma was. She always cared.”
A video tribute showing a photo collage of experiences with family and friends bore testimony to the young woman who was loved by those she lived, played and worked with.
No one brother loved his sister like Riaz Ali loved Veoma, he told the Coral Ridge gathering.
An emotional Riaz told the gathering that he remembered how a young Veoma threw a stone from a collection he owned, resulting in a head injury that caused him severe pain.
“The pain does not compare to the pain I feel today,” he told the hushed gathering.
The siblings tormented each other with teasing and pranks, but the bond was undeniable.
He said: “Sometimes, she would send a picture to me on Whatsapp, she would just take a picture in the car in the morning and I would say, ‘why you send me this picture for? And she would say, I just thought you needed to see my face, and I would reply I don’t want to see your ugly face.”
He marvelled at the brevity of Veoma’s life, pointing out that she had achieved far more than most people accomplished in a lifetime.
“She was skilled; she spoke a few languages, very fluent in Spanish and French; she was very musical. She could listen to a piece of music about two or three times and then she would pick up the guitar, the saxophone and she could replicate that music without reading the sheet music; that’s not something many people could do.”
He encouraged everyone present to keep her memory alive by living how she lived.
Said Riaz Ali: “We come into this world knowing that we have to leave at some point. Well, if there is one way we could stay, that way is to make such a big impact on the people around us. If we try to be as kind as she was to other people, do charity work, care for animals… that is how she can live on through all of us.”
Cousin Atash Mohansingh who grew up with the ever-mischievious, daring Choochie, agreed she was larger than life and destined for a better place.
A moving tribute, penned by Veoma Ali to her friend and boss Fernandes to offer him comfort when his mother passed away last year, was then offered to the audience in memory of the talented professional and beloved friend and colleague:
“I knew a little lady, stature belied her strength.
Whose benevolence traverse the planet
Across height and breath and length
I knew a little lady whose laughter was bigger than she
Whose humour could thaw the frozen for she filled the world with glee
This little lady had a heart of diamonds, stringing them unselfishly wherever she went
With a soul of beauty and a spirit of kindness
This little lady’s life was very well spent
Now this little lady is in the hearts of those she left behind ….
In a realm where love never ages with
Veoma Ali’s body is to be cremated tomorrow. At her family’s behest, her ashes are to remain in her beloved Barbados.