By Shamar Blunt
Barbados’ newest centenarian Muriel Phyllisita Carmeta Alleyne celebrated her milestone on Monday with friends and family doting on the woman they all described as caring and God-fearing.
During a celebratory event at her St Michael home, the mother of four, grandmother of 14, and great-grandmother of 11 was quiet except for when she prayed passionately for her family and thanked them for showering her with appreciation.
One of her granddaughters, Khadija Smith said that during Alleyne’s long and eventful life, periods of which were difficult, the former vendor, cook and preacher remained resolute.
“First off, she is a God-fearing woman. In Barbados, she is a faithful member of the Little King’s Church in Butlers Avenue and was a devout member of the Brooklyn Tabernacle [in New York]. Growing up, I never got a chance to hear her preach but everyone said her sermons were fantastic. She prays over all of her family members, and when I travelled to the US, she would call me every morning to pray before I started my day. She would pray for family, friends, and even people she had just met,” she said.
Smith added that her grandmother instilled in her the importance of prayer and faith in God: “She taught me that whenever I felt scared or anxious, to just say the Lord’s prayer and plead the blood of Jesus. Trust and believe it worked each time.”
Her faith also contributed to her work ethic, according to Smith who said her grandmother strongly believed in discipline and that she had to do her best to provide the best life for her family.
“She worked extremely hard as a cook and a vendor to make sure her children were clean and never hungry. She is [also] a giving woman; as her children would often say, ‘she would give away the shirt on her back and maybe even theirs’. She often fed and helped many people in need,” Alleyne’s granddaughter recalled.
Despite her often strict nature in church and at home, Smith said her grandmother had a great sense of humour. She recalled comments Alleyne made that prompted laughter, such as “Gran gran ain’t no sweetbread, you know; the boys like me bad cause I used to dress up” and “like the boys, have friends, but lap your feet”.
Dave Alleyne, the centenarian’s only son, shared a story from his childhood of his mother taking him to dig potatoes at a plantation. Despite his initial apprehension, he learned an important life lesson from the task.
“She had a crocus bag [filled with potatoes] on her head, [another] two bags, and I was walking empty-handed behind. I took one of the bags, and this bag was so heavy that I trailed behind crying. Not crying because the bag is heavy but crying [because of] the hard work that she had to do to maintain us. I said in my mind from that day, she would never eat biscuits as long as I live and work, she would never go hungry, and I am going to build a house for her,” he said.
“When we got back home, she said ‘don’t mind what you do for people, you got to do for yourself and your family’. I then understood what she was doing,” Alleyne added.