Bahama Tales - Sad and Scary Memories


Childhood memories are not always happy memories. I try not to think of the sad or scary ones very much, but they are still there, and it gives the story of my life a realistic touch.

Death was a part of the culture on Cat Island, just as everywhere in the world. Because of the lack of refrigeration or embalming, when someone died, they were buried that day. They were put in a pine box and paraded down to the local cemetery.

I remember singing this hymn at one funeral.

"Come to the Saviour, make no delay:
Here in his Word he's shown us the way;
Here in our midst he's standing today,
Tenderly saying, "Come!"

Joyful, joyful, will the meeting be,
When from sin our hearts are pure and free;
And we shall gather, Saviour, with thee,
In our eternal home."


(This isn't the Cat Island cemetery, but it is similar.)

The road that ran past the clinic to the beach had a cemetery on it. There was a wall around it. (My father had a riddle about that saying, "Why is there a wall around the cemetery? Because people are dying to get in there."...no, not such a funny joke.)Because of the coral under the sand, they could'nt dig very deeply. So they covered the casket with rocks to keep the dogs and other animals away from the body. (In Nassau and more "upscale" communities, they actually made concrete vaults. Some were quite decorative.)

I only attended a couple funerals, those of people in my uncle's church, but there was lots of superstitions and voodoo on Cat Island. The people left food in the cemetery for the dead spirits. Of course, it always got eaten,(by the animals) so they believed the spirits were pleased with the food.

This is a story told to me, so it's not an actual memory of mine, but it fits here. When the local witch doctor died, the people did not want to go near him. So, my aunt and uncle and cousin took care of his body. I guess it was a very disgusting job, as he had been sick for awhile before finally dying. He had also been dead for a few days before they got there. Anyway, when they carried the body to the cemetery, my cousin thought it would be cool to keep the witch doctor's cape. So he hid it in the back of the truck. On the way home, they had a blow-out with tire directly beneath the hidden cape. That scared my cousin into getting rid of witch doctor's cape.

While we were living at the clinic, the political feelings were changing in the Bahamas. Up until then, it was under British rule, but the PLP (Progressive Liberal Party) was revolting against the government and wanting to make the Bahamas independent. Of course, as a child, that's about all I knew about it. I didn't even know what PLP meant, except for the truckloads of young people going about making trouble and terrorizing people. At least, they terrorized me.

I began having dreams about the PLP truck chasing me. They seemed to find me wherever I hid. I dreamed about hiding under my bed, in the laundry hamper, under the couch, and other places... and they always found me.

We left the Bahamas that summer, in June of 1967. For years, I thought we left because of the PLP. It was good enough for me! My father said that wasn't the reason. He said his work there was done, besides other things. My cousin Susan and I cried and cried. We thought we'd never see each other again. (We did. In fact, God let us near each other most of our lives.)



We packed our belongings, leaving many things behind. We flew away and never returned.

I'm sure I'll remember more about my years in the Bahamas. Once you've been there, it's in your blood-haunting your mind-like Shangri-La. I yearned to return to the Bahamas for most of my childhood, but now I'd rather remember it the way it was. I've made other great memories in New York and Maine. Maybe I'll show my husband a tropical beach someday, but if not...that's okay. It was a good childhood.




1 comment:

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