The Day Jay Phipps Died

by Stredwick
The Day Jay Phipps Died
by
Austin Mitchell
I seem to remember that Uncle Jay was picking breadfruits to sell in the markets in Kingston. My brother and I helped him pick the breadfruits and pack them in crocus bags. He was one of  ten children not counting my grandmother. My grandmother was only a half sister of his. At the time he might have been pushing to be sixty years old. Three of his sisters had already died. He had one brother in England and another in St. Thomas. A sister was in Cuba while his two other brothers were living with their families nearby. Another brother had left the family home without a trace. Jay had cut a two acre spread off the family holding. He planted a variety of crops on his holding. However, he picked the breadfruits from off the family holding as no one was living there. Jay therefore left the Wednesday night for Kingston. By the Sunday when he returned we heard that he had contracted pneumonia. His elder brother took him to the doctor in Stony Hill. During the week we heard that Jay had picked up a relapse. That Saturday morning, I heard shouts that Jay was dying and we all rushed down to his house. It was the first time I had ever seen a man die. My grandmother, my mother and Jay's daughter were all screaming.
Jay's body was wrapped in a sheet and put on two lathes of board. Two men brought the body over to the family house. A woman called Miss May came to look after the body. It was agreed that Jay would be buried the next day, Sunday.
 People got busy, making his coffin and digging the grave. We also made a sort of tent with coconut leaves for people to sit under. The set-up was made that night. We had singing and eating of fritters and drinking cocoa and coffee tea. Of course the men drank white rum and other spirits.
Jay was buried in the family plot. A local pastor performed the funeral rites. It was strongly rumored that Jay's money was being kept for him by two persons in our district but nobody came forward. Many persons reasoned that Jay was a cane farmer plus he sold other produce off his property. He was not a big spender so he must have been saving his money. But to this day, nothing has been heard about Jay's money. His elder brother who footed his funeral bill took over his land. The End.
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