Writing a eulogy for my mother, Elinor Wilson Hyde nee Belisle, is a tall task. A tall task indeed. This is the opinion of my father, a man who has written some outstanding eulogies in his time and who knew my mother longer than any of us and as well as it is possible to know someone you have been married to for almost 75 years. They met when she was sixteen years old and he courted her for five years before they became man and wife. Taking this into account, they were an item for going on 80 years. He said that she was the strongest person he knew. Most of the people who knew her say the same thing. She was not loud or flamboyant but had an inner steel that enabled her to be fearless and unflustered no matter where she was. We feel it is likely that she inherited her temperament from her father, Wilfred Belisle, known and highly esteemed in our family as Papa Bill. Her older children knew him, the younger ones saw and learned of him through her eyes and this made a deep impression on all of us. She inherited Papa Bill’s quietness, his intelligence and his strength. Like him, Mommy had an uncanny knack for coming up with the perfect response in difficult or tricky situations, calmly articulating the most pointed and appropriate phrase or sentence no matter who she was facing or how severe the provocation being offered to her. She was a superstar of wit, but she used it only when the occasion demanded it. Gratuitous insults were beneath her. Her innate goodness and kindness forbade such behavior. I remember once many years ago when our family was going to Spanish Caye and we were waiting at the wharf for Grampa Jim to come. We waited long and he finally arrived about 90 minutes late with an extensive explanation for his tardiness. Mom said in her inimitable way “Dat da wan a denh truth weh soun laik lie”
There was clarity in our mother. In her mind, clear lines were drawn between what was right and what was wrong and she was determined to come down on the side of what was right at all times. The truth was important to her. She considered lies so reprehensible that we couldn’t even utter the word growing up. She experienced difficulties in her youth that could have broken or embittered her. However, she told me that when she was about 9 years old and living in Sittee River, she heard a sermon delivered by a Methodist teacher and in her words, light came into her life. She surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ and never turned back from that commitment for the rest of her life. She cannot be understood without taking into account the role her faith played. It was the foundation and framework for the choices she made and the life she lived.
We, her children, can attest to the fact that she believed sparing the rod meant spoiling the child! Consequently, none of us were spoiled? Since Dad had decided early on to leave the hands-on disciplining to her, we couldn’t play one off against the other. This iron discipline came in a package of abundant and unswerving generosity, love and commitment to her immediate and extended family and friends. She opened her arms wide to include our cousins and our friends when we were growing up and this brought such joy in our lives particularly in the heavenly days and weeks we used to spend at Spanish Caye. There is a glorious haze or aura around those times in our minds and hearts and we know that it is mostly because of her. How can we ever thank her enough for all that she did. Our brother, Michael, her third oldest son, used to affectionately call her his River Woman because she was so strong and worked so hard to hold up her end in good times and in bad. What a stalwart she was. We had some testy times because our family has some strong willed people in it. She and I didn’t always see eye to eye, but when we were in any trouble it gave us such peace and confidence to have her by our side because she was like a lioness in battle: regal, steady and sure.
In reality, we can only scratch the surface of why we all so greatly respected and loved Mommy. She was a truly GOOD woman, a GREAT woman, an icon of excellence in practically everything she did. She set the standard for us in hard work and giving of herself. Her work ethic is the stuff of legend. She used a machete to clear away the grass and weeds, and wherever we went she planted flowers. She took up hammer, saw and nails with alacrity even as she handled her sewing machine and the myriad other things she did to make our home enjoyable and welcoming. She did not easily take to bed in sickness but overcame in many situations through her iron will and determination to do what she considered her duty to be. I can still remember her battling roasting fever, her head tied up with “skagineel”, but standing up steadfastly in her kitchen to prepare food for her family. Practically everything she cooked or baked was mouthwatering. I can recall dropping by the family home when she was still on her feet and thinking as I ate her savory food that this is the best there is and that it will live forever in my memory. I remember her ginger beer, her way with a baked sized snapper or a freshly corned barracuda, her bread pudding and lemon pies of which I can safely say that I have never tasted better.
This is only a brief sketch which cannot come close to doing the woman that was Elinor Wilson Hyde justice. I had a ring side seat and I can tell you she ran the race of life well, and finished the course without wavering. In my heart of hearts I know that a great reward awaited her in heaven. I do believe she has heard the words “Well done, good and faithful servant”. Farewell Mommy, you will not return to us but I fervently pray that we will all go to the place where you are and in the words of the song by Mahalia Jackson, enjoy an eternity of it being “always hellos and never goodbyes”.