“I don’t believe in dem ting deh you know.” Whispered Sophie’s cousin, Kyle as their grandaunt told yet another story about duppies . “Duppy, a wha kin a sinting dat? Auntie, why you insist fi pack up the pikny dem head wid dat foolishness. Mind dem no wan go a Xaymaca to visit dem family dem!” said Sophie’s mother Angie.
“Not everything in this world is just black and white. Just cut and dry suh. There are gray areas too. They need to be exposed to all parts of our culture, not just the Reggae and Dancehall. Angie, you need to stop acting so stoosh . Since you move a foreign, you act like seh you no memba yuh people dem. Ya act like you no know wha a gwan. How quickly we forget.” said her Aunt.
Angie rolled her eyes and sucked her teeth. “Yes.” said Auntie. “That’s all you know how fi do!” Sophie and Kyle laughed out loud and caught a dirty look from Angie for their outburst.
“Understand children, my intention is not to scare you, but to enlighten you on the ways of the world. Where there is good there is evil. Duppy is just another name for ghost. But you should also know that not all ghosts are out to cause trouble. Though their spirits have already ascended, they may feel compelled to return. To finish a task or to help mortals who are in need of ‘special’ help. Sometimes even the skeptical are forced to see the truth.”
As an American girl born of Jamaican parents, I was exposed to many parts of their culture. Food, clothing, music, you name it. But none as fascinating as the stories I would hear from my grandparents. You say, “Well most grandparents usually tell their grandchildren grandiose stories.” That is true, but I always thought my stories were the best.
They were so full of color and imagination. Stories of talking animals like tigers and a mischievous spider called Anansi . Or bright, colorful and interesting fruits like ackee, soursop, mangos, breadfruit and pineapples. And when I was old enough to understand, they told me about the Maroons , the Blue Mountains and Marcus Garvey so I would know and understand my heritage.
But what I found most interesting was the stories about the ghosts. The term used was duppy. With every story, my mind was inflamed with curiosity and I wanted to know more. Not only did I hear these stories from them, but from other family members as well. It is said that with every lie, there is some grain of truth. Was it possible that these ‘beings’ actually existed? I had to find out for myself.
The older I got, the more research I did on the paranormal. It was as if I was being called to something or someone. But I knew that the only way to gain the truth was to go to the source. I would need to go a yard; to go to Xaymaca. As a student of higher education, I studied all things mystical, spiritual and omnipotent. I studied Gods, mediums, other religions and their beliefs in the unknown. I was hoping that all that knowledge would give me the answers I sought. It was my intention to put everything in its place. To prove that the whole ‘duppy’ theory was just a farce, just a bunch of stories that were passed on from generation to generation. You know if you are not careful, too much education kyan mek you stupid!
One night like many, I fell into a restless sleep. I had too much information in my head and I couldn’t turn it off. I started having weird episodes. As soon as I closed my eyes, I would experience the sensation of falling. I’d jump up feeling as if I was no longer apart of my own body. I could see myself still asleep in my bed. Subconsciously, I knew that I was dreaming.
In my dream there was a silhouette of a young woman standing by my window. She never showed her face to me. She introduced herself as Isoke . I did not feel threatened by her but I never got too close to her. I don’t believe I was ready to accept her existence but something in my heart told me that we were connected some how. Every night she asked me, “What holds you here? Time draws near.” Then she would disappear. This went on for six months.
In 1977 after months of anticipation, the weird dreams and preparation, I finally made it to Xaymaca. When the plane started its final descent, I tried my best to control the butterflies that were with me since I left the states.
My cousin Mikey who I’ve been communicating with for years, met me at the airport terminal. He was dressed like your typical West Indian man of that time. He sported pants that were slim fitting, a shirt equally so, and your basic laced up shoes. He had a handsome straw hat that cotched off to the side of his head. Him did look ‘well cris.’ He was a handsome man, and I could understand why mi auntie dem kept telling me that “all di likkle gal dem a check fe him!”
“Kiss mi neck! Cousin Joyce!? Is you dat?” yelled Mikey. We both laughed out loud and embraced one another. “Welcome to the land of wood and water!” exclaimed Mikey. “It is good to finally meet you in person cousin.” I responded. He took my luggage and led me to his car, a 1972 Toyota Corolla. Looking at it, I had to thank god I wasn’t a very tall person. My cousin just barely fit behind the wheel. I struggled not to laugh at his apparent discomfort. Just looking at him made me sweat, for it was 12:00 in the afternoon and already in the high eighties.
“I didn’t tink yu would eva reach, cousin. Yu finish school?” asked Mikey as he battled against the traffic and the bumpy roads. We were on our way out of the city of Montego Bay and heading for the mountains, the Blue Mountains to be exact. As I looked at them, I felt my heart speed up. That is where I would find my answers.
As we sped past a number of wildly beeping cars, Mikey pushed in a cassette and the thumping rhythms of Jimmy Cliff’s The Harder They Come were blasting through the speakers. The music kept my mind off of the fact that we were driving dangerously close to the edge of a cliff. And as narrow as those roads were, Mikey and the madly beeping cars still managed to squeeze passed one another. Mi nearly dead! Jah knows how many times I squeezed my eyes shut.
“Yes I am finally free to do as I wish.” I answered. “Does that include you studying duppies? Mikey asked and kissed his teeth. “Cho! Wha di blouse and skirt mek you haffi deal in dem ting deh? A mad, you mad! Most people try dem best to steer clear of dem sinting deh. And you wan dig inna di past. Why you cyaah just leave well enough alone?” asked Mikey.
“I just need to know. Many people seem to connect duppies with evil and obeah . But what about the ghosts, who when they walked the earth as humans, did great and courageous things. Like Grandy Nanny , the chieftainess of the Windward Maroons. Did you know that in the 1700’s she was considered an outstanding military leader who became, a symbol of unity and strength for her people during times of crisis?” “Uh, I’m well aware of that Joyce. I did grow up here yuh know.” said Mikey sarcastically. “Sorry cousin, it was not my intention to insult your intelligence, but to express my reasons for wanting to do this. As a matter of fact, she is the main reason why I am here. It is said that at time of upheaval, you can see her spirit moving through Moore Town at night.” “A suh mi hear,” said Mikey “but I don’t know how true that really is. You know as well as I do, that there are many stories of duppies walking this land. I know that they may exist, but I have yet to see one. I am not in a hurry to do so.”
I laughed out loud. “I understand Mikey. I too have some apprehension about digging into this, but my curiosity is stronger.”
The closer we got to our destination, the cooler the temperature became. We were well above sea level. Mikey was taking me to my aunts home in Portland the same area that Nanny Town was suppose to be located. I did not believe that I would stumble upon the location of Nanny Town, but I did believe that my presence here would somehow give me the answers I so diligently pursued.
We pulled up in front of a beautifully kept old home which shared its property with a church that the locals frequented every Sunday and a smaller home that was used by family when they visited. The old home was painted a pristine white as were the shutters at the windows. Even in the falling darkness, I could tell that the windows were sparkling clean. There was a small veranda that didn’t look like it had ever seen a speck of dirt. There was also a rocking chair that was hand made and small wooden bench that did not give cause for long visits.
My aunt was dear friends with the pastor and his wife and rented the home on their property. There was also a huge well that supplied water to the two homes and the church. The water was lukewarm during the day as it was warmed by the sun, but in the evenings it was practically ice cold due to its mountain origins.
When I got out of the car and looked up, the stars were so bright I felt like I could reach up and pluck one out of the sky. I felt oneness with God that I hadn’t felt in a while and it once again made me appreciate his majesty and wonder.
My aunt was already at the door when I walked up the veranda. “Humph, why it tek you so long to come and see me? Yu is a big young woman now.” We embraced one another tightly. “I am happy to see you too auntie, yu lookin’ well.” I responded with a grin.
As we headed inside, she asked about the family and so on and then she launched into it, my aunt rarely wasted time on anything. “I get a dream for you last night you know. A woman who has not dreamt me in a long time came to me. She spoke to me as if the message she conveyed was meant for me, but I knew better. I could not see her face but I knew who it was. She said to me, “Since when you tun so fool! Why are you interfering wid that woman business? She long dead and caan do nothing for you! There are things that do not concern you.”
My legs were suddenly weak, and all I could do was drop down on the couch in the living room. Mikey just shook his head, crossed his arms and leaned back on the door frame. “It’s a long time since mi get a dream just cut and dry suh. What are you getting yourself into gal? Not everyone needs to know every secret in the world. They are meant to be just that, secrets. Sometimes when one sees and knows too much, their life can never be the same. Is that was you want?”
If you haven’t already figured it out, my aunt was very a spiritual woman and she was a dreamer. Messages in dreams are not always so clear, but obviously the entity wanted to get its message across as quickly as possible. I started to re-evaluate my reasons for doing this. But my stubbornness just wouldn’t allow me to let this go. Not to mention the flashbacks I had of those nightly visits from Isoke. But I didn’t mention that.
“Auntie, I will not take that warning lightly, but I am close to ending my journey and finding the answers I’ve been seeking. I have not studied most of my life just to be turned back by a premonition.”
“Well,” my aunt said, “you will need some clarity and guidance. In the morning, I will tek you to see a reader woman, she will tell yu wha fi do. Meanwhile, come eat and get likkle rest. Yu have a long day ahead a yu.”
Isoke showed me her face that night. It was dark and as smooth as silk. She smiled at me with teeth that saw a lot of sugar cane. But her eyes, they were clear but full of sadness. She said, “Finally you are here. Do not waste too much time, for it is limited. The reader woman will tell you what direction to take. Be mindful, your aunt is right about one thing. You are treading upon the unknown.”
When I jumped up it was morning and my aunt was standing at my door. “Who were you speaking to in your sleep? I could hear you mumbling but I couldn’t make it out.” For the life of me, I couldn’t remember what Isoke said. I could only remember her smile. Yet I could still feel her presence. My aunt walked out of the room and came back with a bottled mixture that smelled like calanga water and some other things I could not put my finger on. She shook it around the room and on me. She rubbed the liquid on her arms and neck, and gave me a hard look. “It feels like someone came back with you from your dreams. Get ready, we soon leave. You need breakfast, we have a long walk ahead of us.”
Mikey was waiting in front of the house when I came out. “I decided to keep you two company this ya monin’. Mi did waan check di madda woman too.” He said laughingly. It was 8 am when we left and 10 am when we reach. My feet were killing me and I couldn’t wait to sit down. My citified feet weren’t used to the long walking.
The house that we approached was also old but petite and well kept. It was made from the wood of the Blue Mahoe trees that surrounded it. From a distance, it looked like the trees were guarding her home like sentinels. There was a silky breeze that seemed to only circulate around her home and a feeling of calm that came with it. The aches that I felt disappeared. Upon our approach, orange and red blossoms began to fall as if the trees were welcoming us.
As we stood outside, my aunt knocked on the door and was told to enter. A few minutes later, my aunt ushered me in and waited outside with Mikey. I braced myself as I did not know what to expect. I heard a voice from the back of the house asking me to have a seat. I took a quick look around. The reader, who my aunt told me was called Ms. Ceeta, lived in a simple home. Though she had some of the trappings that you would find in most homes in that area (kerosene lamp, wooden table, a small AM/FM Radio) you could feel a positive energy in the air. I felt that if I entered with a heavy burden, I would not be leaving with it. Her windows though small were bright and clean, and invited in the sunlight. The curtains were made from a blue and white gingham material which flapped from the light breeze. Her entry into the room was silent and I was startled and embarrassed from being caught unawares. Her attire consisted of a linen cloth that was carefully wrapped around her head and a simple country dress. It was white and spotless from many a washing.
She walked around me and started humming a song that I did not recognize and then said the Lord’s Prayer. Her voice was a little scratchy but strong. Her voice would have given you courage, if you thought you needed some. And I did.
“I see that Isoke has come to look fi you.” I was truly frightened when she made that statement. Thank goodness I was sitting down. “Don’t look so shocked mi dear, you did already prepare yourself fi hear something. You just didn’t know a wha.” She laughed. “I’m sure you have already figured out that it is not a coincidence that you are here. Isoke has been waiting for you for a long time. You and she is family. She has called upon you because of your inner strength and your unique understanding of the spiritual realm. She needs you to help her finally rest in peace.
She wanted to speak with you directly but she has only been able to do so through your dreams. If you are open to it, she would like to speak with you now, through me.” I eyes grew huge and I had to try my best to choke back a nervous giggle. “Okay so let me get this straight, she wants to use you as a sort of medium to communicate with me? Why wasn’t she able to do this in my dreams?” I asked. “She is only given a small window of time to visit this realm each night. There are rules that she can not break. There is a lot she wants to say, and this is the best time to do it. You see today is the summer solstice and a time of transition. The beginning of summer represents a time of purification, renewal of the self, a time to release the sadness, fears and pains from your life. It’s also a time for cleansing and renewing energy. If things are to be corrected, if changes are to be made, it has to occur now. As today is the longest day of the year, this is the only time she can freely move about with out repercussions.”
Ms. Ceeta then exhaled impatiently, “Joyce you need to make a decision. Even though this is a long day, it is not an endless one. If Isoke doesn’t finish what she came here to do this day, she will not be able to return or rest. She will walk this realm until the end of time.”
I shook my head in compliance, and waited. Ms. Ceeta sat down in a high backed chair across from me and began to take in deep breaths. She closed her eyes and started to chant; something about guidance and protection from unwelcome visitors. I wasn’t trying too hard to listen as I was trying to come to grips with what I was about to see.
Suddenly, there was an obvious drop in room temperature. The windows began to sweat as if the heat from outside and the cold within were battling one another. Looking at Ms Ceeta, she didn’t look any different. But then she opened her eyes. She no longer had the eyes of an older woman, but the eyes of the woman I saw in my dreams. But this time they were full of purpose. The wrinkles on Ms. Ceeta’s face began to smooth out giving her the look of a younger woman. She smiled at me and began to speak. She no longer spoke in patois but in an accent indigenous to the shores of West Africa. Automatically, I knew I was no longer in the presence of Ms. Ceeta but of Isoke.
“Anya m ji fu gi egbulam, Nice to see you again, Joyce.” She said as she took my hand. It never occurred to me that I should not understand her language, as I answered her without hesitation. “Same here, Isoke.” Looking down, I saw the wrinkles smooth out from her hands as well. It was like being in the presence of a changeling. I felt no fear, but I felt the unmistakable link between us. “I feel like I have known you all my life.” I said. “I am your ancestor; you are my great-granddaugther many times removed. But most importantly, you are descended from Maroons.” Pleased but confused, I asked. “I am happy to finally know you, but I do not understand what you want of me.”
She leaned back in the chair and crossed her legs at the ankles. “Two-hundred and fifty years ago a powerful woman by the name of Grandy Nanny taught the Maroons how to fight and protect their freedom from English invaders. When the English invaded our shores and defeated the Spanish (who were first to arrived here), we were emancipated by the Spanish so we would not become English property. In addition, many slaves escaped during this exchange of power. Though Grandy Nanny was not a slave, she helped the Maroons in their ongoing struggle for independence and never ending battle for supremacy. The English wanted nothing more than to see us dead.
Our settlement was well hidden and it made it impossible for the English to retaliate against us. We were hidden high up in the Blue Mountains. Our numbers were small, but that did not weaken our strength. We kept our independence for many years, and then one incident changed everything.
Grandy Nanny was preparing for a strike against the English. I was to meet secretly with her as I had some information that would have been useful to our cause. My horrible cousin, Sambo followed me. He was a slave soldier, a sell out who worked closely with the English and because he knew our fighting styles, he was very useful to them. It was through his traitorous behavior that the English were able to find the location of our settlement. He led them right to us. Even though their victory was short lived, I have not been able to move on because my hatred for him has anchored me to this realm.”
“You see were it not for his deception, I would not have lost my husband and two of my sons in the ambush. Before I had a chance to avenge their deaths or to even make amends with the Queen Mother and find some way to regain my honor and pride, I was struck down while I washed my garments in the river. I know not who the coward was that took my life, but I know who had a hand in it.”
“Joyce, I have been here too long. My family has long since left me. I am lonely and I am tired. I need you to help me remove this burden. Help me let go of this hatred. Help me move on.”
It was only an hour since Isoke began her story, but it seemed longer. I could see all the characters in her story as if I was actually there. I was saddened by the turmoil she was going through and wanted to help. Imagine walking this earth, long after you are gone, spiritually blocked, unable to be with your loved ones. Carrying hatred in your heart that was so heavy, that not even Jah was willing to look past it.
When I looked up at Ms. Ceeta again, Isoke was gone and Ms. Ceeta looked like she had just run a mile. “Come chile, help me up. Her heavy heart made me feel like I was anchored to this chair. I need to move around.”
Assisting her, I asked, “Ms. Ceeta, Isoke did not tell me what she wanted me to do. How do I go about helping her?”
“Isoke, needs to go to Sambo’s grave site. She has not been able to do so because her anger has not allowed her to touch holy ground. Because of it the angels that guard the entrance of the cemetery will not tolerate her presence there. This is the only day that she can attempt to walk that ground, as you will be her medium. You will need to speak to the guardians on her behalf. Helping them to see; allowing Jah to see that her intentions are pure. And that she has only come there, for closure, to express her forgiveness of Sango.”
“Isoke,” I said out loud, as I knew that she was still there with us. “You want me to speak to God’s angels on your behalf? What if I am unable to make them see your true intent?” “You will lose your life and walk the Earth with Isoke until the end of days. You will share her burden and her loss.” replied Ms. Ceeta.
Trust, I began having second and third thoughts about this whole thing. Mi must give up fi me life, for a spirit. A woman who CLAIMS to be my great-grandmother. A person who was so angry, she was unable to lay down her burdens long enough to move on from this plain of existence. Rah, a serious ting dis! But I knew in my heart of hearts that it had to be done. This was to be my destiny.
“You must go a Sambo’s grave tonight before the end of the solstice. The powa of this day, will ge yu the strength and courage you will need fe do what must be done. Mikey must come with you, you will need him at the end. Whatever that may turn out to be.” she said vaguely.
Ms. Ceeta had regained her strength and led me to the front door. My aunt and cousin were expectantly waiting for me outside. The mid afternoon sun was bright but neither of them was hot as the shade of the trees kept them cool. I can imagine how I must have looked to them, especially with the weight of what I had to do on my shoulders. “Tek har home Auntie, she has much to tell you and much to prepare for.” She took my hands into hers, “if you feel like things are becoming unclear, just ask God for guidance, he will show you the way.” She gave me a big hug and said “Blessings.” The smell of the Bay Rum on her skin, lingered in the air as we began our journey home.
By the time we got there, I had already told my Aunt and my cousin the whole story. My aunt was pretty upset but my cousin was close to hysterical. “A wha kin of madness this? How much time mi tell yu fi leave these ting dem alone! Now you are responsible for saving the soul of a duppy! Wha bout fi yu life? You nu waan live it anymore!? And you waan drag mi inna dis too!? No sah, mi love you cousin, but I’m not sure I’m willing to give up fi mi life for a ghost that I am not related to!”
“Calm down, Mikey. She’s frettin’ enough as it is.” said my Aunt. We went into her house and sat down. “Joyce, there is no turning back from dis, the die has already been cast. All yu caan do, is prepare yuself for what is to come. Call your mother; tell her everything that has happened and what may happen. She deserves to know.” I did not want to call her with something like this, but I knew my aunt was right.
Knowing her daughter well, Joyce’s mother was not surprised when she received the call. She too was born a dreamer and was preparing herself for this day for a long time. “Dawta do not fret. Mi di well know dat dis day soon come.” Though her heart was in anguish at the thought of losing her only daughter forever, she prayed with Joyce over the phone. “Dear Lord, I ask that you guide my daughter’s hand, give her direction, help her to see that what you have planned is apart of the grand design that you have prepared for her and for all your people. Remove any barriers that may deter her from the duty you have placed before her. Allow her to feel your strength and presence always. Amen.” After a tearful goodbye, Joyce lay down on her aunt’s couch, closed her eyes and tried to get her emotions under control.
It was crazy. I had felt like I had no time to prepare. But in actuality I’ve been preparing for this all my life. It was close to 8:00 pm when I decided it was time to leave. I hoped with all my heart that it would not be my last time. As upset and vexed as my cousin was, he was waiting for me outside. As I was not familiar with the territory, he needed to show me where the cemetery was located. We shared a look with each other. Nothing else needed to be said. I turned to my aunt and gave her a big hug. “You are mi one niece, mek sure you fin your way back to me.” My trembling heart was moved by the emotion I saw in her eyes. She did not show it often. Smiling at me, she sent me along my way with prayers of her own. I could hear her whispers carry in the air as we walked down the road.
As night began to fall and my cousin and I headed towards our destination, it was very quiet. All I could hear was the song of the night creatures. All I could see were millions of bright stars in the sky. As early as it was, no one seemed to be about. No one had lights on in their homes. Not even a dog barked.
Mikey did not have a smart remark or have a silly story to tell. You could feel the tension in the air. I did not know what made him change his mind and I did not question it. His presence was like the sun coming out after a violent storm or like seeing a rainbow and remembering God’s promise to us. Just knowing he was there gave me hope.
As we got closer to the cemetery, I started to feel chilly. My cousin felt it too and began to rub his arms up and down. He took the cold bumps on his arm as fear, but I knew better. I did not think it would be smart to alarm Mikey at that moment. It was at that time that Isoke began speaking to me in my mind. “There are no words, Joyce, no words I could use to express my thanks for what you are about to do. Many people never find out what their destinies are supposed to be. They go through life, with no direction, no purpose. They lack that special something or person to push them in the right direction. Letting them know that there is something they are meant to do. It is what Ms. Ceeta calls, “The Grand Design.” “Do you know what you want to say to the guardians?” I asked. “Yes, I’ve known for a very long time.”
As soon as we came within range of the cemetery entrance I heard “Fear not visitor, you and yours are welcomed here but your companion is not. If you do not wish to suffer for her choices you must leave her where she stands before you continue this path.” Though they spoke as one, there were many voices. Mikey’s eyes were huge and he swallowed too many times to count. I called out, “Holy ones, I come on to you on behalf of my companion. She wishes to speak to you through me. She knows that the hatred she has carried through the centuries has blocked her from touching your holy ground. But she wishes to express to you her true feelings on this the summer solstice. She wishes to move on to be with her loved ones. Will you allow her to do so?” I asked boldly. I tried hard to keep the fear out of my voice. But I knew that was a waste of time. The guardians knew of my fear but they also knew of my sincerity. After a brief moment, the voices said, “You may approach us young one, but take heed, once you step forward, the path that was once your life’s destiny will change. Once you step forward, your life may no longer be your own. You have been forewarned.”
I felt my cousin take my left hand and Isoke my right. It was then that Isoke inhabited my body. I suddenly felt uncomfortable in my own skin as if two people shared it. I heard Isoke say to me “You must not fight me Joyce. This will not work unless you and I are one. One mind; one body; one spirit and especially one heart. I need the love and kindness that resides in your heart to help cleanse mine.” I knew that if I wanted to save her spirit and my own, I had to abide by her wishes. I felt Isoke turn my body towards Mikey. Though I was aware of everything that was happening I no longer had control of my body. I could see the fear that came into my cousin’s eyes as he looked upon me. I knew that I no longer looked like myself. He dropped my hand as he was holding the hand of a stranger. Isoke then said to Mikey, “I will return Joyce to you.” She gave him a slight smile and began her final approach towards the guardians.
When Isoke reached the entrance of the cemetery, Mikey watched in awe as two entities began to materialize in front of her. One was a man the other a woman. Both were of nubian skin and wore white ethereal robes that whipped and moved as if there was a gentle breeze. Each held a beautifully etched staff in their right hands and they moved as if they were one person. Every body movement, every breath taken, every word spoken was done as one. It was as if this scene was to be played in a separate realm. Mikey suddenly felt removed from everything and everyone else. There was no turning back now. As he stood there, Mikey could see individual strands of Joyce’s hair begin to gray from her exposure to such power and majesty. He dropped to his knees his head bowing in reverence to the guardians.
Isoke also dropped to her knees. The guardians looked down upon her with faces that held no emotion and with eyes whose pupils were as black as night. “Isoke, how has your heart changed? Look upon us so we may see the truth in your eyes.”
“Holy ones,” said Isoke. “I have walked this land for many centuries. During that time, I have experience a gambit of emotions. I’ve felt pain, anguish, sorrow, grief, jealously, hatred and then acceptance. An acceptance that I may never leave here, that I may never see my loved ones again. I did not understand why I was not allowed to move on. I did not understand why He sentenced me to walk this land with no end in sight. I was angry with him, I was angry with the world. And then I realized it was all my own doing. No matter how I tried, the hatred was always there, eating up my insides, destroying the beautiful soul I once had. Making it black and dark with ugliness. I knew that He would never accept me if I continued to carry these feelings. I had to purge myself of them in order to end the old and begin the new. I knew it would only happen if I forgave Sambo. It is not my place to judge Sambo, he will face judgment when the time comes. I must leave that responsibility to Jah. And so, it is my wish to go to his grave and tell him I forgive him for what he did. And in my heart of hearts, I have.” said Isoke.
It seemed as if the guardians looked upon Isoke forever. Their unmoving eyes were searching, looking for lies, looking for truths. Their unmoving eyes, looked within, and searched Isoke’s heart. Finally, they spoke, “Isoke, we see that you no longer carry the disease called hatred in your heart. You have healed. Nothing that He does is without reason, without purpose. It was never his intention to make you suffer but to make you see that your were poisoning yourself. We see that you understand that as well.” The guardians parted allowing Isoke and Joyce to pass.
I could not believe that we were walking through a graveyard in the middle of the night. The sepulchral surroundings made me uneasy.
Though Isoke was within me, I did not know her true heart until she began to speak from it. I must say I feared for her and myself. Although I did this willingly, I did not wish for my life to end. The closer we got to his grave, the lighter Isoke’s emotions began to feel. I did not know how Isoke knew Sambo’s grave as there were no distinctive markings on the stone. “I’ve always known where his grave was, Joyce. I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time.” She said to me.
As we stood in front of his grave, Isoke said “I know not if you have managed to forgive yourself for all the harm that you have wrought in the name of hypocrisy. But I have come here this night only to say that I have ‘forgiven you’. I know not if you were responsible for my death and that no longer matters. I am sure that your crimes have kept you company as no other person could. I am grateful that Jah has allowed me the opportunity to do this. As it has never been my intention to suffer with you. I forgive you Sambo and as I say this, I feel happiness, I feel love. I feel that I have regained my honor, I feel that I have regained my self-respect. I feel that I have finally obtained peace.”
As she said those final words, I began to feel her separating from me. She stood in front of me and I was now seeing the face and body of a young woman. The creases that were on her face were no longer there. A light had returned to eyes and her smile could have healed the hardest of hearts.
The solstice was about to come to an end and I knew that we did not have much time left. She was about to speak to me when we turned to see someone approaching us.
She walked with the carriage of someone who was strong, proud and courageous. A person who was a warrior, a strategist, a healer. A person who demanded respect, and received it. It was Grandy Nanny.
Between the both of us, I am not sure who was more surprised. She wore a white head dress and frock that was similar to what Ms. Ceeta wore. Her skin was dark and smooth as black marble. Her eyes were clear and still full of the fighting spirit she once used to lead her people. Her face, hands and bare feet were wrinkled from age but did not suggest weakness.
She looked upon us with great pride. And said “Little sisters, it does my heart good to see you here together. I wondered when you would find each other. I knew that you would both need one another to reach the end of your journeys. Isoke, it saddened me to know that you felt like you were some how at fault for Sambo’s betrayal. I have never looked at you with anything less than love and respect. Avenging him would not have made your loss any less painful. Joyce, only some one of my blood would have accepted such an undertaking. You knew that there was a chance that you would never return and yet you chose to help Isoke. Only a true goddess, a person of great courage, strength and character would have done such a thing. And for that I thank you.” Turning to Isoke, Grandy Nanny said, “I believe Isoke, that it is time. Your family waits.”
Turning to me once more, Isoke reached out and took my hands. A warm heat moved slowly up my arms and through my body. It removed the chill that was with me even after she left my body. I could feel a healing of the mind, body and spirit. Replacing the parts that were missing and strengthen the parts I already had. I never knew how incomplete I was until that very moment.
Smiling at me, she said, “The grand design is vast. It consists of the many twists and turns that we take in our lifetime. Because of its size, many people are unable to finish it. We always become distracted or deflected from what out true goals are. As a result, many are unable to discover what it takes to finish the design. This journey was only one of many paths that you will travel in your lifetime. Perhaps, by connecting them all, you too will see what your grand design is meant to be. Blessings, great-granddaughter.”
Isoke and Grandy Nanny began to walk towards the guardians. They lifted their staffs high into the air and in unison struck the ground. There was a great shift in the air, it seemed like the cloak that surrounded us was torn. As they glided to opposite sides, something like a portal began to appear. It was bright, blinding and beautiful. Every color that ever existed was within that portal. From where I stood, I could see three persons standing at its entrance. I knew in my heart they were the loved ones that Isoke lost so long ago. My heart leaped with joy as if I were still connected to Isoke. The happiness that I saw in her face was like no other. As she went into their arms, Isoke gave me a final wave and seemed to wink out of existence; as did the guardians.
I walked to the entrance of the cemetery in a daze. As soon as I got there, I fainted. My cousin ran towards me and helped me get home. From what my cousin told me later on, once I entered the cemetery he could not remember what happened. It was like he was in a trance the whole time.
“Wow, Auntie that is the greatest ghost story I have EVER heard!” said Sophie. With eyes that were filled with wonder. “I learned about Grandy Nanny and the Maroons and about ackee and breadfruit!” she laughed. “How do you come up with this stuff?” asked Kyle. “Dat is the tallest tale I have ever heard you tell Auntie.” said Angie. Joyce got up and stretched her old muscles. As she began to walk towards her room, she turned around and whispered to the children, “A who seh it was an untruth?”