Friday, December 15, 2017
   
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Tribute to the late Sybil Telca Francis

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Commentary

PM Harris 2017“There is a tide in the affairs of men,

Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;

Omitted, all the voyage of their life

Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

On such a full sea are we now afloat…”

Julius Caesar: Act 4; Scene 3[Lines 218-224] (by William Shakespeare)

I am honoured to pay tribute to the late Telca Francis – wife, mother, grandmother, sister, friend, entrepreneur, herbalist, philanthropist, musician and counselor.

I do so, on behalf of the Government and people of St. Kitts and Nevis.  I extend to her beloved husband, Ben; and to her only son, Regiwell, our sincere condolences as they and the rest of her family mourn her passing.

I have known Telca Francis practically all of my adult life.  Before I even knew her I was rather familiar with the Hawley clan, given their well-known and long-standing business presence on Cayon Street, Basseterre.

This was a place that was well-established as one of the five main bakeries in Basseterre, to which hundreds of school children would resort for quick, cheap lunches based on the traditional dollar bread with “relish” – be it cheese or sausage.

In time, Hawley’s bakery was closed.  The property was sold and demolished.  The land cleared, and a new edifice tagged “Amory Mall” would rise in its former location.

As I reflected on Telca’s life, I have to admit that it has been a full, colourful and interesting one, to say the least.  To me, Telca embodied courage, determination, struggle, and a fighting spirit in the face of challenges and adversity.  Most of her life can be summed up in one short phrase: TELCA WAS A SURVIVOR!

Over the past 40 years or so Telca and Ben - her husband of some 51 years - made a name for themselves as business persons with diversified investments in real estate; property management; landscaping; plant sales and rentals.

Yet, first and foremost, Telca’s life was about raising her only son, Reggie, in a manner that provided him with privileges she never took for granted.  As such, to a great extent, the man Reggie is today is the result of the maternal guidance and providence that Telca bestowed upon him.

Telca’s fighting spirit and survival instinct call to mind what Shakespeare spoke about in Act 4, Scene III of the tragedy, Julius Caesar.  In this well-known passage, Brutus addressed his co-conspirator Cassius, before they engaged in battle in Sardis against Octavius and Mark Anthony’s forces who were bent on avenging Caesar’s death.  Brutus said:

“There is a tide in the affairs of men,

Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;

Omitted, all the voyage of their life

Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

On such a full sea are we now afloat,

And we must take the current when it serves,

Or lose our ventures.”

These seven lines of Shakespearean prose constitute a vivid metaphor that is pregnant with meaning about the need to seize opportunities when they arise. Read carefully, the passage imparts these lessons to us:

  1. That opportunities are sometimes not plentiful, but they must be captured and exploited for the good that they can bring, individually or collectively;
  2. That man must be able to not only recognise opportunities, but must step out in faith by fully committing himself to a course of action that will bring him success;
  3. That neglecting to take advantage of opportunities could very well result in a life of mediocrity, failure and disappointment – with the great likelihood that the opportunity lost may never be regained.
  4. That failure to take advantage of opportunities can result in man living in the land of “What if..?”, always wondering what life would have been like if such opportunities had not been squandered.

Based on what I know of her, Telca was an expert at sighting opportunities, overcoming adversities, stepping out in faith, investing guardedly then profiting from her investments. She believed in her gut that her ventures would succeed once she put her all into them.

In short, Telca has left us valuable lessons from how she lived her life.  She recognised that she had one shot at doing what she needed to get done, and that this life was no dress rehearsal for another earthly existence yet to be unfurled.

She also acknowledged that the key to success was not to fear falling down, but learning how to get up, brush herself off, and start again with the belief that the next attempt – in fact, the next opportunity – would be much better than the one she had just let go.

As I pay tribute to Telca, I cannot fail to mention her life of service.  Such service was two-fold: first, as the faithful organist of this very Zion Moravian Church for over 30 years; and second, as a quiet philanthropist.

Throughout her life, Telca would have – in a private manner – provided for the care of several individuals, in particular, a number of former employees.  Her giving to these former workers continued up to the time of their deaths when she would have financed the cost of their funerals.

This is the type of private generosity which Christ admonishes us all to practice.  In St. Matthew’s gospel, Chapter 6: verses 3-4, Christ instructs us as follows:

  1. But when you give alms, your left hand must not know what your right is doing;
  1. Your almsgiving must be secret, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.

There are so many lessons we can learn from Telca’s life: from the pitfalls to avoid, how to keep one’s marriage alive and fulfilling, to the successes worth emulating; to the calculated risks worth taking; to her life of service and philanthropy; to the self-forgiveness that is necessary to accept defeat and bury it in yesterday in order to move on to the next golden opportunity tomorrow can afford.

As I close my tribute to Telca, I make an appeal to those of us gathered here, particularly her grieving family, to celebrate all that was good, lovely and exemplary about Telca.  Our young people can do well to look at her life, replicate her successes and, in so doing, contribute in their own way to the socio-economic development of our beloved St. Kitts and Nevis.

Telca followed the path of entrepreneurship that builds worth, creates employment, strengthens the domestic economy, and spawns other opportunities based on those sizeable and courageous decisions about investments that pay dividends on so many levels.

It is a proven fact that business development is certainly one of the most productive routes that our young people can take as an alternative to a life of crime and anti-social behaviour.  Telca’s example is worthy emulation.

On behalf of the Federal Government, I once again extend sincere sympathy to Ben, Regiwell and the rest of the extended Francis, Hawley, McIntosh, and Gumbs families who mourn her loss.

May her soul rest in peace.

The Funeral Service was held Monday, 31st July, 2017, at the Zion Moravian Church, Cnr Victoria Road & Taylor’s Range, Basseterre, St. Kitts.

 




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