SEPTEMBER 8 is always greeted with much enthusiasm by the winsome Mrs. Stella Burrowes, fondly referred to as ‘Moms’, and her extended family. But there was something extra special about yesterday.
The good news is that ‘Moms’ celebrated her 100th birthday yesterday; and she had been eagerly looking forward to the event within recent times. She would count the days ahead and rehearse the traditional birthday song, “Happy Birthday to you.”
And, of course, she had occasion to sing it in her especially melodious voice yesterday, thrilling the hearts of her loved ones as well as this publication’s reporter who was on hand to chronicle the event.
Later that afternoon, a special thanksgiving celebration was held in her honour at Cara Lodge on Quamina Street, Georgetown.
Having now joined the distinguished ranks of Guyana’s few centenarians, Moms is overjoyed, bubbling with energy, and is prepared for the challenge of making it to 105 or more.
‘Moms’ was elated as, elegantly propped in bed, she was surrounded by several of her children and grandchildren, who showered her with birthday greetings as they engaged in gay chatter yesterday. They had travelled from various destinations – North America, the Caribbean and elsewhere -- to share in the joy of celebration on her special day.
Mrs. Burrowes, who lives on Gordon Street, Kitty and attends the St. James-The-Less Anglican Church in that community, thanked God in earnest for sparing her life, keeping her in good health, and causing her to see her 100th birthday.
“Today, I am happy that God has blessed me and caused me to see 100. I feel strong in body; and because I know that with Him all things are possible, I feel I can see 105 and beyond.”
The sprightly centenarian is cared for by her youngest daughter, Marcia Burrowes, and family. Moms lives in a home where love abounds. A mother of 13 children, 8 of whom are alive, she is also the grandmother of Mr. Keith Burrowes, Chairman of the GNNL Board of Directors, among 44 others.
Although happy at being 100, she admitted that there’s nothing she cherishes more than being in the company of her family and experiencing their genuine love, especially the true warmth and comfort of being hugged, cuddled and repeatedly smacked by her grandchildren.
“My greatest birthday gift is being in their company; being loved, and knowing that I can bring joy to their lives. And yes, I love flowers,” Moms remarked.
As she sat up in bed, two of her granddaughters were busy giving her a manicure and pedicure, while a third – Jewel from Trinidad -- waited patiently to give her a special hairdo.
Thus she was excited when her grandson Andrew (Andy) Gunraj, who resides in New York, turned up at her bedside with a gorgeous bouquet of colourful flowers, which he presented to her. Atop the bouquet was mounted the figure 100 in bright shiny gold.
Incredibly, even at her age, she was able to distinguish the 100 sign, and could identify the colour of every flower in the bouquet.
Stella, whose parents were Eddie Alphonso Graham and Christina Shepherd of Plaisance, ECD, was born on September 8, 1912 in Sandy Babb Street, Kitty, where she grew up. She is the second and last surviving of eight siblings.
In 1939, she married Eric Earle Burrowes, a mechanic then employed with Sterling Products Limited at Providence, East Bank Demerara. He died in August 1985.
Even though she never worked outside of the home, being an industrious and hard working person with an independent mind, Stella was always busy in the home -- when not doing regular housework – sewing, or cooking and baking tasty delicacies which she sold to villagers from her glass case at home.
How well she remembers her cassava pone, which according to her would always sell out ‘in a flash’.
She was also a reputable seamstress, and was herself a glamorous lady who was literally a trendsetter in the line of fashion, and so fetched ‘a pretty penny’ on that business. With money earned from her snacks’ sales and dressmaking, Stella recalls, (she saved every extra dime) she was able to buy herself a wooden house in Gordon Street, Kitty, where her children all grew up under one roof and under her tender watch.
And to her credit and good fortune, Moms, to this day, still has good vision, and boasts, “I can see bright like a tom cat.” She hears very well; sings melodiously; and in her own words, has a hearty appetite, eating just about anything although using dentures.
Unlike many people her age, she is neither affected by the dreaded diabetes nor by cholesterol, and has only a mildly elevated blood pressure. She proudly boasts about not contributing to stressing out doctors.
She insisted on doing her own cooking well into her nineties, and never stopped trekking back and forth and up and down the internal stairway, until a year ago when, at age 99, she had a fall and injured her leg, necessitating hospitalisation for a period of time.
She is now much recovered, but is unfortunately now confined to bed. Notwithstanding, this has in no way detracted from her pleasant personality.
At agreed times, her Parish Priest and /or Parish Lay Assistants visit her home to read the Word with her and give her Holy Communion.
Her exhortation to her children -- and grandchildren especially -- is: “Live always in the fear and love of the Lord. Be good citizens, go resolutely after education; education is power, and knowledge is the key. Plan your work and work your plan. Be independent. You who are parents love your children, and let them know you care. Respect them and demand respect from them. As a family, always stick together; let nothing destroy the unity we worked to establish.”