By Enid Joaquin
They say that laughter is the best medicine and that it is good for the soul.
After hearing the infectious laughter of Linden’s oldest, Agatha Campbell, affectionately called ‘Mammy Gathie’, I was convinced that here indeed was irrefutable evidence.
As I stepped into Mrs. Campbell’s room, I was at first taken aback at how frail she looked – but then came that hearty laugh, and all I could feel was her inner strength, her resilience and a joy that was inescapable.
Mrs. Campbell celebrated her 105th birthday last week, and was honored with a visit from Minister of Social Protection Volda Lawrence, who was in Linden for the Child Protection Rally.
The Minister presented her with a hamper, for which ‘Mammy Gathie’ was very grateful. “I like this- this is nice”, the senior citizen had enthused.
Many friends and relatives also used the occasion to hang out with the centenarian.
These days, ‘Mammy Gathie’ leads a simple life- no expensive accoutrements surround her, but there is obviously an ample supply of love.
She credits her good health and longevity to eating lots of ‘bush fish’ and deer. Her father and brother were good hunters, she had revealed in an earlier interview.
She also noted that she loves deer stew. Her other favorite foods included manicole cabbage (the heart of the palm) and toro cook up.
According to her cousin Maxine, toro is a fruit similar to awara, which Mrs. Campbell used to steep in hot water to extract the juice to make a special type of cook up.
In her earlier days at Dalgin, Mrs. Campbell said that she used to rear ‘yardies ’(creole fowls).
Farming was also one of her passions, which provided the family with ground provisions and vegetables, which significantly supplemented the income her husband earned from logging.
This feisty centenarian was known to tend to her garden and take care of her personal hygiene way past her hundredth birthday.
And up until then she was still climbing the long flight of steps to her home, sometimes two and three times per day.
‘Mammy Gathie’ was born at Dalgin, Demerara River, where she attended the St. Davis Primary School. She married her husband Leonard Campbell in 1939, and continued living there until 1970, when she moved to Linden with her children.
She settled at Stewart Path Christianburg, where she resides to this day with her son Lincoln.
Her husband Leonard was killed in an accident in 1969, which precipitated the move.
She was also involved in the accident, but fortunately survived.
The lone surviving sibling out of fourteen, she is the mother of four, and grandmother and great grandmother of many.
She is reportedly the only member of her family to live to a hundred and over.
Today, ‘Mammy Gathie’ is still capable of dressing herself and even goes to the bathroom unaided.
And apart from being a little hard of hearing, and suffering the occasional arthritic pain, she is in perfectly good health. Lincoln describes his mother as a disciplinarian and hard working but very pleasant woman.
Regarding her health he pointed out, “My mother never had to be hospitalized for anything, except for the accident. Other than that, I can’t remember her being sick.
I think it was because she has always been so active with her farm and later her flower garden.”
“She loves to sing- she loves the song “Members Only”, and is always singing it or “Cover Me” by Percy Sledge.
Mammy Gathie has lived at her present residence since 1970, except for an 8-year sojourn in Canada.
Her son Lincoln, said that his mother ‘came back home’, because she wanted to die here. That was in 2000. Sixteen years later Mammy Gathie is still alive and kicking at 105!
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