Tribute and Celebration of Ragoobeer Ramcharit
My dad, Ragoobeer Ramcharit, known locally in his hometown as Brother Tash, was born September 16, 1921, in Plantation Albion, British Guiana. At the time, British Guiana was a colony of Great Britain, located in the Northeastern part of South American. Dad was born into a Hindu family. He was the 7th of 8 children. After slavery ended, his father, Rajbar, immigrated to British Guiana with his family from British India to work as indentured laborers in the sugarcane plantations. After five years of indenturedship, they had the option of remaining in Guyana. My mom's parents also came to Guyana to work as indentured laborers. Some families returned to India but my dad and mom's family, like so many others, remained and were given small plots of land to settle down.
My dad left school only after grade 4 to find work and contribute to his family's livelihood. Though an arrangement between families, he got married to my mother, Sanichari, when he was 19 years old and my mom was just 15. As the custom was in those days, couples married very young. My parents were married in the Hindu religion. One day, not long after, two American missionaries were preaching at a local gasoline station. My dad and two friends were passing though and heard the two missionaries. My dad believed the message he heard. He returned home and told my mother that he accepted Jesus. My mom was glad and said that was very good.
A few months after my dad's conversion, my parents built a grass house, made from white clay, small bamboos and a roof of sugarcane leaves. My dad's Christian mentor came to their home and told my mother about Jesus. My mother told him that if my husband accepted Jesus, I will have to follow him; where my husband goes, I will also go. And from that day onwards, both my parents dedicated themselves to Jesus and were remarried in the Christian faith. My dad gave up alcohol and local wine. Between his daily chores to care for and provide for his family, he dedicated his life to being a missionary. He would tell my mother, "the things I used to do, I do them no more…"
After seven years of marriage, my eldest brother Samuel was born in the grass home. He is now 67 years old. He is not here today, but is attending another memorial for my father in Florida. A few years after Samuel was born, my parents build a new house made of wood. They had six additional children and they were all born in the new home-Daniel, Mary, Lynn, Isaac, Paul and Janet. Isaac passed away 17 years ago.
I recall many memories of the times we spent in Guyana. Our family life there centered around preparing the fields for planting and harvesting rice, tending to a kitchen garden, fishing and selling vegetables in the local markets. My parents made oil from coconuts. They also had a generator and provided electricity to the local community. My dad tended to his kitchen garden so well that he won the 'best kept kitchen garden' in our region two times. He also raised chickens and goat. As a kid, the fondest times for me were the evenings when we would gather around the lower level of our home eating dinner, chatting and sharing stories-sometimes for hours. My dad's friends would pass by and say hello or drop by and converse. Afterwards, my mom would wash our feet and take us to bed. My dad would fall asleep first as he was tired from working in the fields all day or tending to all kind of chores.
My nephew from Canada recalled one of those gathering and said:
When I was about 10, I remember we were having a family discussion; all his children and grandchildren were present. There was a certain problem that had to be resolved, I remember he got up and went into his room; he came back a few minutes later with his Bible. He found a scripture and gave it to me to read. Being 10 years old, I was a little nervous to read that openly, but with his encouraging expression and gesture, I read the scripture. That scripture was the perfect answer to the situation.
In 1996, my mom and dad immigrated to the United States to spend time with their children and families. It was a journey to a foreign land but they were ready to embrace the new culture and cold temperatures. It was quite different from the 80 degree average temperatures of their homeland of Guyana. Quickly, my dad got ready a kitchen garden and producing green vegetables, green onions, potatoes and herbs. He loved his garden. He kept himself busy. Over time, they made several trips with their family visiting other states and places of interest. Dad was always eager to show friends and family his garden. Most of all, he shared his bible, and beliefs with his friends, his doctors, nurses and the friends and strangers he met.
The past four years, my dad was on dialysis because his kidney function was slowing down. On Friday February 21st (a little less than two weeks ago) my dad went to his usual dialysis. We were told that he passed out during dialysis and was taken to Regions Emergency Room. We got the call afterwards and went to visit him. The doctors in the emergency room could not find anything wrong with him except for a high blood pressure. We arranged for dialysis the following day and then took dad home. He was in good spirits and as we took him in the car, I noticed that he prayed all the way home. On Saturday morning, my brother noticed that dad looked the best he looked in several weeks. I drove him along with my wife and Adalene to his Davita Dialysis in Maplewood. Within the hour we got a call that his heart slowed down and was again taken to the emergency room at Regions Hospital. We later found out that during dialysis his heart slowed down to the point where they could not find a pulse. He was revived and taken to Regions ER. When we arrived, he had breathing tubes and was asleep. Doctors did some testing and early the next morning, Sunday, called and told me that his heart could no longer take the stress of dialysis.
Later that Sunday, I told dad that "we would no longer do dialysis; we are going to take you home to see Ma. I also told him we will invite a pastor, some friends and family for a prayer, and to sing a few hymns. I also asked him jokingly if he like hymns. He smiled with a grin as if to say, really? It was heart-breaking news but my dad knew it was time and his rich pilgrimage on the earth was nigh. The following day, Monday, we brought him home in the mid-afternoon. In the evening, our house was filled with family and close friends. The pastor said a few words; we sang a few hymns and prayed. The pastor addressed my family and said that with the eminent passing of the patriarch, we should embrace reconciliation and family unity. This would be a great testimony to celebrate his life. The pastor went over to hold the hand of my dad, and prayed. My dad heard the prayer as he grasped the hand of the pastor as the pastor requested.
After everyone left by mid-night Monday, my mom, my brother Daniel and I watched over him as he was sleeping. About 2:45 am, there was a peace and calm in the home. I noticed that his breathing was beginning to slow. I held his warm, tough hands as he took long, slow breaths. And about 3:10 am, he took his last breath. We called my sister and nieces and we gathered in the living room chatting, crying and reminiscing of his memories until 8:00 am, when funeral home came to take his body. Last Tuesday, March 4th, he was laid to rest at St. Mary's Cemetery, on Joy Road, in North St. Paul. It was no coincidence that my dad was laid to rest on Joy Road. His essential values in life was capped by a most important and elusive quality of Joy. His shared joy with everyone he met because his heart was full of joy.
My friend, Francisco, from Mexico who spent many moments with my mom and dad said:
From the very first time that I met him, I realized his was a beautiful soul and spirit, the same as your mother. People like your parents, I think, go directly to be with the Lord and a wonderful welcome ceremony must take place in heaven when they arrive.
My sister from Janet from Canada wrote:
I will always remember the happy spirit he shared with his entire family. The joy of speaking of his friends of the past, the respect he had for all peoples regardless of differences. He was a total people person who always expressed hope for good. He was a deep thinker that always desired to share his thoughts to anyone who would listen. A fighting spirit is his signature feature that never had room to complain about anything. He lived his life as though it was too short to make mistakes. His pride was his work in his garden with his beloved by his side. His biggest and endearing passion was to honor his dear wife with all the respect and adoration that he could supply. He was a very simple man, with clear intentions praising and thanking his creator every day. He lived what he preached as he rode his bicycle all over his community back home to spread his joy and meaning of life. In the end, the dream he wanted, he lived with his precious wife and will always be remembered as a real godly family man!
We are sadden for the loss of dad for the same reasons we celebrate his journey-his passion for life, his love of work, his commitment to family, his dedication to his beliefs, his zealousness for sharing his religion, and his love and respect for all peoples and religions. He touched the lives of many, he preached in churches, in religious gatherings, he taught Sunday school, he visited the elderly, he prayed over the sick and the dying. He was a positive man and God blessed him with a long, full and abundant life. He was 92 years old and married to my mother for 73 years. He was the last surviving sibling of his family.
Dad enjoyed his pilgrimage on the earth. Our lives were blessed because of him. And as the heavens opened their door to accept his life, we are inspired by the memories he left behind. I want to close with what my eldest brother Samuel wrote before he returned to Florida this past week. He said:
You are the greatest dad we have ever seen and known. You were industrious, kind, loving, serving, caring and giving. You raised up, with the help of my mother, seven wonderful children. You gave us education, taught us moral values and above all, taught us to walk with God. You were a great preacher, teacher and counselor. You were not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for you know it is the power of God onto salvation for anyone who believes. Dad, you should be happy for living such a long, full and righteous life. You have fought a good fight, you have finished your course, and you are now awaiting your Crown of Righteousness. And now, may the Lord bless you and keep you, may the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious onto you. May the Lord lift his Holy countenance upon you and give you peace, and now, enjoy the hospitality of God's Kingdom and Eternal Rest in Jesus' name, Amen…
Paul Ramcharit (son)