By Dixie-Ann Belle
When Mrs Myra Catherine Greaves took a nasty fall near her home eight years ago, she couldn’t get up from the ground at first because of the immense pain. But she told herself, “I must get up because I strong in the Lord”. She eventually did, but her feet did not touch the ground for weeks. Her little grandson knelt by her bedside praying she would get up and take care of him as she always did.
The doctors at the Port of Spain General Hospital told her she had broken her hip, and they would have to operate. She refused. Instead she went home and prayed and meditated on her affirmation, “Strong in the Lord”.
Today, Greaves is still mobile with the use of a cane, and after living and working in the Laventille community, raising her six children, running her own business and serving in many roles for her parish, Greaves is most certainly proof of a life supported by faith. She recently celebrated her 95th birthday with a private Mass at her home on Old St Joseph’s Road, Laventille.
Born on Cox Lane, Laventille in 1922, Greaves has always lived in the neighbourhood and has never left Trinidad’s shores, “Never even Tobago,” she affirms. In her youth, school and Church were her life. Not surprisingly, she is a much-loved figure in the community. Everyone hails her as they pass her house.
She still has clear recollections of a Laventille that looks very different than it does today. “Laventille was nice, was nice,” she says. The street outside her door was once a dirt track. There was no public transportation. When she, her mother and four sisters visited Mt St Benedict, they walked, taking a short cut to get to the monastery.
In the familiar community where she knew everyone, she found the love of her life. Alfred (affectionately known as ‘Fred’) Greaves used to come to her house to see her sister about some knitting work. They courted and years later were married. “When I tell you people,” she says recalling the numbers that showed up on her wedding day. “Me eh invite nobody yuh know, but they just hear Myra and Fred…Pashley Street people.”
Greaves explains that she and her husband started with nothing, but were committed to improving their lot. “I love to work,” she says, and she has been proving that all her life. Besides her commitments to her family, she ran the first parlour in the area. Everyone knew Greaves Café.
She has also remained keenly active in her parish. She remembers when the first Catholic church was built in the area, a very different structure from the one on the main road now. “…Was a board school we had and a board church,” she recalls.
Greaves is well known in the parish community. Five priests have visited her home over the years including family friend Bishop Clyde Harvey. Archbishop Anthony Pantin had dinner with the family. “When Daddy put out whiskey and all that, he say he want Fernandez Old Oak,” she remembers with a smile. Fr Hugh Joyeau still asks for the sweetbread that she used to send for him when she was able to bake regularly.
She was one of the first RCIA instructors at Success Composite, passing on her faith to the students. She has carried communion to the sick and served as a lay minister. “Father Harvey, when he call me to read, I tell him, ‘I can’t read’. He tell me yes I could do it, and I stand up and read in church.”
She was tireless in her work for the annual harvest. Her Anglican husband always supported her commitment. “If I late, and he hear the bell, he wake me. ‘Mammy, mammy, yuh not going to church this morning?’” She adds, “Anything I have in church, and I invite him, he’ll come.”
In addition to her many other responsibilities, Greaves has always worked to fulfil her duty of giving back to those in need. Many a hungry person has had Sunday lunch at her home, and she has reached out to the homeless and the sick as well.
“My great grandmother used to take in anybody,” she recalls. “As your mother put you out, yuh making child, my great grandmother take you in. Don’t care who you is.” Inspired to do the same, Greaves has opened her doors to many. At one time she also collected donations for the people of Haiti during the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake.
With such a distinguished résumé of community service to her name, it’s easy to see why she was recognised in 2005. On Independence Day that year Greaves received the Public Service Medal of Merit for Community Service from President George Maxwell Richards. “It’s because I was everything — to visit the sick, carry communion, lay minister. If it have no priest, I will give service, and we had confraternity. I was the mother of the confraternity,” she explains.
Nowadays, Greaves has cut back on her busy life. Health issues and glaucoma have caused her to slow down. Her beloved husband has passed and of her six children, only her youngest is left. Despite the hardships that come with a long life, she is positive and grateful to God. “I have no complaint. My grandchildren, my daughter, my church people, my neighbours, I have no complaint.”
She prays every day for everyone “on land, sea and air”, for her community and for the beloved country she has served for so long. “The best place in the world. Trinidad and Tobago, Pashley Street, Laventille.”