“It is only by talking about HIV/AIDS and hearing the experiences of families like ours that we can help to fight stigma and discrimination.” — Kenton X. Chance, brother of W. Alex “Nick” Chance.
Eulogy for Wyllis Alex “Nick” Chance
Delivered at his Farewell Service on Sunday April 12th, 2015
Rillan Hill Church of the Nazarene
By Kenton X. Chance
On behalf of my brother’s daughter, my mother, Patricia Chance-Hoyte, my stepfather, Lennox Hoyte, and my brothers and sister, let me first say how much we appreciate the prayers and support of everyone over the past 10 years. We are especially grateful also for your thoughts and prayers over the last year, and especially during the final months, weeks and days leading up to today.
Of course, my brother’s daughter, my parents, siblings, and I, along with the Myers family of Vermont, are honoured that you have come today to support us as we bid farewell to my brother.
We say thank you to the Pastor and members of the Rillan Hill Church of the Nazarene for their support and to the Williams and Carter families for accommodating us, having moved the memorial service for their beloved Miranda to this morning.
Also, on behalf of my family, I express condolences to Bro. & Sis. Samuel who are mourning the loss of Sis. Samuel’s mother who was buried yesterday.
We note that some of you have travelled considerable distances here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Also, our Aunt Seeneth and our cousin, Gailene, Seeneth’s daughter and Nick’s godmother, have flown in from New York.
Seeneth had returned to New York a mere three weeks ago and Gailene had visited three months earlier.
My name is Kenton Chance. I am one of Alex’s two older brothers.
Wyllis Alex Chance was born on December 11th, 1982. He was the second of two children born to Lemuel Myers of Vermont.
I was the first.
He was the third of six children born to Patricia Chance, now Patricia Hoyte of Rillan Hill.
The others, in descending order are Myron Chance, better known as “DJ Warlord”, myself, Kenton Chance, Nakeisha “Krislyn” John nee Chance, and Brenton “Natty” Hoyte. Our youngest brother, Dillano “Dread” Hoyte, spent a mere seven months with us.
Aunt Seeneth, who has returned from New York for this farewell, named my brother Wyllis Alex Chance.
My mother called him “Nick”.
She had also given nicknames to her first two sons and also gave nicknames to all her other children.
While preparing for my brother’s funeral, I asked to see his birth certificate and ID card; I wanted to convince myself that his first name was actually “Wyllis” and not “Alex”, which he used throughout his life. I am really not sure why.
Alex attended the Clare Valley Government School. On writing the Common Entrance Examination, he did not attain enough marks to earn him a place in secondary school.
He then moved on to the Questelles Government School. While his academic performance improved there, again he did not meet the criteria for entrance into secondary education when he wrote the School Leaving Examination.
But whatever abilities Nick might have lacked academically, he made up for it in his sporting endeavours. My brother was a talented athlete in track and field and a skilled cricketer and footballer.
He had this particular way of placing the cricket bat between his feet — rather than to the side of one foot — when he took to the wicket. And when I saw him play in Big Bush at the time, I could only marvel at his skills.
He was also skilled at marbles. If he had asked you to set him for his pitcher — don’t. He would have most likely won every one of your marbles…
My brother was also very fond of fishing. Nature did not bless me with much sporting abilities — I can’t even pitch marbles. So fishing was the sport that my brother and I enjoyed together.
I remember that many a summer, we would sneak out early in the morning and go to Buccament Bay almost daily to fish. Many times, our cousin, Tracy Chance, joined us on our fishing expeditions.
We only remembered that we were hungry or hadn’t eaten for the day, when evening came and we were ready to go home.
Also, many of those fishing trips resulted in beatings from our mother, who, after a while gave up, realising that they were futile. I think she was more afraid that we would drown more than anything else. After all, the fish that we caught did make up many of our meals. Ironically, it is during those fishing expeditions that we learnt to swim.
When lashes did come, Nick almost always got his first. I, on the other hand, always avoided my mother, hoping that as evening passed into night she would forget.
And if she did, Nick was always there to remind her: “Ma, yo nah beat Tish?” He would say… I need not say how I felt on hearing those words.
My mother remembers Nick as a person who ate a lot. I think we all remember him that way. In fact, just recently, my mother commented to my stepfather about bread being in the fridge for days. She noted that had my brother been in good health, that would not have been the case.
As a child, my sister, Krislyn, was not always fond of eating. Of course, Nick, as an older brother, was always there to help. But, there was a deal: she had to pay him with chicken to eat dumplings.
Nick was as outspoken in childhood as in his adult years.
When he was a mere child, my mother had worked with a now deceased Rillan Hill man to “pick coals”. The man delayed payment for some time, although we were especially poor and my mother needed the money to “mine” us — as we say colloquially.
Nick saw the man at a shop and shouted to him, saying “[…], yo dey down yah a drink rum and nah pay Ma? Ma wah ye money fuh buy thing fuh ahwe eat.”
The man, obviously embarrassed, beat Nick with his hat.
It is no secret that my brother was diagnosed with HIV about 10 years ago.
After the initial shock, and with the support of his extended family and friends, he picked himself up and lived as full a life as one could expect in the circumstances. In fact, a fuller life than many might expect.
He worked for many years — in fact, up until a year ago — at the St. Vincent Brewery, providing for himself and building his own dwelling quarters.
His colleagues describe him as a dedicated worker who was physically strong, and with whom they loved to work.
Nick was not only physically strong. He was emotionally and psychologically strong as well.
In fact, he is the strongest person I have ever known personally.
During the first quarter of last year, Nick’s ankles began to swell.
Of course, we had no idea then, why that was the case.
When he was discharged from the hospital after the diagnosis, he called me one Friday and happily said, “Tish, me ah come home.” I asked what the doctors said was the problem. “Me kidney; me kidney bad,” he said. I simply responded “Oh sh**!”
In August last year, as my brother’s condition worsened, we took him to see a specialist. We had to pick up my mother in Kingstown, and during the drive there, I tried to fill in any gaps he had about what kidney failure actually meant. I told him that I do love him, as we all do, but that he should prepare himself, because the end might not have been too far off.
He would live a full seven months more.
In writing this eulogy, I was very wary that it would sound as if I were writing about myself. Forgive me, but my brother and I, different as we were in personality, shared a very special bond. He is the one sibling with whom I shared both biological parents. As recently as yesterday, one of my neighbours called me Nick as he returned my greeting.
I always remember as children how we used to walk down the street with our arms around each other’s shoulders.
As a brother who was just one year and nine months his senior, I teased him as a child by saying “Thank you, my servant” whenever he did something for me. When he attempted to tease me in return, he would say, “Thank you, my sergeant”.
He was convinced that I had in fact said, “Thank you, my sergeant” and I could not convince him that he was in fact elevating me by calling me “sergeant”, instead of “servant”.
Once, as pre-teens, while a storm was expected, we went to fetch the sheep that we helped our grandmother to rear. While we were doing so, the wind was blowing strongly and the trees danced.
He asked me what would happen “if the storm expect right now”. I explained to him that when one says a storm is expected it doesn’t mean that it will happen suddenly, but that there is a possibility that it would come.
The bond that my brother and I shared grew stronger as his condition worsened. He was comfortable calling on me whenever he needed help, and I asked God for faith and patience to respond with loving kindness.
Along with my nephew, Zavique, and then later my mother, I cared for my brother during what would be his final hours last Tuesday.
I felt his neck for a pulse and his chest for a heartbeat after my mom called me saying he had died.
Now to my mother, stepfather and to God’s grace.
God has been especially gracious to us, especially over the last decade. To be honest with you, we had thought that in 2005 we would have buried Nick then.
We were convinced that he would have died shortly after he was diagnosed with HIV. In fact, I went to see our father one early morning in Vermont and told him “My brother is in the hospital. I don’t think he will last to the end of the week.”
Obviously, he did last to the end of the week, and lived for almost 10 years more.
We grew up in very trying circumstances, being raised during our earliest years by my mother as a single parent. But 27 years ago, she met a wonderful man from Owia named Lennox Hoyte — we call him Bongo — whom she later married.
Bongo cared for us as if we were his own biological children. He fed us, educated us, and provided us with a shelter over our heads. We worked together to improve our material condition. I personally have a very close relationship with him, and see him not as a stepfather but as a biological father.
Tuesday night, when Bongo came in and met us in the living room, he looked at us quizzically and asked us what had happened. We told him Nick had died. Nick’s body was still on his bed. Bongo went inside folded his hands, looked at Nick then came out and started to sob as he collected his water boots to go collect our goats.
When Bongo spoke this week via telephone to my younger brother, his son Natty, who is in the British army, the only thing he said to him was, “Natty, Nick dead.”
And now, to my mother:
If I had to live my life all over again, I would not ask for any other mother in the world. My mother raised us to love and care for and respect each other. As our youngest brother, Natty, said when he came home in December, Nick knows that he has a family that loves him and that gives him strength.
Never once did I hear any of my siblings comment in any untoward way about my brother’s illness, even when it wasn’t obvious to others that he was ill and we had differences of opinions and exchanged harsh words, as siblings sometimes do.
We lived together as one happy family, sharing the same living space, eating the same food — with the same cups, spoons, forks, etc.
And if I might say, you can’t get HIV simply by sharing utensils or living in the same space as someone who is HIV positive. As you can see from my brother, people who contract HIV can live for a long time, if they take their medication — as Nick did religiously, and if they are in a loving, caring environment. We are very open about our brother’s health in his death as he was about it in his life. It is only by talking about HIV/AIDS and hearing the experiences of families like ours that we can help to fight stigma and discrimination. My mother’s job is to sell contraceptives, and distribute condoms, partly to try to help to ensure that as few families as possible experience what we have.
While Nick had HIV, he died of kidney failure and cirrhosis of the liver, brought on by HIV.
We thank God for our mother who taught us to love and live happily with each other. Recently, I heard her say, something to the effect that she had nothing to worry about as long as her children live lovingly with each other. I am committed to doing that and I am sure that my siblings are also. That same love is extended to our in-laws and nieces and nephews.
This morning, my cousin Nyron Chance in the United States, with whom I am especially close, sent me a message on Facebook. I think it would be appropriate to include his comments here:
I’m very sorry I am not there to give you that extra support. But all shall be well.
Give Patty my regards and say goodbye to Nick for me.
I remember the first day Patty brought him home, and it seems like just yesterday.
Take the time today to see the beauty and quality of family we have, and ask the question, why are we not living better as a unit.
If Nick can cause us to come together just for one day, his death was not in vain. Let’s learn from his mistake and his death.
May his soul rest in peace.
And you be strong. Today is the first of many days we will have like this in our lifetime, and the longest liver will see the most.
We are at the age where many people we grow up with will die.
Buy always remember, ” death is inevitable, but only regrettable when we didn’t enjoy it, and life is what happens while we are making plans.”
On Tuesday, I bathed our family dog. It had been weeks since I had done so. And while bathing him, I reflected on how challenging it was to take care of my brother. I encouraged myself by praying, considering my mother who cared for him most of the time, and in one of her sayings, that there is no “dung heap” — no rubbish heap — for family.
A few words about God’s grace:
God has been graceful to us, and especially so during my brother’s illness.
My mother said she had asked God not to take her son while she was not at home.
God answered that prayer. Just as my mother was my brother’s only biological relative that was in the room when he was born, she was the only one who was there when he died. Ma, don’t be sad because of this. Count it a blessing that God allowed you to share Nick’s final moments with him.
(My youngest brother, Dillano, also died in my mother’s arms. He was then only seven months old.)
Ma, like you said, when Nick told you Sunday night that he loves you, you did tell him that you love him too and that you will be there until the end.
God allowed you to keep that promise.
Some words about Nick and his friends:
Nick valued his friends dearly. My wife, Symantha, commented this week about how she had stood and watched in amazement on Dec. 21 as Nick, then using a walking stick, and rather weak, took his time, walked to the main road from where we live and went to be a godparent for a child in Arnos Vale.
(For those of you who know where we live, you know that is no easy feat for someone who was as ill as Nick was.)
For all of you who are Nick’s friends, know that you were special to him. For those who had the strength to visit, he appreciated it; for those of you who couldn’t stand to see him as he was in his last days, he understood. I think he did prefer that you stay away, if he could not draw strength from you.
On Thursday, I went into my brother’s living quarters. He has four photographs pinned to the wall. One is of an especially cute young woman who I can’t recall having met. Another is of him and a male friend, another of him and his long-time friend, Rebecca “Betty” Browne, another is of Nick and his daughter; and another of our cousin, Koriene. (Maybe he sees Koriene as someone his daughter should emulate. If that is the case, I agree). There are many pictures that he could have chosen to stick onto his wall. But, for some reason, he chose those. But, high above all those pictures, he had in a broken picture frame a photo of Betty holding his daughter in her arms.
I was also happy to see that he had also pinned onto the wall the invitation, programme, and bookmark from my wedding almost two years ago. I know that Nick did love my wife as much as he did me.
It seems to be a practice among some eulogy writers to speak about a person’s spiritual condition. I don’t think it is my place to do that. After all, the Bible says that man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart. Suffice it to say that Pastor Jonathan Abraham, who will perform the final rites later today, baptised Nick in 2007. During Nick’s last days, he read the Bible often and we all encouraged him to make his path straight with God. Sunday night, when he told Ma that he loves her, he also told her that he was asking God to take him.
If a man asks God to remove him from this earth, it would indeed be selfish of us to protest that request. I am sad to see my brother go, but I am happy knowing that he is in a better place than he was during the last days and hours of his life.
Travel well, my brother…
Love always, Tish.