Eulogy to Dr Mouson by her daughter Nimi

 


Mousson Pierre Finnigan

            What to share with you about my mother, Marie-Denise Monique (a name no one actually knows because she went by Mousson)?

            I wanted to share something short, sweet, and evocative, but the words took a life of their own, so please forgive this essay. The thoughts just kept coming; images of her at different ages kept popping up, each with their own anecdote.

            Some of these stories I witnessed; some of them were background noise as I was growing up (so I am a little fuzzy on the details), others are conversations and memories shared with me. But they all come together. They all morph into this beautiful woman.

            I hope that you enjoy reading this, and that you remember the type of person Mousson was if you knew her, and if you didn’t know her, that you get a sense of how magical she was to so many of us.

            Please know that any donations we receive will go towards her medical and funeral fees, and any remaining balance will fund the many programs she had in Haiti: paying school fees for students from poor villages as part of educational programs, helping farmers, and protecting the environment.

            So, my mother. Mousson.

            Well, she was strong.

            Like many women, she had the strength of a survivor, but what set her apart was the quality of her strength, how tethered it was to our natural world.

            When I was about eight years old, I decided that my mother was some kind of mountain. Literally. As I grew older, that thought became a conviction. I thought of my mother as the spirit of the mountain in our backyard.

            And it wasn’t just me.

            When she died, one of her friends emailed me and said, “we’ve lost the wisest redwood in the forest;” in another email, a blessing was bestowed upon her in Haitian-Creole as a Mapou (a silk cotton tree), Haiti’s sacred tree, reaching beyond 200 feet in the air, an ancient, towering giant home to ancestral spirits.

            “She was my anchor, my century plant,” another email read. To Carole, her friend of 25 years, she was a hibiscus.

            A mountain spirit, a redwood, a majestic silk cotton tree, a century plant, a Mapou, a flower. My mother, Mousson, was a literal life-giving force for so many of us. She was an oasis. She reminded you of your own strength, of your own beauty while generously fueling you with the power that fed her own veins, her own being, her own soul.

            She believed in sharing.

            Helping your fellow man, as they say, was practically a sacred duty: help as many people as you can whenever you can. Save as many people as you can. After the earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, she chartered buses to rescue people from the rubble, transformed classrooms in the countryside into dormitories to shelter the hundreds she and her team at ORE had rescued.

           She established educational programs, and her intent was crystal clear: help children attain their dreams in a literal capacity; in other words, pay for their education if their families couldn’t do it, and provide for those children for as long as possible. Years, if need be.

            “You don’t take on a child for just six month,” my mother said to me when I was about thirteen. “It’s a commitment for the rest of your life,” and this wasn’t a birds and the bees talk. She wasn’t sharing her thoughts about parenting. This was a discussion about grant programs to support children in the areas of health and educational development. We talked about this every year, right up to her death. 

            There are so many stories about my mother. So many narratives of the number of people she has helped during her many decades in the south of Haiti.

            One of my personal favorites though is about a cat. One of my cats got caught in barbed wire several years ago. It was in the middle of the night. The more she struggled, the more the wire wrapped around, broke her skin, deepening each wound and creating new ones. I’ve never heard a cat make sounds like that night. I was scared. My mother took a flashlight, walked out of the door into the dark countryside, and spent what seemed like hours rescuing my cat. The flashlight from the battery went out, and still my mom kneeled on the ground, working by moonlight. Sweating. Gripping my cat. Holding her steady. Pulling barbed wire out of her flesh. I watched my mother’s forehead glisten; it was almost hypnotizing. Her skin, the gleam from the moon, my poor cat half screaming-half gurgling sounds. Standing there, I wanted to run, I wanted to vomit, do something. Anything to make the cat’s pain go away. My mother never spoke to me throughout the entire process.

            When she finally got the cat out, she cradled the mass of whimpering fur in her arms, looked at me, and said, “Hold her close. She’ll be okay.” And that’s just what I did, and that’s just what happened. I don’t think I let that cat go for days. And her wounds healed, including the big gash from her neck all the way down to her belly. It all healed.

            She was a mother far beyond the boundaries of her actual child.

            “I’ve lost my mother,” a gardener in the village told me. Standing across from me, the whites of his eyes were a striking red against his dark skin. He didn’t say anything for a while after that sentence. The silence cushioned his words; these round quiet minutes somehow made my mother more alive I think, for the both of us.

            “She taught me how to breathe, you know. She breathed for me when I thought my lungs were collapsing, and she brought me back to life when I thought I was dying,” he said before his breath caught in his throat.

            I wanted to tell him that it was all right to cry, but I didn’t. I couldn’t. I was already crying myself.

            At the end of her funeral, the procession to greet the family members morphed from a line into a mob, a mosh-pit of hugs and kisses that swallowed me up.

            “I was scared for you for a while,” my aunt later shared. She and several cousins had left because they thought they would pass out from the number of people swarming us. Over 600 hundred guests attended the funeral. “We couldn’t see you anymore. We couldn’t get to you. You completely disappeared,” my aunt said.

            I did. I disappeared in a throng of faces, lips, and hands; the scent of talcum powder, flowery perfumes, and cologne replaced the oxygen in the air, and faces came in and out of focus in front of me, from my left, from my right, hands pulling my shoulders backwards, turning me around. Hundreds came down all at once, and most of them whispered, “she was my mother too” or “how do I go on without my mom?” as they held on to me with a gentle kindness or with strong, steel arms, gripping, clutching.  

           As the crowd dissipated, and the air lightened, I stood by the stream that flowed right next to the dais for my mother’s ashes. I looked at that clear water, the bamboo trees all around us, the pictures of my mother placed throughout the landscape, and all these guests moving like ants throughout this tropical jungle. It felt like my arms, my palms, and my cheeks had undergone a kind of baptism, to feel over 600 people literally trace their blessing, much of their love and some of their desperation and sadness, and all of their hope on your skin.

            My mother was also lovably irrational.

            During one of the many hurricanes that end up hitting Haiti, we were huddled together in our bathroom, my father, my mother and I. The bathroom was the only safe place in the house because the ceiling was cement. The rest of the house had a thatch roof.  As the hurricane raged outside, I remember us being cozy in our comforters. That is, until a frog jumped out of nowhere on to my father’s forehead. To say that my mother lost her mind is putting it mildly. She demanded that my father locate the frog, who had somehow vanished at this point, and throw him out.

            “There’s a hurricane outside dear,” dad said. That didn’t matter. My father was ordered to brace the destructive, raging winds because of a frog. And he promptly located the frog and followed orders. (The frog is now in Jamaica.)

            At this point, I have lost count of the number of emails I have read since she died back on November 24, 2017.

            I want so much to accurately capture the woman and human my mother was, but there is no way to do that. There is no combination of words or sounds that can make her real to you.

            The night my mother died, I didn’t think I could keep breathing. The aggressive CPR, her broken ribs, her eyes, which were no longer her eyes, haunted me for a long time. Her fingers did the most damage to my heart because even in death, they were still long, and lean, and delicate. Still hers. She died at 3:10 am in the morning. Outside Jackson Memorial hospital, the city of Miami was unusually quiet as if everything had stopped.

            I took the elevator up to the 19th floor of our hotel, tip-toed across the living room, and stood outside on the balcony. I watched the blue light from the buildings haze over. The warm breeze coming off the bay couldn’t make it into my lungs. I needed to scream, but I didn’t know how, and I didn’t want to wake my sleeping husband and children. I knelt down, and pressed my lips as hard as possible against the ground, the rough cement digging into my mouth. And then I screamed. I pushed everything in me into the silent, solid dust. The muscles in my body spasmed until I was sore.

            So many people have dreamed of her since that day. Several people have experienced an overwhelming sense of peace in their dream. After the balcony incident, I thought losing my mother would break me. 

            Her spirit was inviting and warm, fiercely so.

            When she was in her twenties, my mother visited a region of the United States known for its racism at the time. In my mind, it was Tennessee, but I can no longer ask her to remind of the place, but I remember that the group of friends she wanted to visit told her not to come to their part of town. They would pick her up and meet her elsewhere. I never paid close enough attention to the details of this story, but this last part stays with me. My mother ended up in a neighborhood that she shouldn’t have been in, and a couple of dogs surrounded her. They sniffed her. She petted them. “They licked my hand,” my mom told me. “We played for a little bit.” The folks she was staying with rushed out, and quickly separated her from the dogs with very little explanation. Later on, they shared that those dogs were trained to attack anyone who was black, trained to target the neck, sink their teeth in, and squeeze. Anyone who trains dogs will tell you that dogs are very sensitive to the energy around them. After hearing this story, a friend of mine who owns a couple of bulldogs and volunteers at dog shelters in Lubbock, Texas said, “Your mother must give off one hell of a vibe.”

            Although I feel the loss of this woman in so many ways, the most acute ones being when I watch my three year old and 19 months old daughters and realize their experience of their grandmother won’t be as vivid as mine, I’ve been happy since the balcony night in Miami. Content. My mother didn’t visit me in my dreams like she did for so many others. I don’t feel her presence in that her spirit didn’t manifest itself to me like it did for some, but I can hear her. Not in the back of my mind, but rather as part of my mind. I can feel her in the hollow of my chest, spreading beneath my ribcage.  I can feel her smile when something funny happens, and I smile. I hear her voice, constantly. She’s become the sound of the canal waters behind my house. 

            When she died, my father reminded me that, “she’s merged with an ocean of love, and that means she’s merged with you too.” My mother has roots that go deep, deeper than many realize, deeper than I realized. I now know that I carry her with me, and it’s not so much that she comes back to visit. It’s that she didn’t really leave. Like a true silk cotton tree, a real Mapou, she grew. She spread her limbs wider, beyond what I could fathom.

            I miss her. I miss her.

            My tears are for me, though. When I think of her, I can’t help but slowly smile because I can picture her dancing. I can picture my mother’s soul dancing, with so much bliss.

            We must carry on in her spirit.

            I don’t really know how to end this essay, but perhaps it doesn’t need an ending.

Nimi E. Finnigan

 


 

We need your help to maintain ORE's mission of help to those in need

Une  triste nouvelle – Donnant suite aux travaux pour la communauté

Ceci est pour vous informer officiellement que notre cher Dr Mousson Pierre FINNIGAN, Directeur Général de ORE depuis les années 80, a quitté ce monde le 24 Novembre 2017.

Nous sommes tous profondément émus par la perte de Dr  Mousson Pierre FINNIGAN, une personne exceptionnellement dévouée, compatissante et talentueuse, qui depuis des décennies travaille sans relâche au service de la communauté.

Suite à une Assemblée Générale par téléconférence, les membres du conseil d’Administration de ORE ont élu à l’unanimité Eliassaint MAGLOIRE (Agronome) comme le nouveau Directeur Général de ORE, effectif immédiatement.

Help by donating
Whatever you donate will go directly to those in need, and with your help we can offer:
  • Education to Overcome Poverty
  • Help to Cover Mousson’s Medical Costs
  • Lasting Protection of the Environment
  • Biofortified Seeds
  • High value Tree crops
  • Nutrient Rich Crops
  • Whatever else is required to rebuilt the communities’ well-being

There are really no words to adequately express the depth of our reaction to the fact that our dear Dr. Mousson Pierre Finnigan, CEO of ORE since the 1980’s, departed this world on the 24 November 2017.

We are all deeply moved by the loss of such an exceptionally devoted, compassionate, and talented leader – who has for decades worked tirelessly in service to the community. She was a truly exceptional person, and it had been a privilege to share time with her, to see in action what it is to be someone entirely devoted to helping in every way possible those around her. She leaves a legacy of positivity that has impacted her family, her community, and a huge number of friends around the world.

We all mourn her loss, missing her company and her presence, never again to be able to speak with her, or hear her laughter. But when we take stock of her life, her values, and the purity of her heart throughout all the difficulties of life, we are also bound to realize that such a being is in no doubt now in a state of peace and wellbeing beyond our imagination.

Her message and her mission were to fight to improve the quality of life of those around her. She directed the activities of ORE to this end, with tenacity, courage, and compassion – and this was also reflected by the loyalty and determination of the entire team working at ORE in the south of Haiti.

Those around her are determined to continue all the programs and activities that were dear to her. Eliassaint Magloire, who for years assisted her and skillfully managed all the major projects, is therefore continuing as the new Executive Director of ORE. In light of our commitment to continuing and expanding our services to the community, we have elected two new board members: Dr Nimi E. Finnigan, Mousson’s daughter and Dr Daniele Bolière.

To many the words come spontaneously, words such as “she was an angel on her way home,” “tu étais un Ange sur terre” (an angel on earth), “une belle pensée pour cet Ange qu’elle est et qui a tellement fait pour ces concitoyens”… (the angel that she is, who has done so much for her fellow compatriots).

As her daughter Nimi wrote: “As many of you may know, my mother passed away this Friday morning at 3:00 am. I don’t have the words yet, and the brief times I do, they don’t make sense or do not seem real. But pictures are words too, so here are some words about my beautiful mother” to which a friend replied: “You are Lucky to have had such a wonderful mother!”

Due to Mousson’s long illness and the need we may have to help cover her hospital fees and funeral arrangements, we have set up a GoFundMe account. If you would like to help, please feel free to contribute through the GoFundMe site. You are also welcome to donate through the ORE Website at http://oreworld.org/donate.htm.

All the collected funds will be used to cover medical bills and funeral arrangements, and any remaining balance will go towards the programs Mousson set up in Haiti: education programs and scholarships that fund the education of children from primary through secondary grades all the way up to graduation, the seeds/crops programs (which provides seeds and improved crops to local farmers), and programs focused on tree-planting and protecting the environment.

We may miss her more than words could convey, but her spirit, her strength of character, and most importantly her love and devotion to service remains with us all.

Any help you offer will make a huge difference!

Even the smallest gift will go a long way to alleviate the suffering. Thank you for your help. Every donation goes in full directly to those in need.