Brother at funeral: Suzanne Mills was a wounded warrior

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Roger Mills, brother of Newsday’s ex-editor-in-chief Suzanne Mills, and his great-nephew Asaiah Simonette, hold a portrait of her after her funeral at the Church of the Nativity, Crystal Stream, Diego Martin on Tuesday. – AYANNA KINSALE

SUZANNE MILLS, former Newsday editor in chief, was remembered as a warrior fighting battles few people could face.

Her brother Roger Mills hopes her death could send a message against the stigma surrounding mental ill health. He was speaking to Newsday after her funeral on Tuesday.

Friends, family members and former colleagues formed a small congregation to say farewell at a brief service at the Church of the Nativity, Diego Martin, marked by the lack of a homily and eulogy, in line with Mills’s wishes.

Her body was absent, with a casket replaced by a lectern which was draped in flowers and supported a large photograph of her face.

Officiating priest Fr Mikhail Woodruffe announced the playing of a few songs before the start of the service as requested by Mills, namely Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds and One Love, plus the hymn Ave Maria.

The service included two readings by Mills’s nephews, a moment of silence, a gospel message and prayers/blessings by Woodruffe, and a recessional hymn.

Towards the end of the service, Roger gave an impromptu tribute to his sister, saying he hoped not to get into trouble for straying from Mills’ instructions, which he later told Newsday she had repeatedly laid down.

He told mourners, “She made it very clear that we were not to belabour, talk too much, so I won’t.

“I just want to make clear that our family loved our sister dearly. While her life was full of rollercoaster moments, we think only of the high points.”

Roger described Mills as a warrior, as known by those who truly knew her.

“She was a warrior, and as warriors we will speak her name with honour and pride. That’s how we feel. That’s how we’ll take her, and that’s how we’ll remember her.”

Saying Mills loved children, especially her nephews and nieces and in turn the children of these family members, Roger asked the congregation to join him in singing happy birthday to Mills’s nephew Asaiah, who turned seven on Tuesday.

Later, Roger told Newsday he thought people with mental health challenges did not have enough places to access care.

“As the globe becomes more aware of the severity of mental illness, I think we have an obligation as a society to treat our loved ones who suffer from these problems with proper care, proper housing, compassion and dignity, and I don’t think we are there yet.

“So I want Suzanne’s life and her fight and her struggle to be a lasting beacon for that social change, that we must accept that we must put things in place for those who are struggling with mental illness.”

Mills was found dead on August 14 at her Diego Martin home, days after being seen by anyone. She had worked at Newsday, where her late mother Therese Mills (who died in January 2014 at 85) had been the founding editor in chief.