Mickela Panday: ‘Goodbye, Papa’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Mickela Panday is consoled by her sisters as she reads the eulogy for her father former prime minister Basdeo Panday during his state funeral at the Southern Academy for the Performing Arts yesterday. – Lincoln Holder

MICKELA Panday was almost overwhelmed by grief as she delivered the eulogy at the state funeral of her father, former prime minister Basdeo Panday, at the Southern Academy for the Performing Arts (SAPA) in San Fernando on Tuesday.

On the verge of tears, Mickela’s siblings Niala, Nicola and Vastala were swift to embrace her as she became choked with emotion.

“Goodbye, Papa. Goodbye, Dad,” Mickela sobbed as she embraced her sisters.

She thanked God for giving Panday to her family “in this beloved twin-island nation.”

Panday, 90, died in the US on January 1 after going there in mid-December for medical treatment.

As she delivered his eulogy, Mickela said, “Exactly one month ago, when our family and loved ones travelled abroad, never in a million years did we think that our father would not be coming back home to be with us.”

The family, she continued, never entertained that thought “because of his sheer will, determination and fighting spirit with which he lived his life.”

Mickela said Panday never complained about anything “because he never wanted anyone to worry about him.”

She added, “Up until the last moment, nothing changed.”

Mickela told the gathering about an occasion when the doctor visited Panday and asked him how he was.

She said Panday replied, “Doc if I was feeling well, I would not be here.”

Members of the gathering laughed in response.

Mickela said Panday’s good nature was infectious.

“Everyone who met him immediately loved him, and so when he left us last Monday, our world shook, never to be the same again.”

While her family was grappling with disbelief, shock and sadness over her father’s death, Mickela said the sense of duty which Panday instilled in her and her sisters kicked in.

“Yes, he is our dad, but he did not belong to us alone. He loved people, and people loved him.

“While we knew this was one of the most difficult things that we were ever going to face in our lives, we had to balance our own grief, looking after our mother (Oma) and putting country before self, as our father would do.

“Our father was fearless, honest, strong-willed, disciplined, humble, kind, selfless, hardworking like no one that I have ever known or will ever know.”

While Panday’s public commitments often took him away from the family, she said, he was always there when they needed him.

She recalled playing a snowflake in a Christmas primary school play when she was six.

Mickela said her constant searching for Panday in the audience while performing made her fall on stage. When the play was over, she remembered asking him what he thought of her act.

Mickela said his reply was “Mick, that was great, but it’s the first time I heard a snowflake fall so hard.”

His brother Subhas was also moved to tears when he gave his tribute earlier in the service.

“I am fortunate to have a brother like Basdeo. Bon voyage, my brother.”

Subhas said Panday never forgot where he came from and always did what he could to help the poor.

He disclosed that Panday wanted a small parcel of land his family owned in St Julien Village to be used to build a home for battered women and homeless children.

Panday’s granddaughter Eva Cameron read a Scottish poem, Highland Gathering, as her tribute to him.

DEAR GRANDPA: Former prime minister Basdeo Panday’s granddaughter Eva Cameron reads a poem in his memory during his state funeral at the Southern Academy for the Performing Arts, San Fernando on Tuesday. – Lincoln Holder

She said the poem was “for our dear Grandpa, a love so true.”

Panday’s son-in-law Daniel Tarlow said he, like the rest of the family, was looking forward to being in TT in the new year with him.

“He would be picking mangoes and walking Normie, the family dog.”

Tarlow said he came to respect Panday in many ways over the years.

He added that he sees much of his fierceness and independence in his wife Vastala, Panday’s youngest daughter.

Tarlow told the gathering about legendary debates that Panday and his daughters would have with each other.

He said the world would be a better place if everyone “had a little Bas on their shoulder.”

Panday’s friend and political colleague John Humphrey thanked him for being a friend to his granddaughter Rebecca, who has Downs Syndrome.

“Becky adored Bas.”

Humphrey asked Panday to give a message to his wife Helen, who died last year.

“Tell Helen I love her.”

Mickela thanks Browne

MICKELA PANDAY, daughter of former prime minister Basdeo Panday, singled out Foreign Affairs and Caricom Minister Dr Amery Browne for his yeoman service.

She did so while delivering the eulogy at Panday’s state funeral at the Southern Academy for the Performing Arts (SAPA), San Fernando on Tuesday.

“I don’t know if I’m going to breach protocol by saying this, but I have to say to Dr Amery Browne and his team, who moved mountains to help bring our dad back home, and absolutely everyone who worked tirelessly to pull together a state funeral of this magnitude in less than a week: we thank you.”

Mickela also thanked “everyone who came here today to bid him farewell.”

Panday, 90, died in the US on January 1. His body was returned to TT on January 3.

Before the funeral, Panday’s body lay in state at the Red House in Port of Spain and SAPA on January 5 and 8 for public viewing.

After the service, Panday was cremated at the Shore of Peace, Mosquito Creek, South Oropouche.