Music, tears, laughter at BC’s memorial

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Carla Castagne, centre, is comforted at the memorial service for her husband BC Pires held at the Century Ballroom at the Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain on Saturday. – ROGER JACOB

Columnist BC Pires’ sendoff on Saturday by the journalistic and literary fraternity was filled with laughter and tears, as befitted his life.

The memorial service was held at the Century Ballroom, Queen’s Park Oval. Pires died on October 21 after a year-long battle with cancer of the oesophagus. He was 65.

Long-time friend Gregory Wight said Pires was entertainingly relevant and humorously educational, which sometimes upset people.

“Another thing I admired about BC was that he was always laser-focused on the small guy. It’s always easy to be nice to the people at the top of the game, to the top politician, business person, media person, but the real measure of a person at the end of the day is how you deal with the downtrodden, the broken, the poor, and I think that’s where BC came up trumps all the time. I’m proud of him for that.”

Wight read from some of Pires’ columns on crime, religion, death, soca, cemeteries, his father, 9/11 and various other topics which he said were still relevant today. He shared the reason why Pires said he began writing the Thank God It’s Friday column, which ran in the Express, Guardian, and Newsday at various times.

Quoting from Pires’ book Thank God It’s Friday – a collection of some of his best columns, Wight said, “In 1988, newspaper columns in TT were ponderous things, and I badly wanted to read something lighthearted, something that was not heavy, something that was not written for the purpose of making the author appear intelligent or important. In the end I had to write it myself, and I achieved my aim. The writer was not thought of as intelligent or important.”

Wight said he was very wrong in that estimation and shared what being friends with Pires had done for him.

Carla Castagne, left, speaks to President Christine Kangaloo at the memorial for her husband BC Pires at the Century Ballroom at the Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain on Saturday. – ROGER JACOB

“Spending time with BC over the past 34 years improved my thought process and my conscience, and so much of what he said was garnished with a wicked sense of humour, so it was always a joy to be in his company. I will treasure his memory going forward.”

Pires’ wife Carla Castagne and daughter Rosanna Castagne-Pires took turns paying tribute. Castagne said it felt as if the world stopped when Pires told her he had cancer. His son Benjamin gave the eulogy.

“When we started this journey,” said Castagne, “the metaphorical mountain in front of us got bigger and bigger. At times it felt like it was growing so big that it shut out the light we were trudging towards. It was the darkest and most frightening time of our lives. But the kindness and generosity that people showed us carried us through. They shone a light onto us and we felt it even in the shadow of the mountain.”

She said the words “thank you” were inadequate for the love, kindness and benevolence showered on BC and herself over the past year. She thanked those who had made an impact on their lives in Pires’ final year, including Dr Kavi Capildeo, Dr Maria Bartholomew, Dr Jacqueline Sagba, Dr Ian Ramnarine and the Mt Hope Chest Hospital doctors, nurse Rhonda Peters, and Gillian Samuel.

She thanked David Rudder, Gary Hector, Freetown Collective, and Ataklan for performing at the service.

“Thank you for honouring his wishes to have his favourite musicians at his memorial. I just know he would never have missed this and believe he is enjoying it immensely. If this was someone else’s memorial he would be very jealous.”

Castagne thanked Wight and Justice of Appeal James Aboud, who also spoke at the memorial service, and said they would keep his name alive in stories for years to come. She thanked photographer Mark Lyndersay; Pires’ oldest, dearest friend; and her friends who had stood by her, including Lisa Chote; her own mother and father, Pires’ mother and others.

“To all BC’s friends and readers, who meant the world to him, your support gave him the energy to climb the biggest mountain of his life. Unfortunately, he didn’t make it back down. We will forever be grateful to everyone who showed us love and care during this time. We miss you, BC, and we know you are here with us as well.”

President Christine Kangaloo was among the people who turned out for the memorial.