Just 46 hours short of her 104th birthday, in the company of her great-grandson, Lillian Pearson passed away peacefully at the Cayman Islands Hospital.
“She died listening to Jimmy Swaggart’s music, ‘Leavin’ On My Mind,’ and her last words were, ‘I love you,’ said great-grandson Matthew Leslie.
“Hearing her say she loved me is going to be a memory that goes with me forever. As the music played, she started to relax. I squeezed her hand, she squeezed mine, and I told her it was OK to go. ‘I am OK, I am not scared anymore,’ I told her. A couples minutes after, she cracked a half smile and went away. It was painful but I knew she was ready,” said Mr. Leslie.
Her family says her slogan in life was “Live for God.” She believed in having a positive attitude, and she had a sense of humor, which played a role in her living a longer, happier and healthier life, they said.
Ms. Pearson lived through many global, regional and local disasters, including two World Wars and three devastating storms – the hurricane of 1932, Hurricane Ivan and Hurricane Paloma. She saw many changes in her lifetime, having been born before cars, planes, cellphones or the internet.
She was just 6 years old when her mother Dorothy Bush died at age 40. Her father Ernest Connor, from the district of Bodden Town, lived to the age of 88.
At one point in life, Ms. Pearson did not think she would see 60. She said she had plenty of problems and plenty of children to raise.
In interviews with the Cayman Compass over the years, she described how she grew up eating lots of mangoes, guavas and other local fruit. Although she was an excellent baker of heavy cakes, bread and light cakes, she did not like eating them herself.
A storm off the coast of Nicaragua on Sept. 27, 1941, took the life of her husband and left her with six children and one on the way. To make a living for herself and her children after her husband died at sea, she washed clothes, cleaned floors, ran errands and did other odd jobs before heading back to school and then getting a job with British Fidelity.
Mr. Leslie attributed growing up with “mama” to some of the best days of his life. “I learned so much history of Cayman through her,” he said. Ms. Pearson’s oldest daughter, Madrie Bodden, said her mother was truly amazing for her age.
“She lived a long life and God kept her a long time. She had seven children, saw many grand- and great-grandchildren. God gave her that life and He took her back. We will miss her but it’s just the way of life,” Ms. Bodden said.
Great-granddaughters Martina and Marzeta Bodden remember feeling so grateful, as they were growing up, to have four grandparents and a great-grandmother in their lives. They enjoyed spending time with, being loved by and receiving wisdom from these people in their lives.
“I share my birthday with grandma Lilla, and so for every birthday in my life and hers, she will be remembered. Although she’s no longer here physically, we will continue to celebrate and honor her radiant, joyful spirit with the hope that I’m also blessed with a long, healthy, full and rich life,” said Marzeta Bodden.
When Ms. Pearson turned 100, in an interview with the Compass, her advice to others was: “If you want to live to be 100 … live for God, be truthful and live a good life.”
She said the best thing about life is having good friends. Ms. Pearson is survived by six of her seven children, Madrie, Stella, Lewis, Ella, Michael and Dorothy, and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
The funeral service for Ms. Pearson will take place on Saturday, Sept. 16, at the Church of God Chapel, Walkers Road George Town. Viewing is between 2 and 3 p.m. Interment follows at Dixie Cemetery.