Dr. Sir Prince Ramsey was simply “Prince” to me. And if all his qualities could be represented in a single word, I would describe my brother-friend as “simple.” But the word speaks to his character, the strength of it, and not to anything else about him.
Above anything else, what I admire about a man is his mind. And, inarguably, Prince had one of the sharpest minds of any I have met. He was a deep thinker, and nobody could fool him with any social, religious, or political theory that excluded the human element.
Prince was also a first-class writer in the classic sense, with a gift not simply for words, but for the mechanics of English. When he asked me to “look over” anything, I knew it would be a mere formality; I would not have to take up a pen or go to the keyboard to edit anything.
As well as he could diagnose symptoms of the human body, Prince could clinically assess the human mind. He could see beyond a person’s words and straight through to his character. These lessons came, I am sure, by way of the many instances of “bad-play” he went through. And it is surely a testament to his generosity of spirit that he continued to do so much good for so many.
Despite his education, his experience, his accomplishments, and his accolades, nobody meeting Prince for the first time would ever know who and what he was. He didn’t have airs, graces or affectations. He didn’t speak loudly or in anybody else’s accents. He didn’t call attention to himself or seek to impress. He knew who he was, and who he was satisfied him.
He would come to the kitchen where his wife, Ava, my best friend of 41 years, and I were sitting and chatting, and hail me: “DGI.” Then he would just help himself: taking from the fridge whatever he felt like eating; popping it into the microwave; washing his dishes after. And he would tell you, proudly, that he had looked after himself for years, living in England, and hadn’t forgotten how to do it.
I loved – as did our girls group – how he made space for us in his home life and how much a part of our families’ lives he was. He knew his place was No. 1 in Ava’s life, and so he didn’t compete or complain. He was above such pettiness.
For decades, even when I lived abroad, I would seek his opinion on things that mattered to me; not only because he gave good advice, but because he was “interested.” He knew how to listen and would ask hard and, often, uncomfortable questions when you stopped talking. But without judgment.
I remember, once when I called home for Ava, he answered the phone. He said, “You haven’t told me, and she hasn’t told me, either, but I heard you have a boyfriend up there.” Apologetic for not having shared, I admitted that I did have an American feller.
“He can take care of you?” he asked immediately. And I went off – a little bit. I told him that this was 1990, that I was an educated woman with a profession; that I could take care of myself, etc., etc., etc. And he listened and then asked the question again….
Five years later, when I gave that feller the keys to the street, I understood Prince’s question and the concern and love that lay behind it. And my continued understanding didn’t come from any follow-up conversation, either. It came from being close to Prince and Ava: from seeing and hearing and learning how it is – how it ought to be – when a man loves a woman.
Everybody who knew him, from best friend to patient, can tell you about Prince’s generosity. But his love, affection, and kindness to me – in sickness and in health – could never be quantified. (It tears me up, right now, writing this.)
When I received my Master’s degree in 1993, my graduation gift from Prince and Ava was a trip to Trinidad, for Carnival. What an utterly wonderful time we had: from pastelles for breakfast to the calypso tents and the dances at night; from screaming for Super Blue as he performed onstage that Sunday night to marvelling at the slow pace of their Jou’vert the morning after; from playing Uno in our downtime to coming home to Antigua, there to be welcomed with hugs and kisses by their sons, my godsons. There is no generosity on earth greater than inclusion….
Our mutual friend, Justin Simon, said that at a long-ago time Prince wanted to be rich. I’m sure he did, like all ambitious young professionals. But his wealth cannot be counted in dollars and cents – too much of which he simply gave away, anyway, to persons in need, to calypso, to culture, to education, to loved ones.
Instead, he is a billionaire times over in the legacy of his kindness, his service, his patriotism, and in the million stories of his personal touch – like lending his Mercedes as the bridal car on my wedding day, his birthday, and our joint celebrations for years after….
The night before he traveled to Miami last December, during a small prayer meeting at home, he said to his nurse, Patsy Ramsay, “I am not afraid.” I believed him. After all, as much as he knew his sciences, he also knew his God.
And that facet of his personality is what comforts me most. Maybe because his first calling was to the church, Prince was never a scoffing scientist whose faith was contained within a microscope and a genetic sample. He was a good physician who acknowledged the Great Physician.
… Two years ago, at our annual Good Friday gathering, after having lost two of my brothers, I was inspired to ask that we sing, “Because He Lives.” I can recall Prince, part of the circle, holding hands and singing before the prayer. And I can see him now, just biding his time at God’s great throne, waiting for us all to join him and continue the song….
I will spend the rest of my life missing you, Prince.
Rest in peace, My Brother.