Lilian Carmen Batson, affectionately known as Ma Carmen, celebrated her 100th birthday today with family, friends and the Governor General of Barbados Dame Sandra Mason.
The retired labourer, mother to six children – two boys and four girls – is also grandmother to 21, great-grandmother to 17 and great-great-grandmother to four. A former employee of Kendal Plantation in St. John, Ma Carmen was born and bred in that same neighborhood until she moved to Montrose, Christ Church.
The matriarch of the Batson family told the media she “worked hard, hard” in her heyday and even at 100 years old she maintains an active lifestyle.
There wasn’t a job Ma Carmen wasn’t willing to do. During the day she worked the cane fields and in the late evenings she grew produce to sell on weekends at the Cheapside Market.
Her daughter Mavis Batson was overcome with emotion as she recalled how her mother singlehandedly raised and sent all of her children to school. Two of them received vocational training and four proceeded to secondary school and later tertiary-level educational institutions.
“My mother was so little and the baskets [for the cane] were so big – she was so strong. Even though she would work seven to seven she would leave and come out, plant canes and in the hard times when there was little field work, she would come out at night and plant cabbage and lettuce so she could take it to the market whenever,” her daughter recalled.
Batson, who is her mother’s fifth child, described her mother as “a loving, gentle, caring and giving person”.
Overwhelmed as she talked about the sacrifices her mother made for her family, Batson shared that she always prayed that her mother would make it to a century. She revealed that they often cruised and vacationed together.
Despite suffering a heart attack, the centenarian continues to be very independent and lively. Batson revealed that her mother remained a devoted member of the Christ Church Parish Church where she was active in the Mothers’ Union and the church army.
She instilled in all her children and their offspring the value of pray and belief in God. Her steadfast faith was evident as she erupted in a chorus of Ketch A Fire with the Governor General.
“She made sure that we had a good education and we went to church. We didn’t ask if we could go to church, we had to go to church,” Batson emphasized.
“On Old Year’s night, she prays from 12 o clock to 6 o clock in the morning . . . all night long.”
The centenarian’s eldest grandchild Waveney Rouse said that Ma Carmen was “a praying grandmother”. Rouse pointed out that her grandmother’s teachings and unyielding faith were embedded in her family.
“I would always pray to God that she would make 100. I wanted that and I asked God for it,” Rouse stated.