Tuesday, 14 November 2017
Reflections on his Sun Rise and Sun Set: for Francis Andre Stoby 5th May 1969 – 2nd November 2017
He dreamed of having his own plot of land, I saw him in this image.
In the interminable circle of life we are charged with Purpose and unique Destinies that we forget during our many transmigratory experiences or movement from life to death. Memories and dreams, among other triggers serve to help us remember our Purpose, which we should recognise as Divine. That recall – or realignment with our Purpose gives our life its vital force. That vitality is withered or dimmed by many necessary, though functional distractions – work, family commitments, the burdens about our finances and fears about how to eat and clothe ourselves and so on. These overwhelming distractions leave us little time to Pause and be Still enough to tune into our Self – I mean as an active intuitive pursuit aimed at accessing some point of entry relevant to fulfilling our Purpose. Another trigger is, therefore, Meditation – which, if practiced consistently, can attune the heart to its many lifetimes and Soul journeys.
Francis found moments to meditate or rather those moments found him. During our time together there was always a far-off sadness in his eyes that made me believe he was searching for something that was always eluding him. I believe this has something to do with the loneliest endeavour to find his true self, to realign with the Purpose and the reason for his life, his vital force. I think what eluded him, what he couldn’t see was that the thing he searched for was determined by his willingness to activate his Spiritual Intelligence over and above the constraints of ego consciousness, which was burdened by bitterness and negativity.
In Ancient Egyptian cosmology, Ausar one among many deities is the God of the Underworld – or that transmigratory moment simply interpreted as death. Ausar represents the ‘Divine Self’ which the individual or mortal must aim to Realise (or manifest) by practicing Maat (she’s another deity in this cosmology who stands for Truth, Justice, Balance, Order, Harmony, Morality and so on). Another way to think of it is the practice of Ethical Living. That effort to attain Divinity is a quiet, lonely but necessary pursuit. That effort, the pursuit and ultimately the realisation that one is Divine is no easy thing. One’s divinity is stripped of all false impressions generally conveyed and obeyed in the vigorous expression of the Ego or the Personality. In Kemetic tradition, the Divine Self – Ausar - is an Indwelling Spirit or Intelligence. It is sacred because it is regenerative – meaning it transmigrates (from death to life to death to life and so on). We can think of it as resurrecting or reborning after returning to the ‘underworld’ as symbolised by death or dying. It’s a motion not unlike that of the Sun Rising and the Sun Setting – which process is eternal.
The ultimate Purpose of life then is to manifest one’s Divine Intelligence by consciously contributing to a much bigger picture than our Ego or Personality allows us to recognise. Divine Intelligence manifests by wilful adherence to the call, however loud or quiet, to serve humanity, toward its prosperity and its productivity, its peace, its love, its continuity.
Maat - anciety Egyptian deity represents truth, justice, balance, order, harmony etc - 'ethical living.'
Set an ancient Egyptian diety - opposes Ausar and Heru; represents a dark force - force of destruction.
I was briefly married to Francis Andre Stoby but I believe our meeting in 1995 when I first returned to Guyana must have been required. That period of my life and I feel for him too, was the most spiritually awakening. He had told me early in the relationship that someone - a sort of reader had told him he had a dark cloud hanging over him. I had many occasions during our relationship to observe the power this cloud held over his life. Francis seemed to abide under it; he was consumed by it and often found ways to repress himself because of it. It was an intuitive obsession he was vaguely aware of. I think of this dark cloud as a negative projection that overshadowed the Spark of Light that would have enabled him to perceive his Divine Self. I believe he knew but underestimated the greater power of his Spiritual Intelligence. He’s not alone in doing this by any means. We all fall short of taking seriously the importance of being self-aware and accepting that life can never be lived fully without recognising the importance of certain principles or codes. Clear signs gifted to us in dreams or some well-meaning advice, from elder, friend or family we take for granted, these are discarded from our conscience because they do not fit our expectations and what our Ego determines it wants from us.
In every life there is a consistent interplay between Divine Intelligence and Ego Consciousness. Let’s think of this as Sun Rise and Sun Set. One illuminates the other overclouds (makes 'dark'). In Francis’s case his Sun Set (or Ego) reflected self-destructive impulses for which he would resort to expletives and describe how ‘eff up’ his life was. Sadly he believed this – and always carried the expression as a badge or true sign, when all the while it was his Sun Set, a moment that would move into a next moment, especially if he learnt to self-direct his consciousness to think of and see himself through the spectrum of a particular light than a particular pervading darkness.
Activating his Spiritual Intelligence is essentially an act of Resistance – defeating the Sun Set if you like – thereby changing the projections about the dark clouds. In this way he might have fought a different kind of fight, we might have been exposed to a different outcome of his struggles. He might have fought harder to keep breathing. By this I mean that breathing as a conscious act of working the breath in a deeper, rhythmic sequence to make possible the spirit of longevity and of overcoming. Instead, he flouted his Power on shallow breathing, being puffed up and angry, becoming bitter with life and ultimately with love, thereby adulterating the dark cloud.
When he was at his best, his Sun Rise, Francis was funny. I believe it was his sense of humour that endeared him to me when I first met him. I recall laughing till my cheeks hurt. The day we were married we had organised a meal at a hotel off Main Street. The whole thing was intimate, only nine of us were there. When we finished eating one of his friends, I think it was his best friend Troy started to call for the customary speech; “speech,” “speech,” “speech,” others joined in, “speech,” “speech.” All eyes fixed on Francis. He scraped his chair back with flamboyant effort, stood up with a measure of confidence, looked long at each of us as though summoning the nerve to speak – then said, “tanks,” and sat back down.
Francis was a dreamer. By this I mean he dreamt a lot, and we enjoyed nothing more than exchanging our dreams. Dreams were like a connecting force between us. Sometimes he woke up with the dark cloud (the Sun Set as opposed to the Rise) impacting the whole day. He would be far off, in some unreachable place as though he was still experiencing the reveries of the subconscious realm of dreams. He might assume that vacantness for a few days. But then his spirits would suddenly lift because he had learnt that someone had died – the reality confirming what had drawn the dark clouds for those few days.
Literal dreams in the truth of his heart took the form of his desire to have a plot of land of his own. I cannot say if he ever achieved this but I know that whether they were big or small dreams executing any plan to make them come true was not his forte. He didn’t seem to trust himself fully. He had an abiding habit of flakiness and some wayward determination to press a self-destruct button. But I understood it as part of a deeper, ever elusive search. I understood it because it was perhaps the reason why our paths crossed in the first place, for my fingers were obviously not far from that same button. I don’t believe he was naturally cruel, but the lack of self-trust and self-love meant his kindness was sometimes masked by a tendency to overexpose his demons. I mean to say that he distrusted his own light and consistently denied himself the fullness of experiencing joy. And the dimness of his life, when he allowed the overshadowing dark clouds to prevail were visible, to any who met him in his very sad, distant eyes.
Francis taught me how to value family, something growing up in the UK I had taken for granted, or rather had given little thought to. He adored his father, Edward Stoby with whom he will now share many moments of laughter and musings on the other side. His father, we can be comforted to know is the ancestor whose hand will be leading him through the dark valley to meet many more of his ancestors. His face always lit up when he saw his father coming to join him at the barber stand or spot by big market where he used to cut hair. I knew Francis got his sense of humour from his father, who would say to me each time we met – “he does ram good?” crashing into boyish laughter and leaving me blushing terribly.
If there was any true love of his life, at least when I knew him, it was his son Giddel. I think much of the sadness Francis nurtured had to do with missing his son, or feeling some kind of failure or loss at not being there for him. He wanted to be a good father, maybe develop the kind of father son relationship that was really about friendship. When Giddel left for America, I think Francis was heartbroken. He treasured a letter Giddel wrote to him sometime after we were married. It says: ‘Hi Dad, how are you? As for me I am trying to be a good boy. I am trying to bring my grades up. I received your card and your pictures. You looked nice in your suit and your wife too. I wish that I had been there to bear your ring. I am sending you a school picture of me. I hope you like it.’ It was signed, ‘love, Giddel.’
That sense of heartbreak was also felt when he spoke of his mother, Loretta Stoby who had also migrated to America by the time I met him. I think Francis was deeply affected by the feeling that people he loved were always leaving and he was always saying good bye. I would add to this a few times before we married. When Francis spoke about his mum there was a clear impression that she was the family matriarch. There seemed to be a collective feeling of loss when she left but there had been such a close bond between their large family, well known in the Mocha Arcadia community that they held themselves together very well.
I never heard him speak badly about any member of his family. He loved each of them for different reasons, as far as I could tell. Godfrey, his elder brother, I hardly knew but when I met him seemed quiet and calm. I think Francis enjoyed reasoning spiritually with his brother Oral, and on matters of culture too. He certainly had much respect for him. He worked with Errol at the barber ‘outpost’ or whatever that spot was called where we met. He spoke protectively of his youngest brother Eric and though I hardly knew them I was impressed by his efforts to keep in good communication with his two big sisters whose names I can’t remember. It was marvellous to me to observe the way Francis tried to have a special relationship with his family. There was certainly something of a special affection between him and his niece Dorette, but he was so fond of all his nieces and nephews for whom he would bring treats when we visited.
In truth, Francis was a people person despite the ugly dark cloud that prevailed over him at some stages of his life. I loved observing the way he radiated as he walked through town, greeting everyone, hailing up brothers and shouting ‘aright aright’ to sisters, sometimes with a tinge of vexation that he did seem to know everyone and so couldn’t hide should he even wish to do so. The smile and hailups were real, however, and I think he missed this kind of kingly character when he came to London. At this time the cloud weighed in as though it had been repressing a pack of demons awaiting this precise moment to seize their freedom. Before this, I had observed that Francis had what seemed like a natural charm that made him loveable to everyone who met him. Certainly, there would have been a serious contrast between the community spiritedness he experienced in Guyana, Georgetown and Mocha particularly and the isolation and loneliness of being in London. I wanted him to come to London and at first he might have wanted to but he never really believed in the illusion of that dream. Sometime after our marriage ended he returned to Guyana. I saw him for the last time a few years ago when I visited. His locks were long but not as lush as they might have been. He looked sad to me and a little beaten, though he was pushing a smile. The charm, at least its effect on me had long worn off and been replaced by something I couldn’t quite name, but which caused me to cry bitterly after seeing him that last time. He was cutting hair not far from the very spot I’d met him over 10 years previously. It was a cycle and perhaps I wondered at the worth or futility of it.
Despite the continuum that is life and death each light when blown out is either a fleeting or significant loss to the community, especially when it manifests from bitter circumstances. One expects death to be a natural thing and in African cosmology when a person dies young it’s considered a tragedy, a severe sign of something gone terribly wrong. The burden on the family and indeed the community is immense only if we do not acknowledge the lessons each person contributes to the greater understanding of the continuum of loss and return; that indeed the Sun Sets but it must also Rise again and again.
My mother, whom Francis was fond of and called ‘Lucille gyal,’ said she had learnt a dream sign from him. He had told her that anytime you dream of dead fishes it’s a sure sign of death. She had such a dream on the night of 1st November; she said she didn’t like the sign, that it was Francis who had told her what it meant. Later that same day we saw two large black flies in the house; no windows were opened - we avoided thinking what we had known previously from this sign. I know each of us can share many stories about observing such signs in the years and months leading up to the news on Thursday 2nd November that Francis had passed. Were we comfortably in tune with our own Divine Intelligence we might have found some meaningful way not only to interpret those signs but to better warn Francis to be mindful of the steps he was taking to walk his journey.
So finally I leave you with a dream I had of Francis in 2001, the year we separated. Francis is looking out toward the Setting Sun. It’s a beautiful image of him – he’s looking sombre and reflective. He’s in a kind of dark shadow with a pervading darkness all around him. I seem to be watching him from a distance. When the Sun finally closes, he goes to bed. I go to bed with him. We hear a door slamming back and forth. He tells me someone might get locked out. I get up to go and warn whomever that they might get locked out. I actually rise from the bed as if going to do so which is how the dream breaks.
Francis Andre Stoby, you have seen the last physical Sun Set and the Last Sun Rise. You, who are a son, a father, a brother, an uncle, a friend, a lover and at one time my husband. You have been our joy, our pain, our laughter and now our tears. Your door here on earth has finally closed but you’re going to a place where there are no doors in your father’s many mansions. And as your brother Beres Hammond would sing, you will no longer get tired where you are, you’ll never have to go to work, there’ll be no one knocking at your door, disrespecting the no disturb sign, no baby crying, no horn blowing, no more noise Francis, no more pain, just all the time to blaze and be on a peaceful medi with the purest grade you’ll ever enjoy. So gear up and navigate yourself well for the eternal journey. For it is only a matter of time before your Sun will Rise again in glory through the Power of your Most High Jah Rastafari.
Michelle Yaa Asantewa
(formerly Michelle Stoby)
He will be laid to rest today 14th November 2017
at the Cemetry in Mocha, Arcadia, Guyana.