Nothing will change your week quicker than finding out that a colleague and friend has died unexpectedly. Some habits are hard to break and checking e-mail on my phone first thing in the morning is one of mine. On Monday morning, I was stunned to learn that Marlene Ramroop had passed into the presence of her Lord on Saturday. She had been hospitalized for an illness shortly before this, but seemed to be recovering. Her recovery had progressed to the point that she and her husband were taking a late afternoon drive and decided to stop at the main CLC store (after hours) on the island where she worked. After she was finished getting what she needed, she asked Duncan to get the car ready and pull around. In the few short minutes that it took him to get the car prepared, she was called home.
Marlene was a special person and someone that I have known for over thirty years. She started in the CLC ministry in Trinidad as a 19 year old and was brought onto the team by my father who was in charge of the work at that time. Like many CLCers over the years, she started at the bottom (as a front liner) and worked her way up. At the time of her death she was the National Director for the work of CLC in the Eastern Caribbean and was responsible for overseeing the ministry in Trinidad, Antigua and Dominica. Her coworkers loved and respected her and were shocked by the news of her passing.
In addition to being a long time, dedicated CLCer, Marlene was a beloved mother and wife. Her son Josiah is now a young man and was the apple of her eye. Duncan, her husband has suffered with serious physical ailments in recent years and she was always at his side prepared to help in any way that she could. Many people would comment that she could hardly have a conversation without mentioning either Duncan or Josiah as they were so near to her heart.
After some quick discussion with my team, I decided to attend her funeral on Friday in Trinidad. There were representatives from all the CLC teams in the islands present at her memorial service as well as Gerardo Scalante, Regional Director for the America’s (and her boss). Even though it was a busy Friday morning in Trinidad, many people took time off from work to attend the service and the church was full of people who loved and appreciated Marlene.
My fondest memories of Marlene were at our international gatherings where she could always be counted on to bring her smile and a kind word for all of us in attendance. One of the most memorable gatherings took place in Santiago, Chile where we actually went to visit one of the highest mountains in South America. This trip took us up the side of the mountain and involved over 50 hair raising switch back turns and ended in the snow. Given that Marlene worked in the Caribbean, snow was not an everyday occurrence. Many of us were even worried that she could make it to the top without getting sick.
To my surprise and delight, Marlene made it up the mountain just fine – though I did hear about her incredible grasp on the arm of her seatmate during the trip and several calls on the Lord for Him to preserve her. She was almost like a child in the snow and enjoyed every moment of that trip. She had come well prepared with a heavy coat, scarf and hat as was not going to miss any of the fun. Her laugh was infectious and made the trip memorable for all of us.
At her funeral, many people commented on how committed and organized Marlene was and praised her for her dedication to work and family. As the stories began to unfold, however, one theme stuck out – Marlene was a lifelong evangelist. Crusades were an early part of her faith journey and she loved to talk about the Lord that she served. Her son Josiah even told about her giving him gospel tracts to hand out in primary school and how proud she was when he had handed them all out. Even in her hospital bed, she could not stop telling people about Jesus. One person at the funeral told of her daughter that was in the same hospital as Marlene and how concerned Marlene was for her. Marlene would not even talk about her own physical problems until she could pray for this woman’s daughter.
Marlene may have gone to heaven long before any of us expected, but she is now in the presence of the one person that loved her most. We will mourn and miss her, but will also carry on in the ministry of presenting the truth of the gospel as we are her greatest legacy – her friends and family that love and serve the Lord just a little more today because of her influence in our lives.