“Soka Serge mouri” – Serge Supre, An Upright Haitian

 

An Upright Man

I woke early on the morning of Tuesday 2nd February to read a message from Esther,  ‘Soka Serge mouri’. It was time stamped 3.43am.  A few minutes later, I received a phone call which I passed to Rea as I did not want to speak.  It was Serge’s daughter Sergine phoning to let me know her dear Papam had left us.   The hougan told them to take him to hospital immediately which they did.   On the night of his transition, Sergine had sent a video of her father who was on oxygen and unable to speak since early Sunday morning.  They were in Serge’s maternal ancestral village Payon just outside Miragoâne . They had brought him here on the  Sunday morning to see a hougan having lost faith in western medicine they hoped for a Haitian solution. I managed to watch about 10 seconds before I passed it to Rea.

Serge was clearly in torment, swaying and lifting his head from side to side in a struggle for his life.  The violence of his death doesn’t leave me and the only relief is knowing he fought hard as I always imagined he would.   He was  absolutely not afraid to die but he wasn’t going to die by the hand of another and not fight with all his strength.    How did a perfectly healthy man of 46 go from a pain in his leg and three weeks later die with such violence?

Serge and I chat on WhatsApp every few days whether I’m in Haiti or in the US.  In mid January he told me he was in a great deal of pain with his leg which he had injured 26 years ago in an accident and which he could not bend. In the three years we had been friends and travel companions I never heard him complain of pain in his leg or any illness.  He said he thought it could be because the night weather was cold.  I said I would bring him some strong pain killers when I come on the 25th January.  On the 22nd I received a text from him saying he had to have an operation to save his leg and it would cost $75o.  I immediately set about raising the money and by the following Wednesday when I was already in Haiti myself, I was able to give him the full amount.  I  arrived back in Haiti on the morning of the 25th and Serge came with his wife and daughter that afternoon. It was shocking to see him unable to get out of the car and so thin and tired looking but he was still cheerful and wonderfully handsome.   I was to see him once more the following Wednesday when he was much improved and able to joke with us about his predicament. I gave him the SD card he had asked me to bring and he made a joke about my constant forgetting and what would I do without him to remind me of the little things in life.   I said goodbye and four days later he was gone.

We spoke each day but my last conversation was on Saturday.  He could hardly talk, his voice faint and tired. I asked somewhat panicked, whats happening, whats wrong?  He said no its OK he was on new medication and he would be fine by next week friday. He also repeatedly thanked me, ‘thank you Soka, thank you for everything my sister” . I thought he was referring to the money I had raised and said no problem but  he knew he was dying but could not tell me so he had to say his goodbye in his own way.  I later found out that he had also spoken to my friend Rea later that day and told her he was dying, it was the end.

Serge with his beloved daughter, Sergeine

At approximately 1am on Tuesday 2nd February, Serge transitioned to the great abyss under the sea to join the world of the dead.  Here also is the place where the spirits are born and reside. We are told it is far away from Haiti,  in that place known as Ginen, Afrik where we all came from a long long time ago.   Serge will remain here until a time when he can be brought back, his soul reclaimed by the living. Then he will be honoured and after many generations he too will become an ancestor and one of the invisibles.

He always spoke of ‘mistè a’, [les mystères].  I would ask him questions, endless questions and he would reply, Soka its something mystic but let me try to explain to you. And this is what he did explain, interpret, laugh, protect, and remember. He was patient and constantly told me to be patient, “you must be calm Soka, please”.  Serge was solid, strong and the proudest Haitian I know despite his constant complaining about Haitians and Haiti, and the fucking blanc people, he loved this land.  He also knew everyone, or someone that knew someone. He knew every city, department, region, every deal that was to be had.  There was no where we could not go if that was what was needed. He seemed to be a friend to everyone including the whole lesbian population of PAP and Cap Haitian.  I asked him once how come he had so many queer friends, his response was classic Serge, “I think its because I make sex like I’m a woman’ laughter.  He couldn’t abide waste and expense, American rice or frozen imported chicken.  He would rather eat Haitian rice and beans with banan than all the frozen chicken in the world.

I have to be honest, I suspect he indulged me. Other friends here leave me to figure my way around but not Serge.  He was proud, proud to walk with me, proud of his beloved beautiful daughter, Sergine, proud of his country, proud of who he was – an upright Haitian man.

Li te bon neg. Mesi anpil anpil frere, mwen. m’ pa bliye, tout bagay.

 

Serge with his late father, Pa Supre, July 2014

Serge with his late father, Pa Supre, July 2014

 

Serge’s funeral took place on Saturday 6th February [Gallery]. The ceremony took place in the village Catholic church. There were maybe 100 people attending.  I was late arriving as we had been given the wrong time.  We sped up the hill to Payon which was about  a 20 mile moto ride.   By the time I arrived the casket was closed but later at the burial ground one of his brother’s opened it so that I could say my goodbye and he looked so peaceful and still handsome.   He was buried in  his maternal family cemetery in Payon.  I was pleased that he would rest not far from the guardian of the cemetery, Bawon Cimitière, who would now watch over him.

Serge Supri, Friend, Brother, Commrade: 22nd October, 1969 – 2nd February, 2016.