This is in memory of a good friend and a great person, Sandra Chouthi. Sandra was an icon in the fraternity of journalists, having worked with the Trinidad Guardian as business editor in her later years.She was meticulous,paid attention to detail and thorough. Her intellect and knowledge were to be admired. She passed away today after a long battle with cancer. She had been hospitalised for the past three days.
I met Sandra through my brother, her friend. It must have been in either 2008 or 2007.She was a frequent visitor to our home and she grew very close to my parents, especially to my mother.
Sandra was a loving person and was very expressive of that love. She always greeted us with hugs and kisses. She enjoyed a good joke with a somewhat dry sense of humour.
For a while, when I was estranged from my family, we did not keep in touch but she still connected with them. When I finally re-entered their lives, Sandra had become primarily my mother’s friend. They became so close that she would call my mother, “Mums”. It sounded so sweet when she uttered that familiar tag.
I remember she went on vacation with my mother and my aunts one year. That was a wonderful time for them. She was a source of amusement for Mum and her sisters. Sandra took it all well in stride and sometimes when they teased her about that time, I thought she would be offended. Never. She held that vacation close to her heart. It was a time of true relaxation and bonding for the four of them.
When she was first diagnosed with cancer, she shared with my mother and brother. Although she and my brother were no longer close friends, she still felt comfortable enough to disclose this personal information with him.
More than that, she turned to both of them in her time of need. She reached out to them for help with transport and support when she had to go for chemotherapy in Arima. She became very close to my mother during this time and perhaps she is the reason my mother was prepared to deal with her own diagnosis of breast cancer later on.
Even after her first round of battling cancer, Sandra continued her work with recycling. She had become an entrepreneur, collecting glass bottles nationwide for her company, Planet Recycling. She was rigid in her criteria for the condition of the bottles collected. She followed a tight schedule for collection as she also had to balance this with her editorial deadlines.
I remember that she even had us collecting bottles for her!
When she had her first round of chemotherapy, she was grateful for the relief she had received from the treatment. She was grateful to the extent that when she heard of the charitable organization AORTA, at my school, she contacted me to select two students who she could help with books or any other requirements.
On my advice, without ever meeting the girls before, Sandra graciously bought textbooks for one girl and paid for a visit to the optician for another. She was able to meet only one of the girls, the one who needed reading glasses.
I clearly remember that day. We planned to meet at a local mall, Gulf City in La Romaine, South Trinidad. I did not know what to expect; how she would look after chemotherapy. I almost passed her straight that day! She looked different but she looked fantastic. As usual she had a warm smile and a hug ready to give to us.
When I was in hospital, Sandra came to visit. Her discomfort was evident. Even though she put on that sweet smile, there was an underlying seriousness and concern in her expressions.
She came to visit me several times despite her own problems.
When I was finished writing my book, Sandra willingly agreed to peruse the manuscript for editing purposes. She made no changes, telling me only that it was good. I would later learn from my brother that she wept profusely as she read the manuscript! She had a compassionate heart, full of empathy for others and was too close to the subject of my book to be objective.
A few months ago, I had the privilege of accompanying Sandra to the St James medical facility in North Trinidad. It was a day spent in waiting; waiting to be seen by the nurses, waiting for blood tests, waiting for a bed and finally waiting for the chemo drugs. She is so considerate. She did not want me driving back home by myself too late at night and, since we were not sure about the time requirements for receiving her treatment, she made a call without telling me. She called another friend to relieve me at about three in the afternoon so that I could get home before dark and before the traffic started building up.
But several weeks before that day, she had made a tremendous effort to attend the launch of my book. That day she came all dressed up by our home;she was early because she did not want us to leave without her. It would have been a difficult time for her but she did it knowing how much I wanted her to be there.
Our family has lost a dear friend. Her family has lost a lovely daughter. This is all part of the greater scheme of things. She lived a life of purpose, a life of goodness, humility, service and character. Sandra Chouthi was a great person by any standard.
I thank God that she is now out of the pain which had begun to be a burden for her. I thank God that she had made a great contribution to society and to our lives. Peace be with her as she has now left this mortal realm.
To get a better idea of the quality of the person, Sandra Chouthi, I have added a few links to some of her work and some about her for your perusal . Read, enjoy and let us celebrate the life and work of Sandra Chouthi.
Obviously this list is not exhaustive but at least it provides a reference point for anyone who is seeking more information.
Please leave a comment: let me know if you knew Sandra, share your story about this lady with us; let me know if you can relate to the battle with cancer or with the recycling business; maybe you remember her vaguely from reading her articles in the newspaper, if so then share something that struck you most about her writing or that article you remember. This is in honour of Sandra Chouthi, editor, journalist, friend, philanthropist, fighter, sister and daughter.