In Old Age I Found True Refuge
As told by Louisa Gregorio
I HAVE lived nearly one hundred and two years—much longer than our allotted seventy years. (Ps. 90:10) But it was not until I lived past seventy years that I was able to find what I had always wanted—true refuge and hope.
I am a descendant of refugees who sought freedom of worship many years ago. Early in the reign of Queen Victoria, who ruled England from 1837 to 1901, residents of the Portuguese island of Madeira experienced religious persecution from Roman Catholics. Their Bibles were burned, and they suffered other mistreatment. In time, Queen Victoria sent a boat to the island so that all who wished to leave might do so,
Among those who boarded that ship were two young girls. The ship was bound for the British West Indies. Some of the refugees disembarked on the island of Antigua. The others, including those two girls, came here to Trinidad. They were an industrious, sincere group. They carried stones from the nearby East Dry River and built St. Ann’s Church of Scotland, which stands to this day.
One of those refugee girls was my great-grandmother. She bore a daughter, Marceliana, who was my grandmother. When Marceliana married and bore children, my mother Mary was born. In time, she married Manuel Pereira, who became my father. Our family came to have three girls and a boy who died at an early age. Father also died, and so my mother found employment in a store to care for her family and home.
EARLY EDUCATION AND MARRIAGE
We lived at the corner of Henry and Duke Streets, which is now downtown Port of Spain. Not far away on Victoria Street was the Girls Model School, where I received my schooling. When I was sixteen years of age, two young men in the neighborhood began to take notice of me. One belonged to a wealthy family; the other was a poor young man. My affections became centered on Albert Gregorio, the poor boy. We were married when I was twenty years old, and I have never regretted the choice.
Albert and I were happy together and worked hard to have a good home for our growing family. We had three boys and three girls. Albert kept horses and carriages as a means of making a living for us. Our home in Belmont was modest, but we were a happy and close-knit family.
After some years Albert opened a small funeral home in Belmont, and for a long time, Gregorio’s Funeral Home was a landmark on Observatory Street. My husband became known as the poor man’s friend, for even if a family could not afford to pay for a funeral, Albert still arranged to care for the burial.
NO DESIRE FOR SPIRITUAL THINGS
During World War I a man named Evander J. Coward came to Trinidad and drew large crowds to his Bible lectures. He was one of the Bible Students, now known as Jehovah’s Witnesses. My sister Annie, and her husband, Wilfred Ferreira, as well as my mother, started associating with the Bible Students. Willie, as Wilfred was known, became a very zealous Bible Student and traveled to the other islands in his preaching work. Although I would listen to Willie, I did not respond.
In 1931 my husband contracted pneumonia. Until the last he tried to get up and move about, but in a short time he collapsed and died in our home. He never became a Bible Student, but he was a very good husband to me. I missed him very much. Now the burden of maintaining the home fell wholly on me. I would make blouses, skirts and other items, and sell them at a reasonable price. This is how I supported myself for many years.
RESPONDING TO BIBLE TRUTHS
It was in the late 1940’s that I finally learned where true refuge and hope were to be found, although I could have learned much earlier if my attitude had been different. Jehovah’s Witnesses had opened a special school in the United States called Gilead to train missionaries to go to other lands and freely teach the Bible to any who wished to learn. In 1946 some of these missionaries were sent to Trinidad.
One of these was a young woman named Ann Blizzard. I liked her and responded to her offer to study the Bible with me, and I appreciated the truths I began to learn. One day we studied Second Peter 3:13, which says: “But there are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.” Thinking of these righteous heavens and earth brought me great happiness. I wanted to be in that righteous arrangement. At the time I was about seventy-six years of age.
I encouraged my granddaughter, Joy Hearn, who lived with me, to join our study. She was glad to do so, and she too soon accepted the Bible truths we were learning. Eventually I began attending all the meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses at 6-B Norfolk Street in Belmont, and I enjoyed them very much.
I also enjoyed telling others about the wonderful things I was learning. I had many interesting experiences in calling on persons from house to house and in conducting home Bible studies. I remember having a Bible study with Alma Ford. She received the truth with a good heart, and became an active witness for Jehovah.
I encouraged my daughter Ivy, who lived in San Fernando some thirty miles south of Port of Spain, to study with the missionaries there. She did, and she and her daughter Jean accepted the Bible truths they learned, and eventually so did her husband Jack. My grandson Peter also listened and believed. I can recall how happy I was that day, November 25, 1950, when my daughter Ivy and my two granddaughters, Joy and Jean, all were baptized, at an assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
THE ENEMIES, OLD AGE AND DEATH
All during the 1950’s and early 1960’s I attended meetings and shared in preaching and teaching the truths of the Bible to others near my home. Then frailties of old age became a common experience to me. I well know the truth of Psalm 90:10: “In themselves the days of our years are seventy years; and if because of special mightiness they are eighty years, yet their insistence is on trouble and hurtful things.”
Contributing to my troubles was the fact that one of my sons grew ill and failed to recover. Just as he seemed to be getting better, he suffered a relapse and died. Even though I knew the Bible’s promise of a resurrection and the paradise earth, I still grieved for Cecil.
Then one day when I was past ninety-six years of age, I started to open a window in our living room. Suddenly, I slipped and fell, suffering great pain. The doctor was called and he immediately arranged to take me to a nursing home. I had broken my hip and needed an operation.
The doctors and nurses put pressure on me to have blood transfusions, saying that I would surely die if I did not receive them. I refused, for God’s Word forbids the taking of blood. (Gen. 9:4; Lev. 17:10; Acts 15:20, 29) I thank Jehovah that I could survive the operation and recuperate. At the same time, two elderly ladies in their eighties in the same nursing home had broken their hips. Both took blood transfusions. Both died.
Well, I had one leg shorter than the other after my hip healed. A special shoe was made for me and I was given a walker. With these I was able to move about my home and do much of my housework and get meals. It was a trying time, but the members of the local congregation were very kind and encouraging to me. I continued to have a strong desire to survive the battle of Armageddon into God’s new order.
Then my son Vivian died, and a little later Kenneth also died, leaving me without sons. My three sisters had also died. All these deaths of my dearly loved ones were hard to accept, but I know I shall see them in the resurrection. I also look forward to seeing my husband again in God’s righteous new order. This Bible-based hope has given me great courage. I enjoy reading Psalm 56:11: “In God I have put my trust. I shall not be afraid.”
I am presently in a very weak physical condition, being unable any longer to get out by myself. Sometimes I express the thought that it is a bit hard to be alive at this age. I always desired to live through Armageddon, but at my age it may not be possible. So I look forward to coming back to life in the resurrection at a time when all my joys will be realized and the present unhappy conditions will not be remembered nor come to mind.—Rev. 21:3, 4.
[Picture Louisa Gregorio on page 553]