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David Thompson gave deathbed address

Finished speaking minutes before last rites

CMC

Monday, November 08, 2010 | 8:50 AM    

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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados — The personal physician of late Barbadian Prime Minister David Thompson said Thompson delivered a rallying speech just hours before he passed away last month.

Thompson's personal physical Dr Richard Ishmael, in a statement published in the Sunday Sun newspaper, recalled how the former leader had the people of Barbados and those who supported him in his thoughts, even as he lay on his deathbed.

He recounted that the "remarkable thing happened" as Thompson lay in bed on the night before he passed, surrounded by his wife Mara, daughters Misha, Oya and Osa-Marie, sister Liz, and later his mother Margaret. Dr Ishmael said he and Thompson's night nurse were the only two outsiders there.

"He gave a political/rallying speech to his troops right there from his bed. Mara and I were not quite sure whom he was talking to, but he was thanking people for all their support and urging them to carry on his plans and policies," he said.

"This went on for about an hour and a half, and was uttered very softly and in a low tone so we were not able to decipher a lot of his words. At about 11:30 pm he stopped talking and had a peaceful look on his face. His breathing started to get shallow and his priest was called, who came and gave him his last rites."

The physician said that when Thompson stopped breathing at 2:10 am on October 23, losing his battle with pancreatic cancer, he had a smile on his face.

Dr Ishmael, himself a cancer survivor, said the late prime minister's death brought to an end the life of a "truly remarkable and great man".

"When struck down in the prime of his life with a fatal illness, he handled it with the utmost pride and dignity, never complaining and fighting it to the end," he said.

In his statement, the doctor also marvelled that Thompson never asked "why me?"

According Dr Ishmael, himself a cancer survivor, the 48-year-old refused to question God's plan for him and handled his illness in an extraordinary and dignified way. He said that from very early, Thompson knew what the prognosis of his condition was and chose to be extremely positive and put his trust in God.

In fact, the doctor said, during a frank discussion with Thompson while he was in New York for medical treatment, the Barbadian leader said he was simply happy for what he had been given in life.

"I told him that it would be understandable if he felt that life was 'unfair', as I certainly had felt so at some time during my illness," the physician said.

"His answer to me was: 'Richard, I really don't think like that. I have been extremely fortunate to have, and to have the love of a wonderful family, and to have been able to serve my country and my people'."

Thompson was laid to rest last Wednesday at a state funeral attended by thousands.

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