WHEN Edmund Bartlett was 46, his daughter Lisa Simone died after a valiant battle with cystic fibrosis. Since then he’s been on a quest to recreate the joyful moments of her life.
“It certainly made me see how fully you must live your life while you have it, and the happiness that must imbue you as you go about doing your duties. She was a happy girl, very happy girl,” he tells the Jamaica Observer’s LetsTravelCaribbean.com.
It’s that state of happiness he’s constantly trying to recreate, he says, in his role as minister of tourism.
“That’s what we do in tourism, we maximise joy and happiness. We sell the hope of a happy experience, a good life to all the people who come into our destination,” Bartlett says, his voice going up a notch as he pushes his point across.
“Quality service, high-touch service is at the heart of that — making others feel comfortable in our space to find themselves and to be the happiest they can be. That’s what we do in tourism and I think Lisa’s passing has helped me shape how that experience that Jamaica must give to the world should be,” he adds earnestly.
He’s grateful for the 23 years his family had with Lisa. She lived eight years longer than the 15 cystic fibrosis patients usually enjoy, he says. She attended high school in Jamaica then went to university in Florida where she received treatment, all her life, for the disease that is rare in people of colour.
Lisa died in 1997, a difficult time politically for Bartlett and other members of the Jamaica Labour Party as they languished in Opposition. Back then he was Member of Parliament for St Andrew Eastern. The shower of love and support his family received from the community in their time of grief moved him, he says.
“They knew her; her life experience was theirs, in a way. And the turnout for the funeral was just unbelievable. It made me have that sense that people do care so it also helped me to strengthen my own will and commitment because I saw that people cared — the way they treated with my daughter and the circumstances of that moment,” he recalls.
In honour of Lisa’s memory, one of her photographs has pride of place in the family home, Bartlett says.
Just as her death influenced his career, it’s also shaped the way he engages with his son Edmund II, and how the 42-year-old interacts with his own children.
“He’s married now and he has a girl and a boy, just like we did,” Bartlett says proudly. “He named his daughter Leia Simone, which is the closest you could get to Lisa Simone. So that tells you how deeply bonded they were.”