(11 March 1976 - 1 August 2016)
"ALL THINGS BRIGHT AND BEAUTIFUL"
A tribute by her aunt, Valerie van der Meulen-Sheppard
“Life is too short, if you are unhappy aim to what will make you happy. If you’re in a job that makes you miserable, find one that will make you happy to go to work. If your kids are happy you’re half way there. You are only here once, make it the best adventure and live happy, free, full of love, and life will be perfect. Basically, make sure you make the most of your life.”
Those were the heartfelt words of our beloved, exuberant Renee, which she posted on Facebook just a month before her sudden passing.
I keep remembering an old Dutch proverb that means, when translated: "In the concert of life, nobody receives a programme."
Renee’s early childhood was spent in Puerto Rico, Rochester New York, and Venezuela, while her father Peter worked with the Kodak Company. Re was a beautiful blend of Bajan, Trinidadian, Venezuelan, and Guyanese parents and grandparents, and grew up in a family environment filled with creativity and love of the arts. Her parents came back to Barbados to start their family business Sheps Photo in 1987, and 11 year old Renee started her life as a schoolgirl here. She spoke Spanish fluently and brought with her a bright and bubbly personality, eager to make new friends. Her artistic talents and love of fun and fantasy quickly became known and she took a couple of memorable starring roles in the St. Winifred’s pantomines. At 16 she went off to the Art Institute of Florida, and returned to Barbados with qualifications and skills to launch herself into the field of fashion design. Renee chose to specialize in costume design, and it became her passion. She was in her element when armed with a glue gun, surrounded by fabrics, beads, glitter and her posse of fellow creatives.
Some of us present today may not know that twelve years ago, on Boxing Day, Renee suffered a very serious heart attack, followed later by a stroke so severe it left her unable to speak or move. That’s hard to even imagine of her. She was twenty-eight years old at the time and mother of twin boys, Harrison and Nicholai who, just three days earlier, had celebrated their fourth birthday. We were devastated and scared at the thought of losing her. But with excellent and swift medical care, coupled with Renee’s sheer determination to live, she made a full and complete recovery. Her life was a beautiful gift and in return, she lived a life of giving, caring and compassion. She was filled with child-like acceptance and love for everyone, and simply did not know how to hold a grudge. She was a wonderful and devoted mother to her sons, she was so SO proud of them. She adored her parents, and was forever expressing her appreciation for their love and kindness.
Renee’s excitement and dedication to the Crop Over and Grand Kadooment festivals were infectious; her Halloween costumes epic! Renee loved children, and each year created and gave costumes to underprivileged children. With Re, it was all or nothing. She saw life in bright, vivid colours that are impossible to ignore. She was no pastel shades sort of person. Her imagination and creativity were expressed in so many different ways, whether she was icing cakes, designing and making costumes, painting, decorating - she was creating, always creating - with her zest for fun, humour and fantasy. Her photography was exquisite, she had an eye for detail and captured the essence of the moment. Renee made a statement, and it was hers, not to be forgotten. She gave and she loved. The overwhelming tributes that have poured in are testimony that she was loved in return. We dearly hope she knew it.
Renee’s parents are touched and comforted by the heartfelt expressions of appreciation and sympathy that they have been receiving, and I share this one which encompasses what we all feel today:
“Peter and Neilsa,
You raised an amazing daughter, unique in every way, and who was loved and loved wildly, madly and deeply in return. It is as if the most glorious and incomparable firework display has ended and we are just standing stricken, sad and silent, utterly lost in the magnificent energy that was. There is no doubt that we will not see its like again.”
Our family is spread over several different countries, but we share deeply in the loss of our vibrant, never-to-be-forgotten Renee. My sister - her aunt Audrey-Mae - now living in Scotland, has written the following that so aptly describes what is in our collective hearts.
She didn’t walk – she strode
Shoulders square, she was the horse she rode
She didn’t laugh – she guffawed
Leaving all around attentive and al’awed
She didn’t sing – she squawked
When everyone was quiet, she talked
She didn’t whisper - she bellowed
As she got older – this never mellowed
She loved things lively and all things alive
She didn’t paddle gently
Head first she’d dive
Her devotion was clear, her dedication unwavering
Her loyalties true, never one for any favouring
So much of a presence and so enormous a personality
The enigma that was Re
She was all about reality
Being “gone” now – it’s utter and total disbelief
All combined memories – cold comfort
No release, no understanding, no relief
From my heart to your soul in this difficult time of strife
My darling brother and you Ning, his devoted, loyal and loving wife
Her core of life, beautiful boys
Oh how she loved you, her absolute pride and joys
Your loss is too hard to bear alone
Your families will be there to help you
For the strength you need to hone
For me, I am far away, but please know
My love, concern, love and loss are shared
As you let your beautiful, strong dragonfly go
Listen to "Dragonfly"
"Everything is embedded in the song. The pain, the love, the passion, the beauty, the tragedy, the hope, the hopelessness, the dream, the reality. It's all in that piece of music." - Alan Sheppard, composer.
the beautiful song composed and performed for Renee by her uncle, Alan Sheppard,
at her Service of Thanksgiving on August 11, 2016, Barbados.
(live amateur recording)
Renee loved dragonflies - the above picture is her last painting.
Renee blows us a kiss - Grand Kadooment Day - August 1, 2016
CLICK ON THE PHOTO TO SEE MORE TRIBUTES TO RENEE ON FACEBOOK
Visit Renee's Memorial Facebook page set up by her friends. Video clips and many tributes from so many people whose lives she touched and brightened.
Renee the Wedding Photographer
A beautiful tribute by LITTLE ARCHES, BARBADOS with Renee's photos and words of love and appreciation from couples whose special day was captured by our unforgettable