We have lost an amazing Fijian midwife and nurse, Albert Edward McLaren. We would not have been able to do the Fiji conference without this maverick of a midwife. He passed away on September 26, 2016, of complications from diabetes. He worked tirelessly for the nine months leading up to the conference—a normal human gestation! He answered dozens of e-mails from me to get the details sorted out.
Just as we were leaving our Airbnb home, Albert presented some of us teachers with gifts. The gift he gave to me and Midwifery Today is something that still stuns me and fills me with gratitude. Queen Elizabeth the second of England visited Fiji in 1953. When she came, she gifted Fiji with six teacups. Four of them were presented to important people who helped Fiji, including a tribal chief and the Japanese government. The fifth one was presented to me and Midwifery Today for our efforts in helping Fijian mothers, babies, midwives and nurses.
I still cannot believe the high honor Albert gave to Midwifery Today. This is something that would not have been done lightly or arbitrarily. Their culture is one of conferring with one another, not acting alone, so Albert must have had many meetings to have been able to do this very loving gesture. He valued our profession so much and wanted to bring the conference to Fiji. My sadness at losing such a kind-hearted, dedicated midwife so early is overwhelming.
Here are beautiful words that were expressed by our other organizers and speakers:
O Jesus, I have promised to serve thee to the end
Be thou forever near me, my master and my friend
I shall not fear the battle if thou art by my side
Nor wander from the pathway if thou wilt be my guide
Albert went to be with the Lord last night. We feel so sad here in this country today. This is so painful to write; he is irreplaceable. He made a tremendous contribution towards the nursing midwifery profession in Fiji as a leader, father, brother, son, pastor—and all the other titles put together would not suffice. He was a man of his word and full of integrity, love and compassion. He was bountiful in every essence be it teaching, discipline or just singing.
I miss Albert. He made things happen for everyone to feel the warmth of the Fijian people, even though we are a naturally loving people, Albert made the conference a memorable one. I sometimes thought that this may be his last, which is why we took so many photos.
I am so saddened and shocked to hear this. Albert was an inspiring man. May his passing only fuel the momentum for change. Love to all of you.
—Jessie Johnson Cash
We are still in shock. We loved him but we understand that God loved him more. He had impacted all nurses and midwives in Fiji. He went a peaceful way…resting; he is rejoicing in his maker’s arms now.
—Vani Rainima Ramelomelo
Below is a quote from the funeral service held in Albert’s honor:
An honest man here laid to rest
The friend of man, the friend of truth
The friend of age and guide of youth
Few hearts like his, with virtue warmed
Few heads with knowledge so informed
If there is another world, he lives in bliss
If there is none, he made the best of this
—Robert Burns, 1759–1796
The lyrics to his favorite song are below:
Goodbye, Mr. McLaren. You will forever be cherished by all of us, and we will miss you.
Toward better birth,