Guinness on a mission to determine if Quebec woman is world's oldest person
Cecilia Laurent is seen in her home Monday, February 1, 2016 in Laval, Que. Laurent, who celebrated her 120th birthday Sunday, is thought to be the oldest person alive. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Giuseppe Valiante, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, February 2, 2016 7:18AM EST
MONTREAL -- It's universally accepted that parents want to die before their children, but outliving Cecilia Laurent has proven difficult.
Laurent is believed to have turned 120 on Sunday and is possibly the world's oldest person.
Her 28-year-old great-grandson, Ronald Chery, says only three of Laurent's 12 children are still alive, with the eldest in her 80s.
But that doesn't make Laurent too sad, he said.
"She says to keep faith in God," Chery explained. "And don't ask too many questions."
Guinness World Records, however, is quite curious about Laurent, who moved to Quebec from Haiti in 2010 after the country's earthquake.
She lives in Montreal-area Laval with her family, including Chery, who said he couldn't help but contact Guinness and send the London-based organization copies of Laurent's passport and birth documentation.
He said Guinness employees are currently on a fact-finding mission in the Caribbean nation to confirm the date of her birth, which her family swears is Jan. 31, 1896.
If authenticated, Laurent will be named the oldest person alive, he said.
She is also receiving plenty of attention from other sources.
"Not everyone lives until 120 -- and on top of that she is Haitian," said Kurdy Lareche, Haiti's Montreal-based consul general who helped throw her a birthday party at the consulate.
Many members of Montreal's Haitian community showed up, as well as representatives from the city and the police department.
"She is well-known in the community," Lareche said. "Everyone loves her and wants to get to know her. She still has a vivid memory and for us she is quite the character."
When Haiti's foreign minister recently visited Quebec, a trip to see Laurent was a must, Lareche said.
Chery said his phone rings regularly from people across the country who want to speak to her and "find out the secret" to longevity.
He said Laurent's answer is God, adding she prays for several hours consecutively, every Friday.
"When you obey the word of God and you respect everyone, he will guide you and will give you more life," Chery said Laurent regularly tells him. "She knows if it's the will of God you will pass away tomorrow morning."
Additionally, Chery says "all-natural" food and cartoons have also helped his great-granny stay healthy.
"She loves eating -- but all-natural food, no chemicals for her at all," he said.
The family also keeps Laurent away from the daily news as well as movies so they don't upset her, he said, adding "we prefer to let her watch cartoons."
Laurent also gets regular visits from people in the community, Chery said.
When kids come over the first thing she asks them is if they have finished their homework, he said.
"She says: 'I appreciate you coming to see me, but have you finished your work?"'