Sat | Jul 11, 2020

Devon Dick | No love for the dead

Published:Thursday | February 14, 2019 | 12:00 AM

Recently, on the occasion of the body of Judith Rose Spencer, medical doctor, being discovered in a pond on a university campus, there was a newscast in which the University of the West Indies (UWI) issued a disclaimer stating that the lady was ‘not a student or member of staff’. What is the relevance of that statement? That piece of information appeared as if the university wanted to disassociate itself from this individual. It came across as saying she was not one of our special students or remarkable member of staff. Was it an attempt to protect the iconic brand and the reputation of the university? The comment about where she does not belong was insensitive, callous and cold.

Furthermore, my eldest brother, Leon, told me that he and Judith Rose Spencer were at UWI medical school together. What a difference it would have made if that newscast said Judith Rose Spencer was a graduate of UWI and expressed condolences?

Rose Spencer is one of us; part of humanity. She served the medical clinic at the Bethel Baptist Church and would have helped hundreds of people at low cost. She was more than what it is said she was not – ‘not a student or member of staff’. It would have been more useful for the university to tell us what type of student she was while at medical school. Perhaps a comment on the fact that she died in the place she studied and loved.

Furthermore, there was a newscast on which a male student bemoaned that anyone can come on to the campus. He said there needs to be a wall. One got the impression as if this medical doctor were some stray animal that needed to be kept out of the hallowed premises of this university campus. Additionally, police had to be telling students not to take photographs of this deceased lady – an action that comes across as morbid and distasteful. The privacy of the dead needs to be respected. Their photographs should be circulated only with the permission of immediate family members.

In addition, there was no respect for Baptist deacon and chorister, Dr Lynvale Bloomfield, member of parliament for East Portland, who was killed. There were self-serving rumours. Too often when there are killings we first conjure up mitigating circumstances and try to find scapegoats, forgetting that nobody deserves to be murdered. Perhaps this is a coping mechanism to deal with these gruesome killings.

We need to stop speaking ill of persons who were killed. We are crass in our utterances and it is not fair to the deceased or the family members who are mourning. Sometimes even the statement by the members of the police force is unhelpful, when they blame the deaths at an accident scene on speeding without due process. All the police need to say is that they are conducting investigations and express their condolences.

Jamaicans could benefit from a dose of folk wisdom which states, ‘If yuh nuh have good fe seh, nuh seh bad’. And since the dead person cannot defend himself or herself, then do not speak ill of the dead. Instead, eulogise the person for the good he or she did. Additionally, funerals are not the moment to bring up faults. Just say nice things; talk about the precious memories.

Sadly, too often there is no love for the dead. Sincere condolences to the families of Judith Rose Spencer, Lynvale Bloomfield and William Hines, the lawyer who was killed on his farm. Condolences are extended also to the family of the twins who perished in the fire in Grants Pen.

PS. Happy Valentine’s Day to my readers, especially those celebrating a birthday today, including my daughter, Dana-Marie. Love you all. Show some love to the dead and living.

Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of ‘The Cross and the Machete’, and ‘Rebellion to Riot’. Send feedback to columns@