THE EDITOR, Sir:
On Sunday, February 24, I participated in the funeral of the late 14-year-old Sheriefa Saddler, who was brutally and callously abused and murdered by evil assailants. The occasion gave all who gathered the opportunity to see the real people behind the headlines.
As I watched family members, friends, church brothers and sisters walk slowly and solemnly by her coffin, one could feel the weight of the agony and the grief. Her classmates wept openly and her sisters broke down in tears at different points in the proceedings.
Her mom, Pamela, made every effort to remain composed and dignified. Her precious daughter was taken away from her. Pamela, a widow, was also now a weeping mother. Her 'gang of five' girls, so named by Pamela herself, was now the gang of four.
Hundreds of mourners were present, but most could find neither a seat in the small church building nor standing space in the churchyard. All gathered to pay their last respects to this promising 14-year-old. The politicians were there, the educators, representatives from non-governmental organisations, and members of the Tower Hill community and its environs.
The occasion was not short on religious and political rhetoric. In an attempt to register disgust at the untimely death of this daughter of the community, there were many speeches. The political representatives were too lengthy in their speeches. They used the occasion to highlight the many atrocities meted out to children in Jamaica in recent times. Some of the utterances were inappropriate and headline-seeking but were well received by those who were present.
The highlight and the bittersweet moment of the funeral was listening to the eulogy read by the cousin of Sheriefa. It was simple and unpretentious. Recollections of Sheriefa standing by her grandmother's pot waiting for her chicken breast drew chuckles from the congregation.
Stories about her role-playing as a teacher, talking to sticks, made us all wonder about aborted potential and unrealised dreams. Her cousin called her 'Brains' because of her love for school and for teaching.
The children's choir that she was part of at her church honoured her by singing the last song she performed with them. The words continue to ring out in my heart, 'I am becoming what the Lord of Trees has meant me to be, a strong young tree.' She will continue to grow in our hearts and her memory will not die, but will bear much fruit.