by Latoya Burnham
Last year the impact of the anniversary of her elder daughter, Kellishaw Ollivierre’s death came crashing down on Coleen Ollivierre.
Coleen has a younger daughter, but the loss of Kellishaw, in a blaze in a botched robbery in the City here in Barbados, was almost more than the Vincentian mother could bear. She wanted to come to Barbados then, when she heard that the anniversary of the date she lost Kelli, and the five other workers and friends, to the fire would be commemorated nationally.
Standing in the St. Andrew’s Parish Church cemetery, with the mothers and relatives of the other five families chatting, and at times even sharing a laugh behind her, Coleen admitted to feeling a bit better than she had two years ago when she got the news, and certainly better than last year when she was almost brought down by mourning.
Grief, it is said, can sometimes be a crippling thing and that was exactly what Coleen found out last year. Even though she thought she had mourned her daughter on her death, the anniversary brought a fresh wave of pain.
“Last year when the first celebration, I really wanted to come, but I had to do a rally on September 3rd in order to heal myself because I was going through a really terrible time and if I did not hold that rally I would have been broken.
“So I stayed [in St. Vincent] and I did it and it was successful where the National Council of Women came on board. I had three pastors by my side, Pastor Errol Daniels…, Pastor Steven Ollivierre and Pastor Nigel Morgan. They supported me and the rally was a success. We had a march and a candle lighting and speeches from different persons,” she said.
Kellishaw’s body had been flown back to St. Vincent for her burial after her death in 2010. But still, now two years later, Coleen was feeling a bit torn that she could not have been in Barbados on that first anniversary.
So this year, when she heard that there would be a second anniversary remembrance, she started to wonder if this was her chance to come to the country where her daughter had perished and meet the families of Shanna Griffith, Pearle Amanda Cornelius, Kelly-Ann Welch, Nikkita Belgrave and Tiffany Harding, the other girls that had died.
She shook her head and managed a smile as she related: “[I]t was a last minute thing making up my mind. I went down to the cemetery with the flowers and I said no, I am not going to do it today, and on Saturday I decided I would be coming to Barbados to support the other mothers and parents, you know and to feel what they [are going through]…; we should be together.”
So she booked her flight, got on a plane and was here in Heroes Square for the observance of a minute of silence at midday and the speeches and words of comfort from officials there. She would also journey to the four grave sites in Barbados along with the families, giving verbal and physical displays of comfort on behalf of her family at each point.
As sunlight streamed through the canopy of tree branches and leaves, seeming to touch some of the others behind her, including Tiffany’s grandmother, Cicely; Nikkita’s mom, Cheryl Belgrave-Webb; Kelly-Ann’s mom Glendine Welch and aunt, Sandra Welch and Shanna’s mother, Sherry Griffith, individually, before a beam struck the side of Coleen’s face. It was almost like the universe had provided the release and was now giving comfort to these women in their circle.
Coleen glanced over her shoulder, as if the sun had reminded her they were at her back, both literally and figuratively, and she smiled at the camaraderie the group has found together.
“I am happy that I came because it makes sense and to me; we all together now [to] celebrate this day and as much as it is painful for all of us, to me it is still a happy moment right now because we are friends, we are family.
“I just want to thank the [September 3rd] Foundation, especially Mr. David Comissiong, because he has never forgotten and he is doing something good,” she maintained.
The September 3rd Foundation, led by Comissiong, had spearheaded the national movement to remember this second anniversary of the women’s deaths, with the hope that they can inspire a nation to love more and be less inclined to violence.
Asked about how she had been coping the past year, Coleen admitted, with a small shake of her head: “It was terrible for me. I am telling you the truth. I couldn’t make it because I have a younger daughter but she not that close to me as Kellishaw was, and every time I look at a picture, it is like I cry. So whenever I am down I would take a van and go down to the cemetery and sit there. I would talk to her even though she can’t hear me and I feel better and then I would go back home and relax.
“I still do that because if I wasn’t here I would be down there today. So I am hoping when I get back home I would go and do just [that], get some family members and we would just go to her graveside and just celebrate her life, you know? She is gone, but she will not be forgotten.” [email protected]