Nearly five weeks after his tragic death, family members of 12-year-old Shemar Weekes were today joined by scores of well wishers — including his former schoolmates at both the Coleridge & Parry secondary and Gordon Walters primary schools — for a touching send off at the St Patrick’s Anglican Church in Christ Church.
It was promptly at 9:30 a.m. that the white and silver casket, carrying Shemar’s body, arrived in the churchyard. Moments later, the casket was opened at the back of the church, revealing his mortal remains, which were clothed in a cream shirt and tie.
At the sight of the body, some mourners, who were seen wiping away tears. However, mother Julianne remained seated quietly at the front of the church for the hour-long service, which was officiated by Reverend Angela Phillips.
The funeral service was briefly marred by an incident, which occurred during the reading of the eulogy by family member Michael Blackman. Members of the media were asked by the funeral director Mark Jones to leave the church and were escorted out by police.
However, in a fiery sermon followed by reporters from outside the chapel, the Anglican cleric told the packed congregation that the responsibility of raising a child was not only that of parents, but the entire community.
She also argued that irrespective of their homes, backgrounds, or whom their parents were, all children must be introduced to Jesus and taught the power of prayer in their lives.
“What can we do for families we know need help? I am not talking about sending them to the Welfare department. How can you help families that are in distress rather than judge or point fingers or whisper?” she asked.
“Some of us see ourselves as having everything together and all is well in our homes so we can’t be bothered with anybody else,” she said.
“Jesus is saying to us this morning, suffer the little children to come unto me,” she said to applause from members of the large congregation.
While urging parents to look to God for strength, the priest also warned them that gone were the days when children responded to, “Do as I say and not as I do”.
She further cautioned parents against spending too much time on their cellular phones. Instead, she said they needed to sit down and engage in conversations with their children.
She said there was a lesson in Shemar’s death about the value of life.
“We must be our brother’s keeper when it comes to our children and help UNICEF and the Child Care Board and all of these agencies to look after the children,” Phillips said.
“The time has come that we must stop talking a lot of long talk. All of us that walking about here and talking, we got to give account for the children because God has entrusted them to us and they are ours,” she added.
The reverend described Shemar as a son of the church, saying “God must be thanked for his life and the lives he touched and what he was able to achieve during his short stay on earth”.
She said even in the midst of his seemingly incomprehensible tragedy, family members and friends could be comforted by the fact that God would continue to love and hold Shemar in his arms.
The 12-year-old was discovered hanging at his Fryers Well, Checker Hall St Lucy home on May 14.
As his body was interred in the churchyard, several of Shemar’s Coleridge & Parry friends placed flowers on his grave.
One family member was heard crying aloud: “Shemar gone! Shemar gone!”
His sister Keandra, who came in from the United States for the funeral, also broke down in tears and had to be comforted, so too Shemar’s mother Julianne, who was assisted in laying a wreath on her son’s grave.
It was around 11:35 a.m. when a bunch of colourful balloons were released into the sky, in a symbolic letting go of Shemar into God’s arms.