Rianndo Phillips would have celebrated her 16th birthday Tuesday. However, instead of the big birthday bash she was anxiously anticipating, her family was tonight holding a vigil in her memory after her untimely death last week.
The atmosphere was sombre as family members and friends decked in blue shirts – Rianndo’s favourite colour – gathered at her Bush Hall, St Michael home to remember the young student and reflect on what could have been. The table on which Rianndo’s pictures, trophies and medals were displayed was also decorated in blue.
Her mother Kathyann Phillips described her daughter as a rising star who was gone too soon. She told Barbados TODAY while she was sad and grieving, she felt a sense of joy because she knew it was what Rianndo would have wanted.
“Right now I am feeling joyous because I know Rianndo would be proud of all this. She wanted it big for her 16th birthday and this is big. I think she is proud of everyone and the effort that they made today. If I put Rianndo in a nutshell, she was a diamond in the rock, she was an angel, most of all she was a rising star,” Phillips said.
Opting not to disclose the illness that took such a young life, Phillips said she had prayed and hoped her daughter would have made a full recovery, but it was not to be.
“Everything just happen so fast, but I was really hoping she would get better. On the day she passed, a lot of her friends came and she spoke to them, she spoke to us and then it just happen suddenly,” she said, fighting back tears.
Phillips remembered her daughter as “bouncy, bubbly and ambitious.
“She wanted to be a psychologist or a counsellor. She liked to help people a lot; all her friends could tell you that. You could talk to her about anything. She was into a lot of sports. She did hockey, she did netball, she did track and field, she even did piece of cricket at primary school. The last thing she was doing was steel pan. Some of everything she tried.”
Of the many memories the two shared, Phillips said there was one that would be everlasting.
“I have many memories of Rianndo but right now my fondest memory is one day she sat up in the hospital bed and we took pictures together and we made a mother and daughter pact that we would make a tighter bond and when she comes home we would go to church. That really touched me. I will never forget that,” she said, eyes now filled with tears.
The mother said the family was having a hard time coping, but they all were leaning on each other for support.
“It isn’t easy on anyone because Rianndo was a loved child. For me she is not gone and she will never be forgotten. She will always be in my heart, my mind and my soul everyday. I’m just saying, ‘baby, I will see you soon’, but I’m never saying goodbye,” she said.
One of her brothers Rikaydo Phillips had difficulty expressing his feelings. However, he told Barbados TODAY he would miss his sister.
“I really don’t know how I am feeling right now. My fondest memory of her was the first time we fought. I was three and she was two. She wanted to get on the monkey bars and I would not let her and she bit me on my stomach. I still have the scar to show. I will miss her quarrelling. We had a love/hate relationship but I will miss her terribly,” he said softly.
Rianndo’s family and friends made their way around the neighbourhood holding candles and singing hymns such as Carry Your Candle, This Train and Jesus on the Mainline. They made a brief stop at Rianndo’s school, Combermere, just a stone’s throw from her home. There, the mother released a single balloon, while former classmates sang the school song in her honour. But the reality of her passing became too much for her friends to bear, as many of them broke down in tears.
Her best friend Destinee Marshall was overcome with emotion as she paid tribute to her friend.
“Ever since she was gone. . . so many things I wish I could tell her but I can’t. So instead I promise myself that I am not going to sulk or be down. I’m just going to cherish all the memories we had because I know someday I’m going to see her again and I will always remember her and I hope that she remembers me until I can see her again.”
Other friends spoke of Rianndo’s reliability and her sense of humour, and the shock they felt upon hearing news of the 15-year-old’s passing.
The candlelight vigil concluded at Rianndo’s home where family and friends sang Happy Birthday and released 16 balloons and a ‘sweet 16’ candle into the sky. As they watched them drift off, Rianndo’s favourite song, 7 Years Old, by Lukas Graham played softly in the background. Then her friends wept loudly, while family members huddled together, wiping away tears.
They all eventually gathered around Rianndo’s garden and the front of her house and leaned on each other for support.