Three young children whose mother died suddenly three years ago now live in two separate homes, but they continue to share a bond that their legal guardians promise to keep in tact.
The love and affection the siblings have for each other was clear when they got together recently at their grandmother Cora Eastmond’s My Lord’s Hill, St Michael home.
Four-year-old Jaylen and his twin-brother Jayden, spent hours hugging, kissing and playing with their sister Jelissa, whom they insisted eat whatever they were eating, and drink whatever they were drinking.
Eastmond said that while she believes the children are still too young to really understand what happened to their mother Melissa Eastmond, she hopes and prays that they always stick together whatever comes their way.
“I know their mother did not want to go and leave them so early. Jelissa was barely nine months old, and the boys just months older than her. But they love each other like Melissa loved them. I just pray every day that they always feel this way for each other, because I know this is what Melissa would want,” Eastmond said, as she watched her grandchildren playing a game of peek-a-boo in the living room.
An unemployed Eastmond told Barbados TODAY that though the journey is difficult at times, she was proudly raising the boys.
Jelissa lives with popular entertainer Ishaka McNeil and his partner Tamika Newton. The couple has vowed to provide the best life for Jelissa whom they are in the process of adopting.
As the children continued their game, Eastmond who briefly disappeared outside so they could not see her tears, described the day the fourth of her six children died, as one that caused her heartache.
When Barbados TODAY first broke the tragic story, thousands of Barbadians locally and abroad were saddened.
Sometime early on Tuesday afternoon, July 26, 2016, 27-year-old Melissa told her family that she felt tired and was going to take a rest, at their Work Hall, St Philip home.
Not long after, around 1:30 p.m., Eastmond discovered Melissa’s lifeless body in the bed and Jelissa next to her crying.
Eastmond revealed that an autopsy showed that Melissa, who was the only person in the household working at the time, died as a result of a heart condition.
“From the time she died I know I have to live for these children. Ishaka and Tammy take Jelissa and Jelissa is happy with them and I know that they love her very much. I can see Jelissa is getting good care.
“When Melissa died, people asked me why I give away Melissa child and why I don’t go back for her. But I don’t regret giving Jelissa to Ishaka them; I know for sure, and I see the care she getting. Tammy and Ishaka promised me that they would always keep Jelissa close to her siblings. And if I say they don’t let Jelissa see her brothers I would be telling lies.
“When Tammy pull up with Jelissa in the car, these two boys does be opening the door to get her out,” the grandmother said, pointing to her granddaughter whom she acknowledged was getting tall and quite smart for her age.
Eastmond said she sometimes leaves herself without to ensure the boys who are now in primary school, are always fed and clothed.
But the unemployed 59-year-old, who has several health issues, admits she wishes she could do more for them.
“I got the boys and I do as much as I could do for them with the survivor’s benefit they get. It hurts me that I can’t do more for them. I love all three of them. There are things that I would like to give them, but I can’t give them. I would try to help with Jelissa; if I got anything I would call Tammy and tell her come for so and so for Jelissa. But the holidays and thing, I couldn’t give her anything and that had me feeling sad.
“The two boys, I ain’t even give them nothing for their birthday last year and I ain’t give them nothing for Christmas because the funds were not there. I made sure them had ham and drinks but I didn’t have the funds for presents.”
Eastmond said the boys often wake up from their sleep screaming and crying, informing her that they had seen their mother in their dreams. Recently, Jaylen and Jayden have been telling her they want their “mummy”.
“It hurts me I can’t bring back their mummy for them. God knows if I could, I would,” she said.
In Jelissa’s eyes, Newton and McNeil are her mummy and daddy.
During a Sunday afternoon family outing in Queen’s Park, McNeil told Barbados TODAY that he first met the little girl shortly after her mother died and he and the Love Day family visited their home to offer assistance.
He recalled that following several visits; Newton fell in love with baby Jelissa, and encouraged him to let them start engaging in discussions with the family about the possibility of them taking her home.
“Tammy kept insisting that she wants this little girl to be around, she wants to have a hand in her development. And I would always be saying, that would be a big undertaking and you can’t just pick up somebody’s child and raise them. Eventually, on September 2, 2016 Jelissa became apart of our household. It was a big undertaking. For me, I had my daughter who lives overseas, and now I was about to raise another little girl who could be a complete stranger to me. But, by the grace of God and his mercy, we have battled through,” McNeil said.
The entertainer recalled that he has cried many days and nights whenever he looks at Jelissa’s growth and development, and reflect on where she has come from.
Six months after inviting Jelissa into their home, Newton broke the news to McNeil that she was pregnant.
Many days the couple sat down and contemplated exactly how they would manage a new baby, Jelissa being at toddler stage, and Newton pursuing a degree at the University of the West Indies.
There were those who thought they would send Jelissa back to her grandmother.
“She was not going anywhere,” Newton declared.
Jelissa is now the perfect big sister to her one-year-old brother Alyrikos McNeil.
Newton sees it as a joy to be a mother to Jelissa whom she said was a caring, loving, independent, articulate child with a bright future ahead of her.
Newton said she was already preparing herself for the day she has to tell Jelissa, who is now in nursery school, that they were not her biological parents.
“It was the grandmother’s dream she would not even say anything. But I had to tell her I prefer for us to tell Jelissa the truth, instead of letting society tell Jelissa their story. I don’t want it to be said that the grandmother didn’t want you. I want her to know that the grandmother love her so much, that even though she could not provide for her, she allowed somebody else to help.
“I know it is going to be very hard. I don’t know how Jelissa is going to react. At first she used to say her name is Jelissa Eastmond, but now she is saying that her name is Jelissa McNeil. So she is learning that the names should be one. And her brothers are calling her granny mummy. But I believe that when that time comes, we will find the right setting and have some people that are trained from a psychological point of view,” Newton said. firstname.lastname@example.org