A lifetime of potential “snuffed away” by drugs.
This was how relatives remembered their “loving, smart and witty” street character, Gordon Best moments before he was laid to rest.
During an hour-long funeral service at the Abundant Life Assembly, dozens listened to touching tributes in honour of a vagrant who captured the attention of many in Bridgetown, but whose life’s story was mostly a mystery.
Throughout the celebration of Gordon’s life, the mood was quietly reflective and tears flowed freely during a touching tribute from his daughter, Renae Burnham and the eulogy by his nephew Trevor Best.
Mourners peered curiously at Gordon’s well-groomed and clean-cut appearance, as he lay peaceful in his casket. While this appearance differed from that of the vagrant Barbadians knew, he closely resembled the man family members knew in his youth.
Daughter Renae recalled a relationship with her father that was confusing for some time, but which eventually blossomed.
“I only understood [drugs] was keeping him away from us, his children. I just wanted to get rid of this ‘dope’,” remembered Renae.
She vividly recounted her father’s grandmother, Eugene White who pleaded with Gordon to join her and seek assistance. While these requests were unsuccessful, Renae said this did not prevent him from displaying adoration for his children, in his own way.
An emotional Renae said on one occasion, her father sent a pack of nuts for each of his children, which, for her was “as precious as gold”.
“I held onto those nuts and smelled the bag over and over again. It was a very long time before I dared to eat them. I was afraid that if I started to eat them I would lose our connection and I wouldn’t have anything from my father,” she revealed while starting to cry.
She declared: “I loved my father.”
“Yes, the person here today is my dad but would anyone else understand what I didn’t fully understand?” she asked.
Trevor Best, as he eulogised his uncle, revealed Gordon’s childhood was like that of any “ordinary” boy, roaming the hills, valleys and canefields of St. Joseph, the third child of a plantation bookkeeper.
Like many young men, he met the ‘love of his life’, Mary-Ann at Orange Hill Plantation and eventually formed a union which produced Quinton and Renee Burnham.
“Many of you did not know the man before you. Many of you just thought he was the character from Bridgetown, but he had a family. Gordon was a son, a brother, a lover, a father, an uncle and a friend who was loving, smart and witty with a sharp tongue,” said Best.
“He was gentle like no other vagrant and attracted the attention of young children who gravitated to him or insisted that their parents kept the necessary change available for they knew they would see Gordon on a streets that day.”
He explained Gordon’s ‘change’ occurred when he accepted ‘laced’ drugs from someone and used his influence to warn others not to make the same mistakes, which changed his life forever.
“He would insist, ‘don’t be like me, a ‘parro’…don’t do cocaine’.
“One juvenile decision to accept drugs from someone who had laced it, found him roaming streets naked as he was born and he was never the same person that we knew and loved. A lifetime of potential snuffed away without due notice,” Best reflected.
During the sermon, Reverend Michael Holford urged the congregation to use Gordon’s life as a reminder that everyone, regardless of their circumstance, started somewhere.
“All of us are created by God. Every child that comes into this world, wherever they may end up, whether in corporate society, whether they are living on the streets, whether they are in Dodds, they started as a miracle of God called a baby,” he said.