The young woman whose husband and two children died tragically in a fire last month, today recalled fond memories of a partner she admitted was not perfect, and lamented not having the opportunity to see her offspring grow up and develop the special bond they shared with each other.
Jovona Barrow told those gathered at the Sanctuary Empowerment Centre in Country Road for the thanksgiving service for 42-year-old Corileus Barrow, 22-month-old Riordan and eight-month-old Reya-Anna, that she regretted that her husband never developed a closer relationship with God and that the plans they discussed during their courtship never came to pass.
“He was an imperfect man, but who is perfect? Cori taught me that I was capable of forgiveness and I thank God that through him I got my beautiful babies, even if it was a short period of time,” the 21-year-old widow said as she delivered a four-page eulogy that took her ten minutes.
Corileus’ body lay in a brown casket at the front of the church, flanked by the white caskets bearing the bodies of his children – all of whom died in a fire at Corileus’ Regency Drive, Warrens Park South, St Michael home on July 24.
A grieving but composed Jovona spoke lovingly of her children whom she said played with each other and each fretted if the other cried.
She remembered Riordan as a sweet and loving child who taught her what unconditional love was. She said the little boy, who had attended the PAREDOS Day Care Centre, was good at picking up on his parents’ emotions and often hugged and patted them on their backs with his small arms.
Jovona added that the toddler, who preferred to wear shoes that lit up when he stomped his feet, and had a habit of crossing his legs while watching television, would sometimes give trouble at home but was a perfect gentleman in public. She believed her son would have become a dentist, because he loved to stick his fingers in other people’s mouths.
“He would fight sleep, but slept for hours after he lost the battle. He hated to bathe until he actually got in the bath, and thought brushing his teeth was the same thing as sucking the banana-flavoured toothpaste off the toothbrush,” she recalled.
“He was the only one allowed to trouble his sister, constantly taking away her toys, but was the first to comfort her when she cried. There was a strong bond between Rio and Reya-Anna and one thing I regret is not being able to see that bond mature over the years.”
Jovona said Reya-Anna, who was quite the opposite of her brother, was a beautiful, cherished daughter and long awaited granddaughter who only smiled when she had a reason to. Reya-Anna loved the beach and was willing to do more because she was curious, she added.
“Reya-Anna taught me that as a parent, you could have a favourite child. She taught me that I was never too young to be assertive and that I was capable of so much more. She was only now becoming and I wish I could have seen her grow up. What I would like to tell you about Reya is that her name is of Spanish origin, meaning ‘queen’, and Anna means ‘favour grace’ as well as ‘beautiful’, which is exactly how she was.
“Reya was regal and from birth would be on her Daddy’s lap lying until she eventually learnt to sit up. From her throne, she would observe everything and everyone. She moved quietly and quickly. Nothing was done without purpose, even if her purpose sometimes was to unknowingly annoy her brother,” Jovona told the congregation.
She also revealed to the gathering how she and Corileus’ paths first crossed three years ago. She said the former teacher at the Coleridge and Parry School had three degrees in Cultural Studies, Philosophy, and Management, loved the gym and photography, and was a jack of all trades who sought to learn more about various topics, including tiling and shoe making.
It was his love of knowledge which led him to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology at the University of the West Indies (UWI) where he met Jovona in 2016.
“I also studied Psychology and we met in a lecture. During lectures, we would disagree on any point the other raised on the various theoretical perspectives we were taught. We would always sit so the other knew we were at class, but never next to each other. Until one day we ended up having a conversation on a bench outside the library when midterms were coming up,” she recalled.
“We were very competitive when it came to Psychology – and I beat him in the midterm, for the record. It wasn’t long before we were talking about families and Masters and eventually going to get a meal together. As the relationship developed, we got closer and eventually got married. From that union, two beautiful children came: Rio and Reya-Anna. However, Cori had other children as he often went above and beyond for students at Coleridge and Parry where he was a teacher.”
In addition to family members and friends, staff and students of Coleridge and Parry also attended the thanksgiving service.
Some students had to be comforted as they wept for Corileus who was described as a committed and dedicated teacher. As staff from PAREDOS delivered tributes, they too were overcome with emotion and had to take a few moments to catch themselves.
But most heart wrenching was seeing Jovona move from casket to casket, hugging and embracing each as she said her final goodbyes. As she sang the hymns which she had chosen for the service, the pain and sadness was etched on her face.
Bishop Dr Marlon Husbands urged those gathered to make God their tower of strength and shelter during this time of pain and weakness.
“The lesson is that God’s majesty stoops to make babes and infants the means of his triumph. When we are in the state of weakness, we need another to carry us, and who better to carry us than majesty? Who better to carry us when we are despondent, when we are hurting, when we are angry, when we are fearful, when we are doubtful, than God who is able to come under us and push us to a place where we need to be pushed? Why Jovona can smile in the face of such travesty is because she has exposed herself to majesty,” Dr Husbands said.
The bodies of Corileus, Riordan and Reya-Anna will be cremated at a later date. [email protected]