REST IN PEACE KEYANA
By JULIEN NEAVES Thursday, December 5 2013
SIX-YEAR-OLD Keyana Cumberbatch, who was murdered last week, was described as the light of her mother Simone Williams’ life with Williams asking Keyana to take away the pain she was feeling over her death.
“The six years I had her...she was a blessing. A sure, sweet, loving blessing,” Williams said as she wept. “She will always be my sweet little baby girl.”
Delivering the eulogy yesterday at the funeral for her child at the Spiritual Shouter Baptist Empowerment Hall off the Churchill Roosevelt Highway, Williams at times appeared overcome with grief.
Scores of family, friends, neighbours, classmates and well-wishers were in attendance. Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, National Security Minister Gary Griffith, Gender, Youth and Child Development Minister Clifton De Coteau and Arouca/Maloney MP Alicia Hospedales, all attended the service.
Keyana’s death, though violent and though it gnawed at the nation’s psyche, was not in vain as it was the catalyst for the new Children’s Task Force announced by Persad-Bissessar after she, Griffith and De Coteau visited Williams and her family on Sunday. The 16-member team of experts have a six-week deadline to submit its recommendations to Cabinet.
Persad-Bissessar, who arrived just over an hour after the funeral service started, hugged and kissed Williams. She sat at Williams’ side. Williams in the eulogy, said Keyana was the “light of everybody’s life since she born” and noted Keyana was, “not supposed to be with us”, but she came by the grace of God. “She was my light and a shining armour in all my darkness,” Williams added.
She noted that Keyana touched many lives, gave many laughs and shared many tears. She said they will sincerely miss her and even with the “miserable ways you had”, the family all loved Keyana. Williams recalled that Keyana was spoiled, “but if you told her that she would cry for a week.”
She then prayed and asked Keyana to help her (Williams) forgive the person who killed her daughter. “Keyana, take this feeling away from mummy...baby go with it,” Williams said.
Officiating minister, Episkopos Archbishop Barbara Gray-Burke told parents to be courageous, have faith, pray and look to Jesus. She noted that Keyana did not live to see her seventh birthday which would have been celebrated on February 17 because Jesus had, “called her home.”
Gray-Burke said evil is stalking the land. “The man turned himself into a beast so he start killing too. Beasts have no understanding, so a human beings began killing their own children,” she said.
Besides Keyana, one-year-old Jacob Monroe and three-year-old Jabari Hernandez recently lost their lives to violence. On November 19, Jacob was beaten to death and thrown into a cesspit. Jabari died at the Sangre Grande District Hospital last Saturday. An autopsy revealed he was beaten.
Yesterday at the service, Gray-Burke — a temporary Government Senator — urged people to stop blaming Government. “Everytime we have a murder of a child, brethrens blame the Government. Could the Government be in everybody’s home to see when people practise any evil thoughts that come to their head? No! So stop blaming. All the Government could do is put laws in place,” Gray-Burke said. She advised people not to get “jumpy” now that a father had been charged with killing his child (referring to the murder of Jacob Munroe), stressing that all men are not bad and there are good fathers.
She also encouraged families to pray together as that would change the home and Satan would not be able to bombard it. “Talk to your children. Let your children know the dangers out there. Let your children know that nobody is to touch them. Talk to them. Tell them what life is about. Don’t be too ashamed to let them know that touching in a wrong part is not right. Talk to them,” she urged.
Keyana’s body lay in a sealed white and pink casket. A photo of her was placed on top of the coffin. During the service, many songs were sung to the accompanyment of lively drumming.
Some relatives and friends wore white t-shirts with Keyana’s picture and the caption: “Gone too Soon”, on the front.
Persad-Bissessar later read Psalm 121 during the service. Minister Griffith in a short address said this was, “a trying time”, in the country but not a time to give up. “This is a time when we must all stay together, work together and believe in one thing...that there is something good. There is a God. There is a God who is greater than anything that can happen, that can take away or destroy us. We need to continue to have faith,” Griffith said.
He continued: “I ask you to remember that at all times good will always overcome evil. I do not have the power. The power comes from my God. In our prayers,” he added. An elderly man, apparently overcome with grief and suffering with epilepsy, suffered a seizure during the funeral.
Ministers De Coteau and Griffith and MP Hospedales rushed to the man’s assistance. When the man, identified only as ‘Earl’ recovered sufficiently, he was led to a chair to sit down as the service continued. The elderly man wept.
He collapsed a second time and was taken away in an ambulance for treatment.
Keyana was a second year infant student at St Barbara’s Shouter Baptist Primary School in Maloney. Some of her classmates who were present at the funeral yesterday wept as they looked at her sealed casket.
Keyana’s spiritual teacher Hazel Andrews-Pantin, read a “letter of love” to mourners, written as if it were from Keyana.
Andrews-Pantin noted that Keyana will never be able to play with her new Christmas toys or be with her parents and grandmother. But while mourners may feel Keyana is missing out on life, the child in fact has gone on to a better place. Andrews-Pantin urged the congregation to, “ring the bell of freedom” for other murdered children including Akiel Chambers, Sean Luke and Amy Annamunthodo. She admonished parents to be alert and make the right choices.
National Parents Teachers Association President Zena Ramatali said it was a very sad moment for this country and she felt at a loss for word because Keyana’s death reminded her of the loss of her own child at the age of three and a half, many years ago.
She encouraged Williams to “stay strong” and encouraged parents of this nation to be alert and aware of what is happening with their children. She noted the NPTA will be part of the solution and as a member of the Task Force they will continue to make recommendations and hope that they will be implemented.
Keyana went missing on Monday November 25 after she was said to be on her way to her grandmother’s apartment, located just metres away from where she (Keyana) lived in Maloney.
The child was being looked after by a male relative prior to her disappearance.
Three days later, her body was found stuffed in a barrel at her home. An autopsy confirmed Keyana died as a result of blunt force trauma to her head and she was raped. The male relative who last saw Keyana alive is currently assisting police with their investigations.
Keyana was later laid to rest at Crown Street Cemetery in Arouca.