Anna-Lisa Paul and Bobie-Lee Dixon
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Blessings for children
An Anglican priest deviated from tradition yesterday and individually blessed each child who attended the funeral of five-year-old Jemimah Agard who drowned on a school outing to the Young Men’s Christian Association swimming pool last week. “This is something I do not do at funerals but many little children are losing their lives,” said retired Dean, Knolly Clarke, at the Holy Trinity Cathedral, Port-of-Spain.
As strains of the classic children's hymn Jesus Loves Me, This I Know filled the church hall, Clarke expressed concern that too many children were losing their lives. Scores of mourners paid tribute to Agard, who was fondly known as “Mimah”. She drowned moments after a swimming lesson at the pool at Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain, on June 2. Clarke described the child’s death as a result of “weakness of human nature.” “Jemimah’s death was tragic and we must not mask it,” he added.
He said he knew the YMCA well, as his daughter was one of its instructors and his granddaughter was a camp instructor. “They did not personally know Jemimah but they send their condolences in a real sense. We recognise the weakness of human nature but let us not demonise the situation as neither death nor principalities can separate us from the love of God,” Clarke reiterated. He added that Jemimah’s funeral was unlike any other because her loss was felt in a “strange way.”
He explained: “When a child dies, we begin to ask fundamental questions: ‘God, why don’t you intervene when the innocent children are in danger?’ “I went to Jemimah’s mother and I told her that her life (Jemimah’s life) was snuffed out because that is how I feel. So I ask very hard questions of my Lord and Master,” Clarke said. Saying Jemimah’s life represented more than just a short period on earth, Clarke said she left behind countless cherished memories.
Making reference to the Gospel of John, Chapter 14:2, which reads: “In my Father’s house are many rooms,” Clarke said so too had Jemimah found a room in the house of the Lord. Jemimah’s uncle Akido Forde cried freely as he remembered his niece as a unique dancer who loved hugs.
“The one lesson we can all learn from Jemimah’s death,” he said, “is that life is short and to be more vigilant of our surroundings and take extra care of those entrusted in our care. As guardians and teachers we need to know children will always be children and must always be carefully monitored. Take time to love your children,” he said.
Jemimah’s father, Marvin Agard, was absent from the service but he expressed his sentiments via a letter which was read by a relative. It acknowledged he was not there when Jemimah was born and when she died. “The day you came into the world I was not there and the day you left the world I was also not there,” the letter said. It also gave a snippet of a recent conversation between Jemimah and her father.
“One day you called me and asked me, ‘Daddy you do not love me anymore? I called you and you did not answer,’” the letter said. Agard also expressed his love for Jemimah’s mother Jamila Forde. He described her as a doting parent. Jamila, dressed in all white, did the first reading from Job 19:21–27a.