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Unwilling goodbyes for baby Matai

Thursday, June 12, 2014
Relatives console the parents of baby Matai Phillip (inset), national goalkeeper Marvin Phillip, centre, and Lesley-Ann Halls, right, during the funeral service for their son at the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, Gasparillo, yesterday. PHOTO: RISHI RAGOONATH

National footballer Marvin Phillip knelt in the church where his son was christened four months ago, holding onto the infant’s small coffin, unwilling to say goodbye to the child described by many as loving and mischievous.


Phillip’s ten-month-old son, Matai Phillip, who died on June 6 from positional asphyxiation after being placed in a car seat at his day care, was laid to rest yesterday after a service at the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, Gasparillo.


The child was dropped off at the Anointed Angels day care at Edinburgh 500, Chaguanas, at around 6.15 am last Friday. 


About an hour later, the family was told the infant had been taken to the Chaguanas District Hospital. When the family got to the hospital, the child was already dead. 


At one point during the service, relatives had to restrain Phillip, who tried to pick up the child from the coffin. The child’s mother, Leslie Hall, could be heard throughout the service crying out for her only child. 


“My baby! Oh god, not Tai, why my baby?” she asked.


When the tiny white coffin bearing Matai’s body was carried out of the church and to the cemetery opposite, Hall also had to be restrained as she attempted to run after the coffin. Little could be done to console her as she held onto her father and pleaded: “Daddy, please don’t let them take my baby.”


A white and orange football T-shirt Phillip had bought for his son before he left for Argentina to play a friendly with the host nation on June 4 was placed in the coffin alongside the child’s tiny body. 


In the eulogy given by two of baby Matai’s aunts — Krystal Jack and Sharon Santana — he was described as adventurous, loving and the light of his family. They said that the only thing that bothered the child was when he was hungry.


“Matai was the most quiet child. You would only know it have a baby in the house if he was hungry,” said his aunts. “Matai was what the old folks referred to as a sweetbread.”


They added that even though Matai’s life was short-lived, he fulfilled his purpose in bringing happiness to the lives of those who loved him. 


“He was the light of his parents’ lives and he touched the lives of everyone who knew him with his sweetness and innocence,” they said.


Fr Allan Hall, parish priest of Tortuga, told the child’s parents Matai was making his mischief in heaven.


He praised the child’s mother for giving her child a strong foundation in the church as she would attend service with the baby every Sunday, despite his age. 


Hall said a strong religious foundation was what most youths in today’s society were lacking. He urged parents to try to bring their children back from delinquency as, he added, T&T’s youths had already gone astray. 


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