Mon | Jul 15, 2024

Garth Rattray | The indomitable spirit of Erica Jones

Published:Sunday | June 4, 2023 | 12:22 AM

Erica (not her real name) was born in Spanish Town, November 1968. Her father was a hard-working forklift operator, a farmer, and an excellent cook. Her mother was a dedicated housewife who took good care of her family. She also assisted her spouse in delivering produce. Erica was the fourth of seven children. During her formative years, the family resided in St Catherine. They moved to a more rural community, where Erica attended an all-age school. Erica became pregnant when she was only sixteen years old. Her daughter was raised by her parents. Her first born was unaware of Erica’s true relationship to her. She called her grandmother “Mommy” and called Erica “Auntie”. It wasn’t until later in life that her daughter came to realise that Erica was her biological mother.

Erica never allowed her circumstances and difficulties in life to get her down. She became the strong mother of four children, three girls and a boy. She showed tough love to her kids but was always there for them. Despite her hard life, she assisted her [adult] children in their times of need. Erica survived by selling from a stall in the market. She sold in the Spanish Town Market then relocated to the Linstead Market. One of her children recalled that whenever thugs came by and attempted to take what they wanted without paying, she would tell them that she had four kids to support and could not give her things away to anybody.

Day by day, Erica battled by working very hard. She purchased produce from the Coronation Market, the wharf, or directly from farmers then sold them from her stall in the market. She was frugal and saved diligently until she was able to purchase land in the Treadways community. She struggled to build a home with the assistance of Food For the Poor. Eventually, she completed the house. By this time, her children were fully grown. She lived with one of her grandchildren.

IMPROVING SITUATION

Erica never allowed herself the simple pleasures of life because she always dreamt of improving her situation. She needed a home with better amenities, and she knew that it was only through consistent, hard, and honest work that she would be able to achieve it. Her children shared her dream and wanted to assist her in making it a reality.

They planned to help her move from the rural area, and they wanted her to stop selling in the market by July of this year. After a lifetime of sacrifice, selfless generosity, and very hard work, she deserved to take things easy. But Erica wanted to continue selling occasionally... it was part of her life.

The family was concerned about the increasing violence in Jamaica. They knew that extortionists were operating within all marketplaces, cravenly preying on the poor and defenceless. But in order to survive, pay bills, and save towards a goal in life, their mom had to keep on working for the time being.

Saturday, May 13, found Erica in good spirits. Her youngest child, a son, had just turned 32 years old two days before. Two of her daughters resided abroad, and she was going to meet three of her grandchildren for the first time in a few months. Erica had something to look back on and forward to. She was proud of her children. They had taken on her attributes of honesty and hard work. She was enthusiastic about fulfilling her dreams. But while she was attending to her customers and in the company of her youngest daughter, there was a loud explosion.

BLAM!!!

LIFELESS BODY

Everyone scattered as Erica’s lifeless body fell to the ground only a metre or so from her terrified daughter. Heinous extortionists had sneaked up on Erica and shot her in the head … killing her. They ended the life of this brave, honest, kind, and diligent lady. They ended her dreams. They ended her opportunity to relax and enjoy the fruits of her life’s hard labour. They ended the joy in the entire family. They ended any little faith, hope, and expectation that the Government could protect its citizens. They destroyed any love that anyone familiar with Erica had for Jamaica. They perpetrated a tragedy of epic proportions.

Now, her family lives in a surreal, interminable nightmare. Erica’s father passed in 2007, and her mother still can’t come to the realisation that her grandchildren must find a way to bury her daughter. Erica’s children will never forget that macabre, horrendous, earth-shattering event. The tears, the screams, the wailing, the emptiness, and the deep piercing emotional pain are endless.

Was Erica just another statistic, another innocent, poor, hard-working, smaddy that dem kill? Was she the embodiment of struggling, vulnerable, but indomitable citizens being slaughtered with impunity by criminal elements? Will Erica die in vain? You decide.

Don’t wait until things get real for you. Anyone can be next. We must all play our part to prevent crime and agitate for urgent and sustainable social reform. Reprobate criminals destroyed Erica’s body, but her indomitable spirit lives on in her children and grandchildren. Her life will serve as a legacy for generations to come.

Her daughter overseas remarked, “I don’t want to live back in Jamaica … it’s too much! I hope that relatives there will take themselves away. They are living on the edge. What’s gonna come next?”

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com