BY INGRID BROWN Associate Editor special assignments firstname.lastname@example.org
TEARDROPS aren't welcome beyond the gates of glory and they certainly were not welcome at the thanksgiving service for the life of 21-year-old Sway-van 'Koffi' Williams who died after a long battle with kidney failure.
Hand-clapping, tambourine-knocking and drum beating punctuated the service for one who, though gone too soon, left behind a slate of happy memories.
Memories, which were brought to life in the numerous tributes in words and song which poured out throughout the three-hour-long service at the Point Hill Baptist Church in St Catherine, last Saturday (April 20).
The life-size banner bearing his image loomed large at the front of the church almost causing mourners to forget that the beautiful blue casket sitting at the back held the remains of their loved one.
His teacher at the Point Hill Leased Primary and Junior High School, Miss Peterson, remembered him as a mannerly and obedient child and one who always showed much interest in his schoolwork.
Racquel McCarthy, the psychologist at the Spanish Town Hospital where Williams spent his last days, remembered him as a pleasant, reserved but expressive young man.
She recalled the warm smile which would grace his face as they discussed adhering to his medication and diet.
Williams, she said, was kind and loving and seemingly enjoyed his family as he always spoke glowingly about his grandmother, Carmen Weir, and his many other relatives.
"When his condition worsened and he was hospitalised he became irritable because things were not going as he had envisioned. He was occasionally fearful and would say 'Mommy, me coming out ah dis place', Mommy the food nuh taste good', but he eventually settled down and made the best of what was available," McCarthy said.
McCarthy said Williams will be remembered as "Christine's (his mother's) son, help and handbag".
"It is not easy to say goodbye to someone in the prime of their life, who has so much potential, but God knows all things and He does what is best," she said.
Meanwhile, the community Justice of the Peace Nora Allen remembered Williams as someone for whom thanks should be given for the life he lived.
"We are giving thanks for the life of the one who is gone, and if there is anybody you should give thanks for, you can give thanks for Koffi because he lived for 21 years and he could hold his two hands high and nobody in Point Hill could pull them down for any bad behaviour, mischief or criminal activity," Allen told the mourners before leading them in jubilant singing.
She pointed out that God has a purpose in heartache as he knows what is best.
"God's promises are like the stars. The darker the night, the brighter they shine," she said, as she urged everyone to keep Sway-van's memories in their hearts.
Family friend Faye Milligen remembered Williams as a kind, jovial, caring, loving and compassionate person.
"If he had gotten the chance in life he would have excelled to the highest level but the Lord knows everything best," she said.
Williams', numerous cousins and friends eulogised him in songs and words which took family members and well-wishers alike down memory lane as they reflected on the life of the one who was said to be always smiling.
According to the eulogy, read by Marion Weir, Williams was born to Sylvester Williams and Christine Henry at Fair Field district on January 20, 1992. He attended the Point Hill Basic School, Point Hill Primary and Junior High, and the Tacius Golding High School, from which he graduated in 2009. In 2011, he was accepted to the Portmore Community College but failing health prevented him from pursuing skills training as he was diagnosed with renal failure, shortly after, and had to immediately begin dialysis.
"Those left to mourn his passing live in the hope they will see him again one day in a place where there is no more sickness, sorrow, tears or death," Weir said.
Officiating minister Reverend F A White expressed satisfaction that he had the opportunity to meet and pray with Williams in his last days and encouraged him to accept the Lord.
"He gave me the assurance that he has trusted the Lord as his personal saviour," White noted.
He said the plan was for him to declare his faith through baptism as soon as he was recovered but, unfortunately, he died before that could happen.
"The same God who helped them when the mother struggled to find the money for the dialysis, the same God who kept you and provided the money for you, though the efforts did not meet your expectation, had other plans for Koffi," he told the family.