Cane Lane in shock, disbelief at passing of Cavahn McKenzie
PORT ANTONIO, Portland — The pain on Pauline Dennis' face told a heart-wrenching story.
By any stretch of the imagination it can't be easy to comprehend a mother's loss of an offspring, especially in the tender flower of youth.
While many grieve the untimely passing of St Jago High athlete Cavahn 'Johnny' McKenzie, no one's pain will run deeper than the 18-year-old's mother, Dennis.
And even though she still has five of her six children around, that offers no comfort. No doting mother wants to bid that final farewell to any of her offspring.
When the news came to her doorstep in Cane Lane, Annotto Bay, St Mary, that Cavahn had collapsed and died from a suspected cardiac condition after completing the 6K race at the NCAAC Cross Country Championship in Tobago on Saturday, Dennis was thrown into a whirlwind of shock and disbelief.
But she fights back with her positive and uplifting memory of her fourth child, one who held so much promise for the future.
"He was a good boy and he gave no worries, everybody like him, and anybody who beg him to do anything for them, him do it," said a distraught Dennis.
"My son leave and go over there hearty and him die over there, mi no know how mi a go manage without mi son," she said, breaking out into tears.
Young McKenzie had vowed that he would take his mother out of poverty, and the aggrieved Dennis remembered it well.
"Him always love tek care a mi an say 'mammi' mi a go be there for you and try fi tek you out a poverty. Mi a go try fi bus fi come help you and buy a house and tek care a di family'," she said. And again, she couldn't hold back and her tears fell freely.
The visit by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and track and field officials to Dennis' humble home was indeed a noble gesture, but neither that nor any words of comfort they gave could ease her anguish.
When the Jamaica Observer news team visited Cane Lane on Monday, two days after Cavahn's death, the pall of gloom still hovered.
Family, friends and clubbites from the Annotto Bay Police Youth Club offered comfort to the late athlete's mother and siblings. People streamed in constantly to offer their support.
Monday's edition of the Jamaica Observer, which carried a picture of McKenzie competing in the fateful race and another showing him getting help when he had collapsed, was being passed around among those in the yard.
Sadly, Dennis had never seen her son run in the flesh, but confessed she followed his feats as a distance runner and steeplechase competitor with keen interest on television and radio.
"I always feel good about him and pray for him and say, 'God, I want him fi come bus to help me'. I always feel good about him. Tuesday the last mi see him, him come and check me. Mi buy him pants fi him go away and when him reach a airport him call me and say 'Mama, mi reach a airport, Mama mi reach over and from that mi no hear nothing more from him'," recalled Dennis.
Junior Bailey, secretary of the Annotto Bay Police Youth Club, remembered 'Johnny' as a young man who never quits anything he started and was always ready to lend a helping hand.
"He was always trying, you could call on him to do anything. When you talk to him he was always smiling and was a shy person," he said.
Another clubbite, Shanice Hinds, said McKenzie was a "determined" individual, who loved his mother dearly. "I admired that young man for his love for his mother and the club," she said.
McKenzie's teacher Ann-Marie Anderson-Roulston at Windsor Castle All-Age School where the youngsters developed his love for running, said the athlete died "honourably" representing his country.
"He died an honourable death knowing that he was not just representing the parish or the school, but his country," she said, fighting back tears.
"The Lord has chosen to take him now and I use that to console myself."
Cavahn McKenzie may have ended his run here on Earth, but his memory seems set to go the distance of time.
His body is expected in the island today.