‘The struggle was real’
Murdered pastor’s wife speaks openly about the trauma
GUYAH... I had to take stock of my own life and think about where I am and where I want to go as a values and attitudes ambassador (Photo: Llewellyn Wynter)

WHEN Khadene Guyah’s husband of 14 years, eight months, and two days was gunned down in March last year upending what was a near-perfect life, the sorrow that churned through her soul had her contemplating calling someone from her roots in the inner city to “deal wid it”.

But the question of what good was revenge saw her, instead, channelling her energies towards becoming a values and attitudes ambassador, something she said her late husband, who was also a pastor, would have wanted as they were both being trained under the Hope Area Churches Organization (HACO) Values and Attitudes Course.

HACO, a geographic association of 10 churches from different denominations, is aimed at addressing common problems in the Hope Area of St Andrew, such as the level of incivility, crime, and violence in the general area of Tavern and August Town. These representatives would serve as values and attitudes ambassadors in their respective churches.

The expectation was always for the HACO values and attitudes ambassadors to organise training courses for parents, teachers, and unattached youth, amongst others in the adjacent communities. That course, which is now being pilot tested at Excelsior Community College, is scheduled to be expanded to the wider student body in September 2022.

Guyah, speaking Sunday at the graduation for those trained, reflected on her own experience with the programme: “I had to take stock of my own life and think about where I am and where I want to go as a values and attitudes ambassador, and so the first thing I really want to highlight is that the struggle was real.”

“All of us face situations, but we have to make a choice if we are going to hone good values and have good attitudes [when faced with] situations that confront us... even as a young lady who was brought up in the inner-city.

“So last year when my husband was murdered I had to ponder why didn’t I call up somebody in that community and say ‘deal wid it nuh’? Why not? I had been hurt, why shouldn’t I hurt somebody else?”, she told the gathering.

“And so all of us, once you have been hurt, there are things you have to think about and these are real issues, real struggles that we face when you have certain experiences. And so I thought what good is it going to be if I should take this approach when is it going to end?” she said.

Guyah, who is now forced to face life as a single mother, said instead of wallowing in bitterness at the hand dealt her by life, she still wants to rescue others.

“Even though I had this experience it is my responsibility to help others with similar situations, those who have experienced trauma and other types of pain, that you can deal with the pain and with the support of others — my church, my community, family members have stepped in to show me that I can stand — I can face this pain even though a bad thing has happened. The struggle is real, and so as a community we have to help persons with similar situations,” she said.

In the meantime, she pointed out that individuals who are part of the programme are not to be viewed as having it all together.

“The other thing I would want us to understand is what values and attitudes is not. It doesn’t mean that we are perfect people and we have never made a mistake, or we will never make a mistake, but what it means is that there are a set of principles that we are committed to, and so we have decided that irrespective of what has happened in the past we are striving to be better. We understand where we are coming from and we will choose to be better and do better,” she said.

Speaking with the Jamaica Observer under a swollen sky after the ceremony, Guyah, who had kept watch over her six-year-old son with unwavering devotion for the two-plus-hour-long affair, said they were both still on the journey to healing.

“I had a husband, a proper family, everything, and it was all taken away. You have those moments, even being a single mother; that’s new because I had a husband who was a husband, he would help out,” she said wistfully, adding that they were in full flight preparing to celebrate their 15th year of marriage and purchasing a home when he was murdered.

Their son still talks about his “daddy” and is bent on becoming a police officer, “because he wants to get the bad men”, she said.

She, in the meantime, is picking up from March 2021 when her world virtually halted.

“Life was on hold for a year, so it’s now I am actually getting up and getting some things done. I realise everything in the house was the same since last year, but I have people around me who understand. My mom is staying with me; I really give God thanks for her, my siblings, my dad. I’m grateful. It’s not that I don’t hurt, but there is so much love being poured out that it helps me to deal with the pain,” she said.

Asked if she had ever been tempted to sit out the programme because she felt that it would be no good helping individuals who were hell-bent on doing wrong, she said: “My husband and I were raised in the inner city, he was trained as well, what we wanted to do is become agents of change. He would focus on building the young men, and I would focus on the women, so together we would help to restore families. That was more my anger at the time because it’s very hard to find men who are willing to get their hands dirty. It’s very hard to find male counsellors, Christian counsellors; the students loved him, they cherished him and all of that was taken away.”

She said that she does not know the status of the investigations into her spouse’s killing.

“I really don’t follow up on it, I didn’t want to think about it and meditate on the pain. I had to let it go. I really pray for them because my heart’s desire is that they come to know Jesus, because unless they know Jesus the cycle is going to continue and their children are going to become the same, and the same involvement in crime, and so it has to stop, and I know that is what my husband would want, that is what we were preparing for. So whatever opportunity the Lord gives to help both the persons who have been hurt and the persons who have contributed to the hurt I am willing to do that,” she said.

Guyah, in the meantime, sang the praises of those who helped her through her roughest times, noting that this was the solace she would like to pass on to others like herself, and even those who are the cause of the pain of others.

“I am a Christian, so that is my source of strength, but the Lord has blessed me with some wonderful people around me. I have very good friends, friends that I study with reached out to me, my church, people came to my house, people reached out in any way they could. So, like those who are hairdressers, they came and did my hair, my nails, things like that. People helped in very practical ways. Even now, up to a year after, I have people checking in, so if any time I feel extra sad or lonely there are persons I can reach out to and say I am angry, I am upset,” she told the Observer.

In March last year Guyah’s husband Kedo was one of two individuals shot dead at a tyre repair shop on Spanish Town Road. The police reported that Guyah drove a white and silver Mitsubishi Pajero motor vehicle owned by his twin brother to the shop for repairs, and while there a black Honda Stream motor car drove up. Three men reportedly alighted from the Honda Stream and opened gunfire, hitting Guyah and the shop owner, Richard Williams.

The men then got back into the vehicle and drove away.

Guyah died on the spot while Williams was transported by residents to Kingston Public Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS Senior staff reporter dunkleywillisa@jamaicaobserver.com

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