Career & Education

This is for you,dad

UWI graduate dedicates degree to slain father

Sunday, November 11, 2018

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WHILE many Jamaicans were ringing in the start of 2018 with merriment and best wishes for the new year, 23-year-old university student Shameel Brown was mourning the loss of her father. And two Fridays ago, while some of her classmates at The University of the West Indies, Mona celebrated their graduation with their fathers in attendance, all she had were memories. Brown, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Sociology and a minor in social policy & criminology, grew up in Liberty Valley, Brown's Town, St Ann with both parents — her father Glenworth, a farmer, and her mother Angella, a small business operator. She recalls how the Grinch not only stole Christmas, but also her happiness on New Year's Day. “The months leading up to my father's death were some of the most memorable,” she tells the Jamaica Observer, recalling the close relationship the two shared. They were so close, she says, that he even got involved in her school life and was looking forward to seeing her walk across the graduation stage. As an example of his involvement in her school life, Brown explains that her father helped conceptualise one of the signature projects under her portfolio as deputy hall chairperson for the Aston Preston Hall on campus. The beautification project dubbed 'Operation: Clean Sweep' had his ideas all over it, as this was second nature for him as a farmer. When she called him with an update at the end of the project, which coincidentally happened during the previous graduation season, Brown says the conversation turned to her own graduation. “I told him I was looking at some posts online from graduation and he said he was excited about my graduation. He couldn't wait. He said that day when he sees me walking across the stage to collect my degree canister, that's the day he was living for. He had already planned the driver that would transport him to Kingston, and we laughed about it,” she recalls. The conversation came up again after her final exam in December 2017 when daddy called to find out how it went. She had called him while preparing for the first set of exams, when the pressures of balancing academics with leadership duties threatened to overtake her. Like a child seeking refuge, her father's arms after watching a scene from a scary movie, Brown says she turned to her father in whom she found both comfort and motivation. The conversation they had when he returnend the call is one she will remember forever. “He said he just got his brand new Clarks for my graduation and I told him that he was way more excited than I was and that him ago tun hot bwoy a come a graduation. He told me that his favourite black, button- up suit was pressed and ready for next year, that's how excited he was. That's how much he was looking forward to seeing me graduate,” the young woman tells Career & Education. But when she went home to celebrate her mother's birthday and the Christmas festivities and told her father about her plans to pursue her Masters degree, nothing could have prepared her for the horror that would befall the family just days later. Nothing could have prepared her to bury him in the very black button-up suit he was saving for her graduation. When she last spoke with her father in person on Boxing Day, his plan was to see her again on New Years' Day to give her money to pay for her residence fee. Brown says she texted him on New Year's Eve and his lack of response caused some concern, because he would almost always respond to her instantaneously. However, she went to bed without raising an alarm. But her worst nightmare was realised when the sun rose the following day. “I woke up to my sister crying hysterically and my mom was trying to figure out what was wrong with her. My mom realised that my sister had just gotten a phone call, so she decided to redial the number for the person. At the other of the end of the line was my mother's sister who told her that my father was attacked and that it didn't look good,” Brown recalls. Not wanting to expect the worst, the young woman says she remained optimistic that he was only hurt and was still alive. “My initial reaction was just disbelief. I heard the words that my dad died.

I saw everyone crying and I knew that it happened but my brain just did not register it.

I did not cry like everyone else; I did not believe, because there was no way my dad would have left me to start 2018 by myself.

This was a big year for us. This was our year.

We had plans for this year,” she shares, recounting the moment she learned her father had been chopped to death.

Brown says she stood there waiting for proof, but when it came it hit her hard.

She was numb for a few hours and unresponsive to family members for days.

“I sat in the settee and I remember peeing myself because I could not get up.

I could not understand my father's death,” she says. She recalls having visitors to her house, friends calling and messaging, but she was unable to communicate with them.

“I did not sleep for three days. I did not eat for three days. I did not use the bathroom for three days.

I sat in one position. At nights my mother and sister had to literally take me and place me in the bed. In the mornings, they would take me up and bring me on the verandah, and that's how it was for three days straight,” she said.

On the fourth day, Brown says her body began to shut down.

“I remember I was in bed the night and I felt my heart slowly beating. I felt every time I quint my eyes.

I felt every breath I was taking and I thought I was going to die.

So I woke up my mom and I told her that we need to go to the hospital,” she recalls.

The medical attention brought back some sort of normalcy. But life as she had known it was over.

About a week later, she would return to school to attend a hall committee retreat and as a coping mechanism, buried herself in work.

It helped too, she says, that when finally allowed for human interaction, friends in the hall, the committee, the resident advisor, the Cluster Vikings and the Guild of Students showered her with love and affection.

It has been just over 10 months since that tragic incident and, although the circumstances under which he passed will forever be a stain on her memory, Brown says the experience has taught her to live her very best life, to respect people around her, to honour her commitments to others, and to ensure that when she leaves a space her presence will be missed.

She has also made a commitment to carry on her father's legacy. “Whatever his values were, his work ethic, I try to honour them as much as I possibly can in the type of person I'm becoming.

Knowing that I'm honouring him and knowing that he would be proud is how I'm currently coping.

Knowing that he would be proud makes me genuinely happy,” she says.

Brown is employed at her alma mater as a data collection analyst in the Office of Student Services and Development.

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