VALERIE Brown tried her best to remain calm as the reality that her daughter Shellion Pinnock-Lafayette, a registered midwife, would not flash her winning smile again hit home.
Pinnock-Lafayette was gunned down on Wednesday night as she drove to her home in Port Maria, St Mary after she had finished her shift at the Annotto Bay Hospital in the parish.
"It's just too much," the woman muttered as she tried bravely to flash a smile.
Police said Pinnock-Lafayette was attacked minutes to 11:00 on Wednesday night. She was shot twice in the right side of her neck.
Brown is now caring for her two motherless grandchildren —12-year-old Zahyeke and seven-year-old Zanykia Lafayette — at the home where she raised her daughter on the outskirts of Highgate.
Yesterday, the dead woman's sister, Shereene Pinnock, could not hold it together and cried uncontrollably as Health Minister Fenton Ferguson and a team from the ministry offered their condolences to Lafayette's grieving relatives.
"Why God always take away the good ones? Why?" Pinnock asked.
Persons to whom the Jamaica Observer spoke, all had kind words to say about Lafayette.
"You never see Shellion and she not smiling. You can never find a single person who had a bad thing to say. Only God can tell," Shellion's cousin, Ava Clarke said.
The dead woman's two children seemed to react to their mother's untimely demise differently.
Zahyeke bore a sombre and confused look, and it was evident that he was confused as to why anyone would attack and kill his mother in such a brutal fashion.
"He doesn't go to bed until she comes home, or if she works at night he doesn't sleep until she arrives at work and calls to say she is OK. I hope they catch who did this and punish them dearly," Bobby Joe Campbell, who supervised Pinnock-Lafayette at the hospital, said.
His little sister seemed more at ease and smiled warmly as her older relatives and neighbours milled about with sad looks on their faces.
Minister Ferguson had earlier visited the Annotto Bay Hospital where Lafayette worked as a midwife since July last year. She had previously worked in the health sector as a vector control inspector.
"I am calling on the community to provide any information they may have about this tragic incident. It is time we take back our country from those we seemingly have scant regard for life," he said.
Yesterday, as news broke that the police had detained one man for questioning in relation to the murder, the minister was full of praise for the security forces. "I must praise them as it shows they are working quickly to solve this murder that has shaken the health sector," he said.
The health ministry also sent in grief counsellors to assist Pinnock-Lafayette's co-workers to cope with the loss of one who they described as a jovial, ambitious person who was easy to get along with.
Minister of Finance and Planning Peter Phillips, and Minister with Responsibility for the Public Service Horace Dalley both condemned the murder and extended their condolences to the Pinnock-Lafayette's children, relatives and co-workers.
"This is indeed a sad day for all public sector workers, particularly those in the health services as they reckon with the slaying of one of their beloved colleagues. Having spent much of the last several months in negotiating rounds with the Nurses Association of Jamaica, the slaying of Nurse Lafayette will be deeply felt by nurses throughout the health system," said a joint statement from the ministers.