Tuesday, January 16, 2018

When children die

The Christine Hood-Vincent Story


Christine and her grandchildren. Photo Jermaine Cruickshank

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Christine Hood-Vincent is a junior minister at Belmont Pentecostal Assembly. She was, also, one of my Sunday school teachers. What has drawn me to Vincent's story is the magnitude of it, the greatness of it, at least from my standpoint; for Vincent has lost both her children and is still here. In her neighbourhood, Belmont, she is known as the 'strong woman'. "But it's not me, it's God," she maintained when I spoke with her at her home on Saturday evening. "It have a lot of people who lose their children and can't handle it…nor can I, it's God," she insisted.

Vincent had begun her life normally, like everyone else. At the age of 20 she had her first and now deceased son, Marlon Gay. Shortly after his birth in 1974, she married his father, Robert Gay. A few years later, in 1978, she had her second and now deceased child (a girl), Donnicia Gay (Bartholomew at the time of her death). Hood-Vincent had had her challenges prior to the death of her children, sure. That is the stuff that life is made of. But I do not know if she had even fathomed or had anticipated the double tragedy that was awaiting her in the future.

Tragedy number one struck on Wednesday 23 January, 2002. Her youngest, Donnicia Bartholomew, was on her way home from work with her husband, Kenton Bartholomew (Donnicia had married six months earlier and was 23) when they got into a vehicular accident. Kenton was at the wheel. "I was sleeping when Kenton's mother called me and told me that they had gotten in an accident and they couldn't find Donnicia…Right away, images of Donnicia flying out the car came to me," she began. The accident occurred on the El Socorro highway just before Court's Megastore. The car ended up in a tree facing Port-of-Spain and Donnicia did, indeed, fly out the car. "I was praying that she could be alive, but I suspected she was dead and I said a little prayer, 'God, her limbs could be broken, but don't take her life.'" There was nothing left for Hood-Vincent to do at this point but to race to the site of the accident.

"When I got up there, there were police cars, traffic, on-lookers as everyone had gathered to see what was going on," she continued. She tried her best to get to the exact spot to see her daughter, but the police would not let her in. "I am the mother and they did not let me see her…After fighting up with them for a while, I threw my hands up and yelled, 'Jesus, you said you wouldn't let anything pluck us out of your hand.''' Hood-Vincent knew at that point, that her daughter was with God. Donnicia's husband, Kenton, acquired a few bruises. Hood-Vincent spent sometime with him at the hospital that evening, but went home later that evening. As could only be expected, she could not sleep and still held on to the hope that her daughter was alive. It was only upon her visit to the mortuary the following day that she knew with certainty that her child was dead. She admitted that she had difficulty seeing God in any of it.

Her remaining child, Marlon, died on Thursday 30 September, 2004. He was 30. He was playing a card came in Roget Place when an enemy of his shot him in the head. The shooter had just come out of jail after six to seven years. "I was coming from choir practice and a church member, a young girl, called me and said I think is your Marlon (news had already spread through Belmont that their was a shooting death)…I said 'no, Marlon just picked up Genesis (Genesis is Marlon's son) and went home'…When I got home, I saw his friends standing at the gate and the way they looked at me, I knew he was dead. Andre came and threw his arms around me (Andre is her present husband)…well, this time ah bawl, ah get on bad for dis one." Moreover, Marlon's death was dificultt for her to accept because he was not saved. At least, so she had initially thought. She had found out later, through his girlfriend at the time, the he had, in fact, gotten saved before his death. Hood-Vincent admitted, too, that her son was always involved in a fight. He had seen himself as 'defender,' always ready to protect those close to him. And this is how he had gotten involved with his killer. "You have to be careful what you ask God for, because I used to ask God to remove him from the street corner (he use to hang there a lot), yuh know God removed him…he dead…Finish the sentence. Ask God to remove them and put them in a job…I did not finish my sentence," Chris burst out in laughter following this statement.

I guess time heals all wounds, for Hood-Vincent confessed that she no longer remembers their birthdays or the days of their deaths. At first, she would see parents with their children and think on hers, but she is doing OK now. And while she has lost two children, she has gained four in the form of her son's children, Kyle Marshall, Genesis Joseph, Aquila Jones and Quamie Frederick. The first three live with her. The two boys call her mom. It is as if, she told me, God has given her a new purpose to life. She likens herself to Job, and believes that God has restored what he has taken in the form of her grand-children. "We are just gifts from God and we do not know how long he has given us this gift for…we are the stewards of this gift and whenever God is ready, he comes back for his gift…I don't blame God…and how you accept a death lies in whether or not you have a relationship with God. It's not that you won't feel the pain, but God makes the difference. When you understand the secrets of God, you relax." One may consider these words of wisdom that Hood-Vincent leaves to mothers out there and even the more general public.

Hood-Vincent's story is a story of the perseverance of the human soul. You see, it is not about Hood-Vincent's children, or her capacity to have children, it is about, has been and will always be, about Hood-Vincent. Hood-Vincent knows this better than anyone.