Farewell Gran Gran
New york funeral held for rihanna’s grandmother
by Walter Edey
“Matriarch and virtuous woman”. It is 4:50 p.m. on Friday July 6, 2012. Mourners quietly enter the St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church, on 331 Hawthorne, Street. The body of the late Clara Viola “Dolly” Brathwaite, affectionately know as “Gran Gran”, is in an off-white casket — with two security guards in vigil. It’s resting in front of the sanctuary of the church.
Several elegant floral bouquets are displayed everywhere — on the walls, on the windowsills, and inside and outside of each entrance. A quality supervisor takes one final peek at the elaborate arrangements and adjusts a few of them by an “umpteenth”.
Meanwhile, prerecorded familiar church songs fill the air, while a slide show of Clara’s life, ebbs and flows, rises and falls, across two large screens.
The setting is ideal and one can feel a sense of reverence, yet, the sight of security, triggers thoughts of a larger view beyond a funeral service that provides for homilies and biblical exaltation. Is it a family wish to allow the fanfare and trumpets of their love, to rise above the stillness, as the word of God manifests itself in whatever way, it chooses?
In the far right isle, Sagittarian, Shawn Corey Carter (Jay Z) — rapper, recording artiste, recording producer and entrepreneur — is in conversation with Lionel Brathwaite, husband of Clara, as the song What a friend we have in Jesus is playing.
Presumably, that song was a performers cue or it was a mere coincidence. Rihanna, dressed in a below-the-knee length black outfit and wearing a simple up-sweet hairstyle, rises from her seat and approaches the casket. She appears to place the fingers of her left hand, first on her grandmother’s face, secondly on her shoulder, and finally rubs the corner of the casket. She lingers a few more moments before she returns to her seat.
It is now 5:50 p.m. The security changes as the casket is closed and the body is escorted to back of the church, by the clergy.
Silence prevails for about three minutes. Then, the bells chime loudly and ministers Eddie Alleyne, Sully Guillame-Sam and Gloria Jefferson begin a service of hymns, readings, tributes, sermon and prayers for the late Clara Dolly Brathwaite.
The first tribute is given by the Consul General of Barbados at New York, Lenox Price. The other tribute (and obituary) is given by Ms. Johnson, a daughter (one of seven children), who, in story form, portrayed her mother as a loving and nurturing wife, a mother, a friend and a Christian among many other things; who met Lionel, a seaman on Booker’s shippers, in Guyana, when she was 17 years old. Listen to her replication of her mother’s first
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