We lost my cousin Germaine in a tragic motorcycle accident on April 20, 2017. Since it was hard enough to put together the speech that I gave in his honor at his funeral yesterday, I’ll simply post the speech below. We all miss him so much. :(
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Roz, one of Germaine’s cousins. You can probably tell we are related because we are both tall and skinny with big heads. :) My brother and I grew up in the States, but we spent every single summer here in Jamaica since we were babies. I have vague memories of us going to Auntie Merlyn’s house as children and playing in the yard with Germaine and his siblings. We used to hang out and eat Auntie Merlyn’s awesome thick pancakes and watch reruns of MacGyver.
Years would pass before I’d see Germaine again; it was around 2005 when we next saw each other. We were in our early 20s. We were back at Auntie Merlyn’s house and he was on crutches recovering from an injury, and I just remember how humble and strong he was. This would come to shape the image of him that I still have of him to this day. Cool and quiet on the outside; fun and loving on the inside. Ever since then, we kept in touch and he quickly became my favorite cousin. As amazing as my only sibling and younger brother Ricky is, Ger was like the big brother I never had. He was that big brother who I had to nag to come pick me up from way up in Red Hills where my grandmother lives so I wouldn’t be stuck in the house all day. He was that big brother who was ready to fight anyone who broke my heart. He was that big brother who took me to the best parties in Jamaica (everybody knows Ger loved a good time). He was that big brother who let me into his fun-filled world and introduced me to some of his closest friends: Bibi, Suki, Bolt, Tat, Chris, Renece, Gareth, Pepe, and others who I quickly learned are much more than just his friends: they, too, are like his family.
Germaine was an easy person to love. He was sometimes quiet and reserved, oftentimes playful and goofy, and always cool and laid back. He loved to see the world, loved animals, loved his family and friends dearly; he loved life. To many of us, he is a hero, an Olympic medalist, a role model, a legend, a champion in many aspects of life. And this is only a sliver of who Germaine was: he loved and lived hard, and is cherished by so many people. The size of this crowd is a testament to that fact. If there is one thing we can say, it is that Ger accomplished a lot in his short but impactful life.
We all know how hard it is to wake up every morning and face a world that no longer includes Germaine in the physical. But there are two things that have given me the strength to get to the end of each day, and I’d like to share them with you in hopes that they will provide you comfort as well. The first is replaying my memories of him over and over in my mind. Memories are powerful things. I’ve given you a few of my own already, so just imagine if we could merge every mind in this room together into a single stream. We’d have a massive collection of memories comprised of the conversations, hugs, laughs, and journeys: all the experiences we each had with Germaine. He lives in our words, our thoughts, and our memories. So remember that time when he spoke his first words, when he took his first steps, when he set Jamaica’s national high jump record, when he won that incredible Olympic silver medal, when he held his firstborn son, when he laughed at your jokes, when he wished you happy birthday, when he told you he loved you. Keep all of those memories close to your heart, and Germaine will always be right there with you. He still lives right here, inside of each of us: in our minds, our hearts, our souls. So talk about him, think about him, write about him, dream about him. Intangible memories can be just as real and alive as the tangible world around us.
What each of you is feeling is what the rest of us are feeling, even though we each are coping in different ways. Just remember that you are not alone in the pain felt from missing Germaine. Turn to someone in your life who you can share stories with, turn to someone in this very room if need be, and use that as the wood that feeds the fire of Germaine’s spirit and keeps it burning eternally. Think if you can, right now, of the silliest thing Ger ever said to you, or the most fun moment you shared with him, or the moment you were the proudest of him. Don’t remember him by the last moment of his life: remember him during the previous glorious moments that you shared with him: the last time you saw him laugh; the last time you saw him happy and thriving.
The last time I saw Ger was the day after Christmas at my parents’ house in Florida. I remember he had messaged me asking if he could come see me before I left town, and I remember jokingly picking on him because it was usually me who had to chase him down to hang out, not the other way around. But funnily enough, he got it right that one last time. When he came over that night, we talked a lot about life. I remember him telling me how happy he was with his beautiful and infinitely strong girlfriend Shari. Shari, I’ve told you many times before, and I’ll continue to tell you time and time again: I see you as my cousin as well and I hope you know that everyone here is here for you. You are family.
This brings me to the second thing that helps me cope with this loss, and it is the legacy that Ger left behind in not only Jelani, his 5-year-old son, but also in the form of the most amazing gift Ger could have ever left us with: a new child that is growing in Shari’s womb. She carries inside of her a silver lining of a blessing, and another way for us to all remember Germaine. He will always live in his children. Let us be thankful that in the wake of the loss of one life, we have been blessed with the miracle of this new life. Let us always remember Shari and her and Germaine’s children, because they are truly his future and growing legacy.
In closing, I want to leave you with this simple but powerful message: remember to live your life because life is a gift, not a privilege. Let this be a reminder to not take any single one of our precious moments for granted. He would want you to remember him and smile, not cry, and he would want you to carry on in strength and magnificence the way he did. So whatever is important to you right now, whether it is excelling in that job, getting that promotion, singing that song, raising those children, loving those important to you, running that race, do whatever it is that your life’s purpose is right now, because that is what he would want you to do.
We love and miss you, Ger.