Touching words mark Jodian Fearon’s farewell

GOVERNMENT leaders as well as family members of Jodian Fearon, the 23-yearold woman who died after being denied access to health care in April, have vowed to pursue legislative changes to ensure the treatment meted out to the deceased does not befall another woman.

Speaking yesterday at the thanksgiving service to honour the life of Jodian, affectionately called Tenko, Gender Minister Olivia “Babsy” Grange said it is the commitment of the Government to ensure that no other woman faces what Jodian endured.

“Even in this moment Jodian is calling on us from the beyond to do better to make her passing a lesson we will never forget. Let her inspire us to stand up for justice, especially justice for women in this country and justice for pregnant women.

Let this moment be our charge and let this moment be our commitment,” Grange said as she fought back tears while addressing a socially distant congregation of approximately 60 people, the majority of whom were donned in T-shirts printed with the words #JusticeForJodian.

Though the physical attendance at the church was limited because of Government protocols regarding social distancing and COVID-19, over 1,000 well-wishers joined the live stream of the service on YouTube.

Grange continued her tribute by identifying with Jodian’s case and her family’s loss.

“I have heard about Jodian, the caring young woman who was a victim of uncaring attitudes, unwarranted stigma even as she fought to give life to her precious baby girl. I have heard about Jodian Fearon and the ways this country has failed her. I can relate to her and I feel like I know her. I can relate to her mom and I can relate to Jodian because I have three beautiful grandchildren and I have a beautiful daughter and they ,too, my daughter and grandchildren, could have been victims. We all feel like we know her, even those who did not know Jodian. So, she could have been any one of us and that is why our nation, everybody, shares this great sense of loss and anger at the circumstances of her passing,” Grange said.

Further, Grange asserted that the Government is committed to reducing the rate of maternal mortality in Jamaica and urged Jamaicans to become advocates for maternal health.

“We know that the rate of maternal mortality is still a problem across the world. The World Health Organization tells us that most maternal deaths are preventable with timely management by a skilled health professional working in a supportive environment. As a lasting tribute to Jodian, let us each commit ourselves to doing what we can to improving maternal health in our country. No other woman should experience what Jodian faced. So today this is my pledge, today this is the commitment of the Government. I have heard about Jodian Fearon in a very stark way and because of her story we must all commit ourselves to become advocates for maternal health and justice,” Grange said, while offering condolences to the family, friends and co-workers of Fearon.

Opposition Senator Donna Scott-Mottley, who also gave a tribute, said the circumstances of Fearon’s death were hard to comprehend and encouraged Fearon’s mother, Portia Green Haughton, to find the place to forgive those responsible.

“When Jodian died, tears flowed freely from everyone not just in Jamaica, but all around the world. For some people she was a sister, a friend, an aunt. But Jodian became a person who had died under circumstances we simply could not comprehend. We pay a lot of tribute to our doctors, our nurses, our janitors in hospitals who do everything to make us safe and to make us better. And, it was hard to come to terms with the rejection. That is what hurt the most. Everywhere she turned there was no compassion. There was nobody who could make a difference. Portia you’re going to have to forgive them. That is hard to do but that is what we are called upon as Christians to do — to forgive them,” she said.

In addition to the glowing tributes which came from the Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency and her friends from Holy Childhood High, Leighton McKnight, chartered accountant and territory leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers and Fearon’s mentor, also affirmed his commitment to ensuring there is change in the local health system.

“I remember when I lost my mother and my mother-inlaw the same week, suddenly. I came up here and said God don’t give you more than you can bear and you believe that, but mi say God yuh really rate me and that’s what I am saying Portia — God really rate yuh and if God rate yuh is a good thing. God allowed his son Jesus Christ to be crucified so that we could be free. I think Jodi was allowed to be sacrificed for the better good. I said to Portia if God said to you ‘I need to change the health system in Jamaica and I need a beautiful exemplary daughter to make that sacrifice and make that example’ and you said to God, no God, not Jodi and God said to you, if not Jodi, tell me whose daughter? We were stuck at that,” McKnight said.

McKnight went on to quote Bob Andy’s Fire Burning and maintained that change will have to come.

“Just like what is happening with George Floyd in the US, similarly for my Jodi here in Jamaica, change has got to come. Your death will not be in vain. Sleep in peace my dear mentee, Jodi. I’m glad our paths crossed and I commit that justice will be done,” he said.

Her mother, Portia Green Haughton, who read the eulogy, remembered her daughter a vibrant child who was a true leader and the life of the party. She spoke about her academic prowess and love for dancing and food.

But even with the fond memories, Green Haughton could not hide the hurt and anguish she felt regarding the circumstances of her child’s death.

“I stand here so broken, so hurt, so confused. [On] Friday I saw Jodian for the first time. I saw her lifeless body for the first time and I could not contain my emotions. I cried so uncontrollably. Jodian was scheduled to migrate to the United States with her baby December 2020. Can you imagine? I am confident God will give us the strength to fight for justice for Jodian and Peyton Grace. The family is also seeking legislative changes to ensure this painful situation will never be encountered by any other family. We often talk about my book being on the New York Times bestseller list. I promise you Jodian, I will write that book to tell your story so that Peyton Grace will know of your legacy and how amazing you were.”

Fearon leaves behind her daughter Peyton Grace, parents and sister Shanice Lloyd. She was buried at the Dovecot Memorial Park.

In her memory, her family has launched the Jodian Fearon Foundation, which will provide scholarships to needy students.

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