A few hours before sunset on Saturday, Elaine Stephenson used the right hand to give a ‘goodbye’ wave as she – accompanied by female peers, left the graveside of her slain daughter, Janet Hardie – also called Dian.
She seemed jovial during the church service, but could not hold back tears at Steer Town Cemetery, St Ann.
The late Hardie, born 45 years ago in a poverty-stricken household at Friendship Gap in St Mary, drew her last breath at her matrimonial home in St Mary on the morning of May 28. She was shot some 12 times by her husband – a police officer, who remains in custody without charge. The two had a tumultuous marriage.
“My heart is grieving,” Hardie’s mother told the relatively huge gathering of people – young and old, at the New Testament Church of God in St Ann’s Bay, where the late businesswoman worshipped.
The mother, during a high-spirited tribute, said she is still trying to fathom the motive for the tragedy. “I am asking the question ‘why’? This word ‘why’ is killing me.”
She also expressed surprise that she is the one burying Hardie – not the other way around.
The mother noted that, in March, Hardie even took her to Kingston to undergo a heart-related test. “While we were coming back, I was saying to her that mi soon dead, and she trace mi off. She said, ‘Mama, yuh mus talk about life; Mama don’t talk about death‘.”
The mother further recalled that, on Mother’s Day, Hardie promised to treat her belatedly, adding that her ‘wicked’ husband was taking her out.
Hardie’s mother ended her tribute with a rendition of the song, I‘ve Got One Thing You Can’t Take Away. “My daughter died, but I know she died in Jesus,” she proclaimed.
Meanwhile, Joan Kelly, who presented the eulogy, described her late aunt as – among other things – a philanthropist, a businesswoman, and a firm lover of God who was baptised at Toms River Pentecostal Church in St Mary at 12 years old.
The aunt added: “Dian’s love and kindness to people was never wavering. To know her was to love her; she was loved by everyone…”
“The entire St Ann’s Bay and Brown’s Town communities lost a treasure. Steer Town, you will be mourning for a while. Her untimely death is devastating,” the aunt further said.
She stated that Hardie attended Castleton All Age School (now Castleton Junior High) in St Mary, and Tarrant High School in Kingston.
Hardie, in her adult years, after climbing from poverty to prosperity, contributed to various social ventures. One of the biggest recipients of her generosity was the Edge Hill School of Special Education in St Ann.
Hardie, in the meantime, left a number of relatives behind – including her mother, grandmother, two sisters, four brothers, and son Jahwan Smith.
Her first son, Rojay King, known as CJ, disappeared without a trace during a beach trip in March 2002 when he was five years old.
“Dian never gave up hope; she kept searching and searching, and searching [for Rojay],” said Virginia Kelly-Vassell, another aunt of the deceased.
She noted that Hardie was hospitalized immediately after her son went missing. “We thought that we would lose her at that time,” she added.
Hardie, in the meantime, had a bevy of friends – young and old, and was loved by her church family in St Ann’s Bay.
Reverend Winston Foster recalled that Hardie took up the mantle of Christianity again after her first son went missing.
“From then, Dian has become my eldest daughter – a part of our family,” he told the gathering, adding that Hardie even recently purchased his medication voluntarily after he returned from the doctor.
“It pains my heart, because I didn’t expect to be burying Dian at this time,” the clergyman lamented.
He said there was something peculiar about Hardie’s appearance on the Sunday she last attended church – two days before she was killed. “When you looked at Dian, Dian’s countenance changed. She was radiant; it was a different Dian yuh looking at. But I couldn’t understand what God was saying…” the pastor reasoned.
He continued: “The eagle has outgrown its nest. Dian became larger than life; she couldn’t stay – as rough and tragic as it is. The child of God Dian is, no devil could take Dian’s life if God didn’t have a hand in it.”
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