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#3000: A Hand to Guide Him to Funeral (fwd)
A Hand to Guide Him to Funeral ______By MICHAEL DALY (NY NEWS)
Original Publication Date: 03/26/2000
All the long walk down Flatbush Ave.,Odile Nell kept a tender right hand
on the front fender of the hearse bearing the young man she had watched
come into the world 26 years ago. "He was born in my hands," Nell
said.The hand Nell now kept on the hearse carrying Patrick Dorismond was
manicured only by her honest labors as a nurse."I used to love his
eyes," she said. "Big and clear. His lashes were long." Nell's beautiful
working woman's hand stroked the fender as she might have stroked
Dorismond's cheek when he was a child."He can charm you with his eyes,"
she said. "He was a lovely boy. He loved life." Nell was wearing all
black, save for a Haitian flag tucked into the crown of her hat. Dozens
more flags were being waved by the throngs of mourners who were
following the hearse toward the church where he had been baptized.
"Patrick! Patrick!" the mourners chanted.People watched silently from
the doorways of the Brooklyn House of Locks and Gloria's Dog Beauty
Salon and an Army recruiting center. Nell kept walking in her black
suede shoes, her hand on the hearse the way the Secret Service does when
escorting the President's limousine. "Today, Patrick is the President,"
she said. The mourners sang the Haitian national anthem. The singing
then turned tender with "J'ai Besoin de Toi," "I Need You." Nell patted
the hearse. "That's my baby," she said. A voice called out to her.
"Ou est Marie?" Nell pointed to the limousine just ahead that was
carrying Dorismond's mother, Marie. The mother had told the
mourners at the wake the night before, "Be patient, do not
fight, do not curse," asking them to take one another's hands and
promise aloud, "We're going to make it together." She left for the
funeral procession yesterday morning again saying,"Be nice." In that
spirit, Nell cautioned the community affairs cop walking behind her to
be careful the hearse did not run over his foot. She tried to quiet a
mourner who began bellowing in an angry voice."Shhh, give the man a
little respect," she said, The hearse accelerated to catch up with the
limousine. Nell stayed right beside it, her fingertip never losing
contact with the sun-warmed black fender as it came to the nightclub
where Abner Louima's night of terror had begun. Nell shouted to a
distracted man who strayed in front of the hearse."A la!" she said.
"Cherie, watch out!" One of Dorismond's cousins stepped over to Nell and
spoke in Creole."He said, 'Stay with Patrick,'"she translated. Nell
did exactly that for block after block. A young man bumped into
Nell.Sorry about that," he said.Just past Snyder Ave., 16 women in
workout clothes danced and waved from behind the plate glass windows of
a Lucille Roberts gym. The mourners waved back and some cheered
and there seemed a kind of victory in the air, a triumph of love. Nell
saw no sign of trouble as she gazed up the rest of the sun-splashed
route.You see up there?" Nell asked. "No problem."A lurch of grimness
came as the hearse neared Church Ave.and stopped."We're going to take
off the body," Nell said.She again stroked the fender. The plan had been
to carry the coffin from here, but the organizers decided the crowd was
too thick."Let's go! Let's go! Not here!" a voice called out.
Nell laid both hands on the fender as the hearse turned onto Church Ave.
and rolled slowly into an ever-thickening crowd.There was a clanging
sound as some young men tossed aside some of the the steel barricades
that the police had set up along both sides of the street the day
before. More people surged into the street, and Nell called for them to
clear the way. "Move on the side! Cherie!"Nell's fingertips never left
the metal as she was forced back and struck by the side mirror. She
struggled back up to the fender and stayed there. "Cherie! Passer!
Passer! Everybody to the side!"The hearse stopped as the limousine ahead
inched up to Holy Cross Church. Marie Dorismond's cry of grief as she
was helped from a limousine echoed the cries that Nell remembered
hearing the day Patrick Dorismond was born.With much pushing, but no
shoving, there was finally sufficient room to open the back of the
hearse. The coffin was hoisted aloft, covered with both the Haitian and
American flags.Those who paid no heed to the mother's call to "be nice"
sought to pull away the American flag and removed both. Young men who
were willfully deaf to the mother's wishes commenced to shred and burn
the Stars and Stripes.There was an effort to return the Haitian flag,
but it slid away,and the coffin arrived at the church entrance
uncovered. It was covered with a white cloth and carried past the stone
fountwhere Dorismond had been baptized 26 years before.