bastien_forester.jpgA funeral was held Saturday, May 17 at Monique and Loriston Community Funeral Chapel in North Miami for Chaumala Laurent, the valiant young Haitian teacher who succumbed to cancer recently, but who inspired everyone she met with her faith in God.

Her plight attracted the attention of many sympathetic persons in the community, including two former Jackson Memorial Hospital nurses. Patti Cortez visited her on New Year’s Day at Jackson, where she was hospitalized for months. Edeline Clermont became part of her family.

So did Gepsie Metellus, executive director of Sant La, a community group in Little Haiti, and myriad others.

Patti, Gepsie, Edeline and Father Ricot of the Episcopalian church gave moving addresses at the funeral. We spoke as well; and humanitarian visas we obtained through the U.S.
Embassy in Haiti enabled Chaumala’s parents, Marie Eveline and Jean Marc Laurent, to also attend.  Mr. Laurent spoke eloquently about his daughter’s life and spirit.

Pallbearers carried Chaumala’s body onto a horse-drawn carriage for the short trip from the funeral parlor to the cemetery for the interment.

Although cancer claimed Chaumala, her spirit filled the funeral parlor and all who knew her. The cancer ravaged half of Chaumala’s, face but never her indomitable spirit.  She bore a smile, good humor and intelligence for all, and she inspired everyone with her amazing faith and courage.

After leaving Jackson, she lived for one month in an assisted living facility through the good graces of Juliette Payen and Vitas Hospice, which provided all the services to her for free.

While Chaumala was living at the ALF, we secured a humanitarian visa that enabled Chaumala’s mother to come from Haiti last month to spend a precious few weeks with her still-vibrant daughter prior to her death a few weeks later on May 8.

Chaumala, who was 26, leaves behind grieving parents whose faces shine with the same goodness as Chaumala’s, and nine sisters and brothers in Haiti, one of whom wrote a heartrending letter which was read at the funeral ceremony.

As we go through our days, worrying about the little things of everyday life, we can remember the courage and faith – the Bible was Chaumala’s steady rock – of a young woman whose smile and memory remain in the hearts of all who knew her  as we negotiate life’s daily struggles and seek justice for all.

Chaumala’s spirit, to all who loved her and came to appreciate how special she was, lives vibrantly in our hearts as an inspiration.

Marleine Bastien is the founder and executive director of Fanm Ayisyen Nan Miyami (FANM), or Haitian Women of Miami, Inc. Steve Forester is the organization’s senior policy advocate.

Marleine Bastien •                    

Steve Forester •