by Nicole R. Harris
Special to The New Tri-State Defender
"It's a shame that they wouldn't let that baby rest in peace," noted a female resident of a nearby apartment complex.
Moments earlier, dozens of mourners fled the sanctuary of Progressive Missionary Baptist Church. Inside, at what was supposed to be a homegoing celebration for three-year-old Maurice Brown Jr., a verbal altercation erupted, prompting Memphis Police officers to intervene and escort several attendees from the church premises.
Maurice Brown Sr. reported his son missing on July 1, with Brown saying the disappearance happened while he was asleep. Excruciating hours passed as the search went on for the toddler. Police found his lifeless body in a dumpster, roughly one mile away from the home where he was staying with his father.
Currently in jail without bond, Maurice Brown Sr. is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Maurice Brown Jr.
So many unanswered questions: How, when and most importantly – why?
Still, one thing is evident: the spirit of giving is not lost among Memphians. Hundreds of family members, friends and supporters attended the funeral service for Maurice Brown Jr. on Saturday, July 7. In addition to those who came to show emotional support, area businesses stepped in to alleviate the financial burden on the family.
"It's just the right thing to do," noted Charles Lurry of CL Escort Services, leaders of the funeral procession.
R.S. Lewis & Sons Funeral Home donated services, the 3-foot-6-inch coffin and called on area vendors to assist with arrangements. Including the burial plot donated by Elmwood Cemetery, a monument given by Crone Monument Company, and a Monticello vault gifted by an anonymous donor, the total cost for the funeral service was approximately $6,000.
In a time when many businesses are doing their best to stay afloat in the shaky economy, when they could have easily said no, they said yes.
"The family was deeply appreciative and moved by our compassion and offer," said Andre Jones, director of R.S. Lewis & Sons Funeral Home. "We are very compassionate and sensitive to their loss, and we wanted to eliminate the financial and emotional costs of this tragedy.
"We told the family to take their time. It is a day of extraordinary sadness and pain for the family, the funeral home and the entire community."
Albeit in the spiritual sense rather than in the arms of loved ones, thanks to generous Mid-South businesses and community members, Maurice Brown Jr. is finally "home."
During the reading of a brief poem, four doves, three white and one blue, were released into the sky.
"No more tears mama."