In Memory of Jervan Leacock

Memories – Jervan’s Funeral Friday 26th June Lee’s Funeral Chapel, EMR, St. Augustine

On behalf of the Board members and our families of the Autistic Society of Trinidad & Tobago I wish to extend our sympathy to all persons who have cared for and loved Jervan.

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others. Autistic persons see, hear and feel the world differently to other people. They are often misunderstood by others in society. If you are autistic, you are autistic for life; autism is not an illness or disease and, (to date) cannot be ‘cured’.

The first time we met Jervan was when he came to a meeting in the Grant Memorial Presbyterian School, San Fernando. Jervan was jumping around and full of energy. We could see that Edith needed a lot of help to take care of her only child.

ASTT was formed in 1990 and when we received some funding in 1998 we arranged music sessions in north and then in south. Jervan came to those sessions in south.

When The Life Skills Centre opened in Point Fortin in 2004 and with help from ASTT, Edith travelled with Jervan to Point Fortin twice per week to attend music and life skills sessions. Gina Mohammed, our Vice President and Principal of the TLSC, got to know Jervan very well. Some of the families from Point Fortin are with us today as we celebrate his life.

When his mother’s medical condition worsened and there was no one else to take care of Jervan, she reluctantly admitted Jervan to the St. Ann’s Hospital as she could no longer keep him in her rented apartment.

As you have heard, Nichol, our former GM, took on the responsibility of caring for Jervan and taking him for drives. With permission from the administrators of St. Ann’s he would come to family days and Christmas parties and attend Camp on selected days. Nichol and Gina would also arrange for him to spend his birthday either at Autism Place or in Point Fortin.

Over these past 6 years we have all learned from our interactions with you, Jervan. Let us hope that the world for autistic persons will be a better place.

We thank those persons who were kind to you and cared for you without expecting anything in return. Those who loved you unconditionally and helped make a difference in your life.

I end by repeating some of the words written in 2015 by our Volunteer Mrs. Joy Valdez after Jervan’s mother died.

I quote:

“Someone has to hope that somebody cares enough –

To be moved to swift action (by these words),

Put societal amenities in place for eventualities like these!”

……Written by Mrs. Joy A. Valdez —-26/03/15

Rest in peace Jervan –you are now in loving arms!

-Teresina Sieunarine, President,ASTT

Eulogy – “A Love Beyond Words”

In loving memory of Jervan Leacock by Nichol Alves

We are gathered here today to remember and honour the life of someone dear to us all, Jervan Daneil Leacock. Jervan was born at midnight on December 13th, 1989 to Edith Leacock, and from that moment, his mummy lived her life for him. She loved him, cared for him, spoiled him and tried to do the best she could for him. It was not always easy, but she did her best, and when her illness got the better of her and she could no longer physically care for Jervan, she made the heartbreaking decision to have him admitted to St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital.

As we all know, Jervan came with his fair share of challenges, I do not need to elaborate on this any further, we are all aware, and most of us understand. I imagine that when some people looked at him, they would have been intimidated, maybe scared. They may have seen how big and strong he was, or how intensely he focussed on the things that interested him, like food; some may have seen his limitations. But that was not what I saw, and that certainly was not who he was! There was so much more to him than what met the eye. I saw love and I felt connection. I saw beauty and innocence, and I felt genuine, human interaction.

What was most beautiful about him, was how he could show love (and I can speak here for me) without ever saying a word! There was beauty in the gentle way he treated me, the gentle strokes on my face with the back of his hand, his trust and patience with me. Jervan would pace, a lot; it is how he would keep himself calm, and while pacing, he would take a break and walk directly to me, lean in and bring his cheek for a kiss, then walk away resuming his familiar routine. That was love and trust.

When I would take him for drives, and he would rock back and forth and side to side in the car, making a series of his usual hums, clicks, whispers and noises with the sweetest smile on his face. I knew in those moments he was happy, he didn’t have to say it. Those moments were so beautiful, because I could see the pure joy and happiness he felt! When he was in this mood, it was my favourite!

Or when he would lean in lightly on me and rest his head on my lap and I would slowly and calmly stroke his head when he was sleepy or he had enough of an experience, I felt trusted.

You see, love is not only shared through words, love goes deeper than that, Jervan’s love was a love beyond words. Jervan never told me he loved me, but I surely knew he did.

Just like I could figure out what was wrong, because he could also communicate his needs by his behaviour, his facial expressions, rocking, smiling, fussing or crying. When he was upset, he knew I would respond and try to help him, or understand what discomfort he was experiencing or what he was not pleased about.

It is because I wanted to understand him and his behaviour that I was inspired and challenged to try harder and be better, he did that, he inspired me. He pushed me to be more patient and truly practice being proactive. To remain calm, when he was at his worst,- to help him. To be someone he could trust and someone he would know he could rely on to understand him. Someone, who could make his day, even though few and far between- a little brighter.

When I would take him to Point Fortin, Gina and I would always ensure that he would always be made much of, be cared for and pampered! Have a meal, snacks, juices and dessert, a nice long shower with a good scrub. Those memories make me smile, because I know we made his burdens a little easier to carry in those moments. He didn’t need to say it, I knew it. Gina knew it.

It is no secret that the last few years of Jervan’s life at St Ann’s were not ideal, he was a casualty of a broken system. Jervan had autism, a neurological condition, not a psychiatric/ mental disorder. It was not the ideal environment for him, in the least! And it was always my greatest wish, that I could have found affordable and appropriate housing options for him, where he would be able to live a life where his basic human rights and dignities would be upheld.

Alas, his body could take no more… He could take no more…

But, I’ll tell you what, my friend endured! And he is an example of perseverance and strength, because that is what he needed to adjust to his life there, without his mummy.  Strength is not about being the biggest, toughest or fastest, though he was; but it is found in the one who keeps going, keeps trying, day in, day out, long after others would have given up. Jervan endured! And I am sad, I am so sad that he had to. But, as his journey on this earthly plain is over, and he has gone home, to be reunited with his mother and the Lord, I let him go in love.

Jervan, -Thank you. Thank you for all the things you taught me, and all the love and trust you gave me, for all the ways you inspired me. Your love has made me a better person. I will miss you. May your soul find rest and eternal peace. I love you.

I would like to end by sharing this poem by Ruth Burgess

“Into the freedom of wind and sunshine,

we let you go,

Into the dance of the stars and planets,

we let you go,

Into the wind’s breath and the hands of the star maker,

we let you go.

We love you, we miss you, we want you to be happy.

Go safely, go dancing, go running home.”

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