|Subject: A final 'Goodbye', but from afar, as COVID restrictions limits Tarvaris Jackson's family and friends from giving the sendoff he deserved, as he is buried at memorial sericed in Alabama. ...
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Date Posted: Wednesday, April 22, 02:36:12pm
In reply to:
's message, "Tarvaris Jackson EX - NFL QB killed in car accident in Alabama." on Monday, April 13, 11:12:05am
A final 'Goodbye', but from afar; Views from outside Tarvaris Jackson’s funeral service …
The Montgomery Advertiser
April 18, 2020
MONTGOMERY — The skies hung high and soft over Montgomery’s True Divine Baptist off Troy Highway Saturday afternoon, and at the base of the church’s entrance stood Lakitta Jackson, Tarvaris Jackson's widow.
She lead the procession of Tarvaris Jackson’s family before his funeral service started. Behind her were the kids, Jackson’s mother and a handful of other family members that were allowed to enter the doors of the church.
Ten people. That’s all that was allowed to see the former NFL and Alabama State football player off to an eternity of rest. Group gathering protocol surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic barred any others from entering the church — not even access to the foyer was available to anyone else.
And though Lakitta stood in front of a line of family, and though the parking lot that surrounded her began to fill with more family and friends, who would have to watch the service via live stream from their phone, she still seemed to be standing alone.
As she walked up underneath the four chalk-white pillars of the church, Lakitta stopped to gather herself. The emotion of what was now her reality began to flood her physical expressions.
She slightly bent her knees, as the folds of her black pants suit danced subtly with the light breeze that crept up beside her. Lakitta straightened her pants, slowly raised her head to the sky and closed her eyes.
The grief was never more evident. She had lost her husband suddenly Sunday night in a single-car crash, and no amount of comfort could have prepared her for his loss. It couldn’t have prepared anyone. And in that sentiment alone, Lakitta Jackson was not alone.
“It’s hard,” said Brandon Richmond, Jackson’s cousin on his mother’s side, who stood in the parking lot waiting for the service to start. “We grew up with him, that’s our mentor. He was like our other father figure. It’s hard! I wanted to see him! It’s just hard that we can’t see him.”
The doors were locked to everyone else outside. E.G. Cummings Memorial Funeral Home
was strictly following the COVID-19 gathering guidelines, which was expected and necessary. …
No one other than select family could enter — there was a list — and obituaries would not be distributed to anyone outside. All everyone on the outside had was the live stream.
“We have to stand 6 feet apart to see family,” said Darrin Hooper, another cousin of Jackson’s who had to endure grief amid COVID-19 restrictions. “We are family. It shouldn’t be any problem for family to go view his body, and I feel like they are making corona(virus) bigger than the funeral, and the funeral is supposed to be bigger than corona.
“If we have to catch the coronavirus to go in, we’ll catch it just to see my cousin for the last time,” Hooper said of him in Richmond.
For Cummings Funeral Home and everyone else, these times are unprecedented and the effects of the coronavirus spare no one; not even those in grief, not even those leaving this earth.
District 6 City councilman Oronde Mitchell, who is on staff with Cummings Funeral Home, said he understands the complications of carrying out a funeral service amid the pandemic. It’s a balance between safety and respecting the grieving process, he said.
“As a city councilperson, also as a person of the funeral home, our thing is safety first,” said Mitchell before the procession headed to the cemetery. “We know that people are grieving at this time so we are doing our best to accommodate and we don’t want to not allow the family to grieve, but at the same time we do want them to be safe. So, it is a difficult time.”
Consequently, the funeral home has made live streaming available for families, which has been their biggest adjustment “to have them (family and friends) actually be a part without actually being in the building,” Mitchell said, but the immediate family gets first accommodations.
Though many attendees could not be inside and within range of a man that meant and had given so much to them, it was worth it. It was worth traveling from their homes and sitting in their cars in the parking lot of True Divine to virtually partake in the service. It was worth showing their respects near and far, virus or not, sending Jackson home the right way was worth it.
Deondra Bell, a classmate of Jackson’s 2001 graduating class, agreed wholeheartedly as she and a small group of other classmates
pulled up to the service with commemorative Tarvaris Jackson T-shirts and signs with his number on them to show their support. …
“I met Tarvaris in high school, ’98, our sophomore year at Lanier,” Bell said. “It was really hard watching it from my car. I wish that we could have put him away and been there to support him in person, but we couldn’t. But it was worth coming. He was the most giving person I’ve ever known in my life. He always laughed and joked, he always brought a smile to my face every time I saw him. I know his wife and kids, and I love them, they are special people in my heart, so I just had to come out.”
Niroby Dingle, a classmate two years younger than Jackson, attended alongside Bell. And though he wasn’t a part of that 2001 Lanier class, he said he needed to show his face regardless if he could go inside or not.
That’s what Jackson would have done, he said.
“It was important for me, because Tarvaris as a friend was always there for me if I needed him,” Dingle continued. “There were many times where I called him because I wanted to get into coaching, and he was able to give me advice and told me if I needed some help he would help out.
“You know, he’s not here, so, if I’m able to come and show my support to the family, which is big to me, I know that he would have done the same.”
Everyone who spoke of Jackson talked of his benevolence.
“What he was, was a blessing to everyone,” said pastor Stanley F. Gillis, Jackson’s father, during his delivery of the eulogy. “He would continue to give to a point where it was almost ridiculous.”
They told stories of his lighthearted, loving and joking nature, and reflected on his competitive-edge. They spoke praises of his career and how he used his platform to positively impact and encourage others. Most importantly, they urged that after you speak on his name that you end with “Good man, he was a good man.”
That’s why from inside of the church to the parking lot, to the folks watching the stream from remotely, for anyone who took part in Jackson’s service, it was worth it.
“He left on a special day (Easter),” said eulogist Gillis of the night of Jackson’s passing. “Out of all his achievements, out of all of his accolades, I believe like Paul said, ‘For me, to die is gain.’
“I’m glad to know my son has a resting place.”
Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Andre Toran at AToran@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndreToran.
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