by Gemma Handy
Like a “ship in a storm with no compass” is how the young son of killed hairstylist Simone Whyte has described life without the mother he adored.
The popular 45-year-old came to Antigua to make a better life for her three children – and ended up losing her own.
On Saturday she made her final journey back home to Jamaica to be reunited with them once again.
Speaking to Observer from Kingston ahead of her body’s arrival via Caribbean Airlines, Tojorn Barrington spoke of the devastation of losing his “guiding light” at the age of just 24.
Whyte was apparently stabbed during an incident in the centre of St John’s on November 14. A 35-year-old man, Shawn Mussington, is on remand charged with her murder.
The repatriation followed a fundraising drive to collect the EC$10,200 needed to return Whyte to Jamaica.
Barrington sent heartfelt thanks to all who contributed.
“We couldn’t have done it without them; to come up with that amount of money would have been really and truly hard,” he said.
“The whole process has been hard. We are trying our best to get through it one day at a time; she wouldn’t have wanted us to be down like this. If you ever interacted with her, you would understand why.”
Barrington described his mother as “jovial” and “down to earth”.
“And that is what made her so loved. The fact that she is coming home makes us happy but also very sad because it puts into perspective that she’s really gone. We don’t know how best we will move forward because she was a guide for us, especially me,” he said.
Whyte’s main goal in life was “to make her children’s lives better”, Barrington continued.
“She was the driving force behind everything I did, and since she’s gone it’s like removing a compass from a ship in a storm. That’s how I feel – no bearings, no compass, no guidance in a storm.”
Perhaps Whyte’s biggest sacrifice of all was moving to Antigua in 2015.
“Jamaica’s currency isn’t all that much so she thought if she got to another country where the currency was better, then she could make a bit more money, and that’s why she left because she wanted to make sure that we were OK,” her son said.
Barrington recalled the last time he saw his mother when she flew to Jamaica in 2018 to see him graduate with a geology degree from the University of the West Indies (UWI).
“It was one of the proudest moments of her life because she really pushed for that. Everything I did at UWI was for her,” he said.
With less than two weeks to go until Christmas, Barrington said this year’s festivities will be very different.
“There won’t be much of a Christmas; the most we will do is cook some food and have a family gathering.
“It will be nothing like previous years because even though she wasn’t here for the previous Christmas she was integral in it,” he explained.
“If I am in the supermarket and I am going to buy stuff I am video-talking to her and she’s like, no don’t get that, get this type of ham. The fact that she won’t be here for that moment really brings tears to my eyes.”
Earlier this year, Whyte became a grandmother for the first time. Barrington said she had been desperate to hold her baby grandson Taejorn who is nine months old.
She had been due to visit Jamaica this month to do just that. Now her family are instead planning her funeral, and trying to raise more money to bury her.
Fundraising for her repatriation was headed by the Jamaican Consulate in Antigua, in sync with police officer Alden Smith, father of Whyte’s fourth child who died when he was a toddler.
The country’s honorary consul for Jamaica, Onika Campbell, paid tribute to all those who stepped forward to help.
They ranged from local businesses to the legal fraternity, and even the West Indies Cricket Board, Campbell said.
“It’s been a long tough road but the Jamaican diaspora came forward overwhelmingly,” she told Observer.
Campbell added that she hoped the repatriation would help bring Whyte’s family some peace and a “burial with dignity”.