• May 26, 2024

A happy sad story

Richard Gordon kisses his daughter Azalia on receiving her at Victoria Jubilee Hospital on Monday, December 25, 2023, a month after she was born. Her mother, Nicola, had died during childbirth. (Photos: Garfield Robinson)

When his companion of 20 years passed while giving birth to his fourth child on November 25 this year, Richard Gordon was a man on the verge of losing it, as doctors at Victoria Jubilee Maternity Hospital in Kingston battled to save the life of their daughter Azalia.

A month later, on Monday, December 25, Gordon, who said he was “all cried out”, emerged from that same hospital clutching the sleeping infant — who was being allowed home for the first time — like a lifeline.

“It’s a happy sad story… She is my eyeball, my heart, I can’t see and I can’t breathe without her. My greatest joy is when I get her, that’s the only joy for the year to this whole ordeal,” he told the Jamaica Observer, smiling wistfully.

The dedicated father said he has already had several bouts of grief brought on by the “bittersweet” realisation that Azaelia, who has also been named Nicola in honour of her mother, will have many firsts which will not be witnessed by the woman with whom he had built a life.

Richard Gordon is a picture of joy as he makes much of his daughter Azalia on receiving her from Victoria Jubilee Maternity Hospital in Kingston on Monday, December 25, 2023. His joy is shared by the child’s grandmother Sharon Campbell (centre) and hospital CEO Natalie Whlie. Gordon’s partner of 20 years, Nicola, had died during childbirth on November 25.

“Sometimes I look at her and cry to know that her mother never got to touch her, she never got to feed her. When I changed her for the first time on the ward I cried; when I feed her for the first time on the ward I cry to know that her mother didn’t get the chance,” he said, his voice filled with emotion.

He also feels another bout of grief that their daughter is yet too young to understand.

“She is the last daughter, and to know that every time her birthday comes is her mother’s memorial,” he said before pledging, “she will never forget her mother; she will always be loved by me. No matter what it takes, I take care of all my kids, but this one here is special. She is so special.”

Gordon, in reflecting on the approach by himself and his partner in raising their other children, paid homage to the woman who he said dreamt with him as they navigated life.

Sharon Campbell is all smiles as she and Richard Gordon leave Victoria Jubilee Hospital in Kingston with Gordon’s daughter, Azalia, on Monday December 25, 2023. Campbell is the child’s grandmother. Gordon is carrying a basket of baby products presented to him by Kiwanis International in collaboration with Kirk Industries and Answers for Children.

“I lived with her mother for 20 years. We grow three nice kids; my daughter graduate with six subjects, my son is going to Jose Marti [High School]. My next son goes to Calabar [High School], so we did a good job parenting. Not everybody is perfect, but we do what we can to make sure that they have what we didn’t have,” Gordon, who said he was not raised by a father, told the Observer.

In the meantime, he also rues the fact that the mother of his children missed out on seeing their dream of homeownership together, which they had set sights on for 2024, materialise.

“Right now I am in the middle of planning her funeral. We did the post-mortem on Wednesday, they give us the burial order to go ahead and do the funeral, but it hurts me. What cuts me, you know, we were saving to buy a house. We said we would save a million dollars so if we get a $10-million house we have the 10 per cent up front, and I showed her like a week ago and said ‘I reach $600,000 babes,’ and said by March we have a million,” Gordon shared.

“Now I have to use the money to bury her. It hurts me, it hurt me so much. From 2002 we are working; we don’t take back any returns (National Housing Trust contributions refund) because we said when we reach certain age we want to have this in place… I can’t cry anymore, I’m cried all out, I have to be there consoling the children,” Gordon said.

The St Andrew father — who was presented with a basket of baby products by Kiwanis International in collaboration with Kirk Industries and Answers for Children — had high praises for the medical team that tended their child.

“Even though her mother gone, I have to give the neonatal unit praises. They did a good job to bring back the baby to life because she was born in real distress, I am telling you… I had to just gather all the nurses and doctors and tell them thanks. They could have turned their backs, but the humanitarians that they are, the work that they dedicated to, I appreciate it. They give me follow-on tests to do… I am going to do those and come back March for her review; anything the doctor says, I will do,” he said.

While still uncertain as to the cause of death of his 36-year-old life companion, Gordon is certain about one thing for now: “Mi up and running, man, mi over the baby like Google ennuh,” he said, cradling his precious bundle of joy and smiling.

In the meantime, the heartbroken father had a parting word of advice to other fathers.

“Once you have it, support your child, be a father to your child. Once somebody [else] mentor your child you already lose the child because the child is going to always listen to who they look up to. So be a role model for your child,” he encouraged.

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