The Honourable Asot Michael speaks at the funeral of The Late Dornne Sheppard Le Blanc Wednesd
Posted: Dec 18, 2013
Good afternoon, Church.
No more that burly gait
No more that joyous face
No more that radiant smile
No more that resonant voice
No more on this earth, my sister,
Dornne Sheppard Le Blanc
Yet, in my heart, she is here.
In my bones and in my marrow,
Dornne lives on.
In my memory,
In my every conscious moment, she
stands beside me as she always did.
My sister, and my friend;
my true friend!
The chain of love she forged
Has not been broken by her
Nor has it been in the least bit weakened.
If anything, the chain has grown stronger.
Reaching beyond this mortal life
To that better place where
Dornne must be
Laughing and happy in the company of the Almighty.
I do not pretend that I do not feel anger at her loss.
I do not pretend that my heart is not
bursting with the grief of her passing.
I do not pretend that I do not question why.
I do all these things
And, I cry inside, as I weep outside.
For Dornne did not deserve to die so young and so sudden.
So, we come today to mourn the passing and celebrate the life of Dornne Sheppard Le Blanc, my friend, my sister, my comrade. We all feel the deep sense of loss for a loved one who is cut down in her prime enjoying the fullness of life still filled with so much hope, so much dreams, so much love, and so much more to give; so much more to share. For Dornne, was still a woman in her prime with today’s health care forty-six (46) years is still a young age, and none of us expected her to be cut down so suddenly without warning, without her knowing that she had any major health issues, without any time to say a proper goodbye.
But we have lived long enough to know that life is not fair, and none of us are guaranteed this precious gift of life.
We live every day by the mercy of God, and to him we must give constant and incessant praise accepting his mercies and using every day to do good, to be kind, to love, to share, to live.
In a hymn written more than 150 years ago and known by most of us across Antigua, the inspired songwriter addressed two desires for which all humans yearn—love and joy:
There are depths of love that I cannot know till I cross the narrow sea,
There are heights of joy that I may not reach till I rest in peace with thee.
My friend, Dornne Sheppard Le Blanc, was deeply loved by her family and friends, before she crossed that narrow sea. We all experience the heights of joy which comes from knowing love, as it flows between and within family. Love erases barriers erected from fear.
Dornne Sheppard Le Blanc was born on the 6th of January, 1966. She was the daughter of Mrs. Juliett Sheppard and Mr. Teddy Sheppard, deceased of Pares Village.
Teddy Sheppard was not an ordinary member of the Antigua Labour Party. His lineage, born as he was of the Lion Kings of the Antigua Trades and Labour Union, made Teddy Sheppard one of our Princes.
Seven years following Teddy’s birth in 1944, his father Donald Sheppard became an elected member of the Legislative Council in 1951; he served for almost thirty years in the Parliament. Bear in mind that is was not until December 1951 that Antigua and Barbuda was divided into constituencies. His father Donald played a leadership role for many decades in shaping the new Antigua and Barbuda, and Teddy continued that work.
Dornne, in her early years was raised up in the village of Pares, but later moved to Vernons Development. Dornne, was an employee of the Bank of Nova Scotia for over twenty-seven (27) years.
She is the mother of Ajahni Sheppard and Keliya Le Blanc. Dornne was married in April of 2006 to Kelvin Le Blanc, who is a member of the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda.
Yet, the world into which Dornne Sheppard Le Blanc made entry, 47 years ago, is clearly not the same world from which she has made her exit in 2013. That transformation of Antigua and Barbuda within the new world, over her four-and-one-half decades, required her contribution. Dornne, gave of herself. In fact her entire family has an enviable record of contribution which Dornne has admirably maintained.
Dornne Sheppard Le Blanc did live and she had a good life not simply in terms of material possession only, not in terms of smooth sailing but in terms of family, loved ones, friends, colleagues, comrades, giving, sharing, living.
To the entire family of Dornne Sheppard Le Blanc, her children, her relatives and friends, I want to assure you that I feel your pain. I feel the emptiness, the pain, the disappointment which naturally accompanies death.
Khalil Gibran, one of my favourite poets, wrote the following about death:
Talk not of my departure with sighs in your heart;
Close your eyes and you will see me with you forevermore…
Go back to the joy of your dwelling and you will find there
That which death cannot remove from you and me.
It is near-impossible not to have sighs in your heart on the passing of Dornne Sheppard Le Blanc, your mother, friend and neighbor.
You may close your eyes in order to imagine Dornne during happy times; but the tears may escape through your eyelids. You will return to your dwelling places but will find that knowledge of “Dornne” pass will remain with you, and cause the joys of your homes to be diminished.
The poet knew that theses human reactions would occur, yet, he wanted us to resist those human traits at a time when death connects us brazenly to our humanity, and reminds us callously of our mortality.
Our religion also seeks to comfort us in death.
Those of us who are Christians believe that faith in the Almighty will cause us, on Judgment Day, to see that faces of our loved ones who have gone before.
We believe that to love God, to do good works, and to live a life of charity will cause God to look favorably upon us after death, and that as a reward for goodness, we will see God’s face.
If this is indeed the formula for everlasting salvation, then I am compelled to believe that Dornne Sheppard Le Blanc has already been welcomed into the arms of her Jesus. She has seen God’s face.
In the words of the great Lebanese Prophet, Poet and Philosopher, Khalil Gibran:
But let hearts sing with me the song of Eternal Life;
Mourn not with apparel of black,
But dress in colour and rejoice with me;
Leave this place, for what you see here is far away in meaning
From the earthly world. Leave me.
For what it is to die, but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun
And what it is to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God,
Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountaintop then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your wings, then shall you truly dance.
I am persuaded that death cannot and will not remove the spirit of Dornne Sheppard Le Blanc from us. She will live on in our memory and in our hearts. Close your eyes and you will see her; return to your homes and there you will find that death cannot remove her from us.
Dance Dornne my dear Dornne dance on!
May her Soul Rest In Peace.
Member of the Parliament of Antigua and Barbuda for St Peter. He is a member of the Antigua Labor Party. He was Minister for Public Works in the government of Lester Bird, until his resignation in 2003