‘If a even him ashes’ - Mom determined to bring home remains of son who died trying to cross Mexico/US border

May 30, 2023
Jermaine McPherson
Jermaine McPherson
FILE - Migrants cross a barbed-wire barrier at the US-Mexico border, as seen from Ciudad Juarez in Mexico on May 11.  (AP Photo/Christian Chavez, File)
FILE - Migrants cross a barbed-wire barrier at the US-Mexico border, as seen from Ciudad Juarez in Mexico on May 11. (AP Photo/Christian Chavez, File)

Imagine getting a telephone call from your child, telling you that he is about to die. You are helpless because you can't dispatch anyone to help him because he is in a foreign land without any known friend or family members.

This is the cruel reality Jennifer Grant-Harris faced when her second-born child, Jermaine McPherson, 34, called her via WhatsApp and told her he was dying.

Jermaine had travelled from Jamaica to Mexico with the hopes of crossing over into the United States of America. His mother said that he was in search of a better life, and even though she attempted to dissuade him from making the trip, the father of two decided to try his luck. In fact, his mother only learned that he had left the island on March 14, when he video called her from Monterrey, Mexico. Their conversation was one no parent would ever want to have.

"Him never look good when mi see him. Him say 'Mummy, mi sick, enuh', and mi tell him say we a pray fi him suh him must hold on. Him seh him naah guh make it and mi must remember say him always love mi," Grant-Harris told THE STAR.

Her cracking voice soon gave way to quiet sobbing as she related the next few moments of the call. The video feed, by this time, had disappeared but the mother could hear what was taking place in the car in which Jermaine was travelling. She said a woman, who spoke with an African accent, was in the vehicle at the time her son supposedly took his last breath.

"Mi hear when she say his eyes a close and him not breathing. Mi say, 'Jesus Christ, mi pickney a guh dead now!".

Confirmation of Jermaine's death came via Jamaica's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Portfolio minister Kamina Johnson Smith, speaking at a post-Cabinet press briefing, said the young man's body was found on a street in Mexico.

"He was regrettably an unidentified person found on a street in Mexico, and his family had no idea where he was, and the persons who were supposed to have been travelling with him became uncontactable by the family," Johnson Smith said.

She said that the Government would be working with the family to bring the remains back to Jamaica.

Harris said she was told that her son died from complications of an ulcer stomach. She does not consider the finding strange as he suffered from stomach issues for years.

"Him know say him sick from out here and him have bad stomach. It was a rough journey for him and him never did a eat suh him get sick and that was it. It look like he died on the way to hospital and the driver realise and just throw him off on the sidewalk," she surmised.

Grant-Harris said that she has been told that her son's remains will have to be cremated because it is in an advanced state of decomposition. She told THE STAR that she got the opportunity to view the body, via video link. She is determined to return it to Jamaica.

"If a even him ashes mi want. Is four of them mi have and he is the second, but mi and mi children dem close. Mi love all of them. I know he was going to look a better life for his family. Not because him make the wrong move, mi can't just give up on him like that. His body decompose suh mi can't get it, but mi rather put down his ashes somewhere and know say a him that," the grieving mother said.

"My son was a good person. He was very loving. On Mother's Day mi cry because he would be the first one to call mi and big mi up, and nice mi up. Him use to sell a Coronation Market and him always seh life hard and him want a better life for his two children and me. Him 10-year-old son don't even want to go to school from the incident, and his 16-year-old a graduate from school this year, and not even pictures Jermaine gonna see. He just wanted to make life better for us," she said.

The funeral home in Mexico has quoted a price of US$3,000 (approximately $457,000) for the handling and cremation of Jermaine's remains. Grant-Harris said she has managed to come up with US$1,500, which the funeral home requires as a deposit. She has no idea how she's going to find the remaining funds.

"Sometimes mi feel like mi a guh block out. Mi wah go to the doctor but mi have to use the money that mi have to pay to help get his ashes here. Dem seh mi need to deposit half of the money, which is US$1,500, and then by the next week and a half I need to find the remainder of the money to get his ashes home. I don't even know where that gonna come from," she said.

Anyone wishing to assist Jennifer Grant-Harris to repatriate her son's remains, may contact her via telephone at 876-869-8377.

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