Sleep in Heavenly Peace

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
December 25, 2016

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeIt’s Christmas Day. All are gathered at home with their loved ones. You may have started your day by going to church, calling friends to wish them “Merry Christmas,” or even getting over a hangover, the product of too much partying.

As we come together on this holy day we remember the virgin birth; shepherds walking in the fields at night, following a star to the manger in which the Christ child, symbol of peace and love, lay.

You think of the gift of peace our Savior brought to this world and His desire that goodwill prevail amongst all men and women.

As we sing joy to the world, the Lord is come, we know that Sherry-Ann Lopez and Richard Banfield do not have their daughter, Shannon Banfield, with them to share in this life-giving message. They know Shannon has gone to another world, her life having been snatched from her just as she approached womanhood.

We think of a mother’s pain and the call that never came. Imagine if you can, a mother breathlessly waiting to hear the warmth of her daughter’s voice that we now know she will never hear again.

Think also of the twinge of remorse. “I should have picked her up. I had always had my fears but I thought, just for this one time, she could taxi home alone. It’s late afternoon. Nothing could possibly happen.”

“Will I always be there to bring her home safely? One day she will have to take her taxis alone and navigate the storms and tempests of life.”

Even after Sherry-Ann failed to receive the call, there was the haunting realization: “This is not like my daughter. Always so responsible; always so caring; always thinking of others; always willing to help another if she could.”

There must have been a cosmic mistake. Perhaps the stars had not lined up properly that day. Something terrible must be out of whack, but she kept her faith. He that knowest all our joys and our hopes knows how much Shannon means to her mother.

Her mother expected a miracle. The Lord, in his mercy, would surely intervene to protect her baby and bring her home safely.

Three days passed before the horrible news came to light. It took a while before the enormity of the tragedy assailed her. Her mother could not believe it. It dawned on her baby would not be coming back to her.

It’s Christmas morning. She listens to the good news, “Away in the manger/ No crib for a bed./The little Lord Jesus,/ Lay down his sweet head,” and she wonders where can my baby be?

In her cozy home in the Santa Cruz valley, that comforting message raises more questions than answers.

“I am a poor mortal,” she says. “God gave me two children and now, in the twinkling of an eye, my baby is gone. Evil forces thought it best to take her away from me.”

As the coolness of the morning breezes greets her, the words of another Christmas carol try to soothe her soul: “Silent night, Holy night, All is calm, All is bright.” This morning though her heart is not calm, nor is her future that bright. Yet, she prays that her baby is asleep in the arms of her maker.

As she listens more attentively to the strains of one of the most powerful Christmas carols, little does she know that in 1818 that Joseph Mohr, far away in a tiny village in the Austrian mountains, crafted this verse because the people at his church found their organ broken and had to compose a song to express the Christmas joy without an organ.

Here, in the tiny village of Santa Cruz, nestled beneath the foot of the Northern Range, Sherry-Ann Lopez tries to comprehend life without her daughter. What song must she sing; what words must she utter to express her inexpressible grief?

She thinks: “Sometimes I don’t always understand the inscrutable ways of this world; sometimes I don’t even know why people are born if they have to die.”

“But,” she says, “I thank God. He gave me an angel even if it was only for a short time and for that I am grateful.”

Shannon loved purple, the color associated with royalty, nobility, luxury, power and ambition. She had all these qualities in abundance.

But the color purple also calms the mind, lifts us to higher heights, suggests a sense of spirituality and encourages creativity. Sherry-Ann called her daughter “an angel.” She knew Shannon’s deep spirituality made her associate her life closely with the color purple. This is why she urged all those people who wanted to attend her daughter’s funeral to wear purple to celebrate her life.

As the strains of Silent Night died, she knew that Shannon, a devout Christian, must have been sleeping in holy peace and that was enough for her; enough, we hope, to get her family through the day.

Merry Christmas to Sherry-Ann, Richard and their son.

Professor Cudjoe’s email address is scudjoe@wellesley.edu. He can be reached @ProfessorCudjoe.

4 Responses to “Sleep in Heavenly Peace”


  • A wonderful message.
    I have often contemplated the reasons why Shannon Banfield’s murder has created such an impact in T&T.
    Have we forgotten or were less impacted by the murders of hundreds of others in our tiny island nation? The nation is outraged by this crime in particular and so it should be, but let us not minimize or forget the other poor souls who were untimely taken from us in much more horrible circumstances. They also have loved ones in mourning. They also had mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, wives and husbands who loved them.
    Merry Christmas to all the victims and their relatives.

    • Ihad de same thought,and almost choked , especially when your Kamla claimed , she could have been her daughter.
      Seriously though , didn’t you proudly say ,,dat de mix tribe demographics run things, in T&T TMan? Well here is your answer. They helped elect leaders, and if one dies , it’s cause for alarm.
      The outrage comes from the various groups ,she is a part of. More importantly, when the perps comes from a certain tribe , and one is quickly arrested , then let go , while the other is arrested 3 times, only to be set free, then finally charged,voices of concern will abound.
      Since he looks like a scrunting , good for nada bum, with no money, or land to his name , it would be interesting to see , how many high end lawyers , are lining up to do his case pro bono, and why so?
      What had me amused , is the fact that the young lady was not even buried as yet, and TT$200,000 was already collected ,by Kamla Christian ,SDA boy ,Pastor Doddin and his camp, to go into some opaque Foundation , that was not created as yet. Talk about impact.
      Hey TMan,don’t blame the Banfield family ,and friends , for choosing to put de heat on- even her abandoned , Yankee resident , weasel of a Padre ,is putting in his move-lang two cents,about missing body parts, which our hard working Police shut down quickly. .
      Speaking of Police, I just hope for their sake , they got the real culprit, for if not, this will end up before the UN Security Council ,as crime of the century.
      The friends, and family , of the other 3hundred plus , and 200 females ,who disappeared , must band together, and draw attention again.
      Maybe ex PP Minister Cadiz , can again lead the charge , now that he has , lost his deposit ,( or was he dumped?Not dat anyone care )lot’s of spare time , to ponder his irrelevancy.
      Stay Vigilant T&T.

  • T&T Express *DEMONS are walking among us.

    This was the warning to parents and women yesterday from Shannon Banfield’s grieving mother, Sherry Ann Lopez.*

    The warning is that DEMONS do not come in ONE flavor, Chocolate..
    Maybe NOW, parents will teach their children and women will take heed that the ‘Bogeyman’ may look like your Doctor, your Doubles vendor or the Store owner…. Anyone.
    Maybe, just maybe ‘you’ will take a second thought about surrendering your trust to someone because the media sold you that ‘model citizen’ image..

    Professor… Dem people dem wicked we… Yuh know they actually ‘deleted’ Black Peter from their ‘recreation’ of the Santa Tale… Imagine the love children will have for ‘Black Peter’…

    http://drgoddess.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/sinterklaas-and-zwarte-piet-black-pete.jpg

    R.I.P. Shannon…

  • Whilst we all share in Shannon parents suffering as they experience the unexplainable, and as the year come to a close over 450 families suffer the pain of losing a loved one unexpectedly. The unbridled carnage an expression of human depravity at it’s worst reminds us of the need for Christ at the center of our storm. In the absence of the Prince of peace the world like a drunken man staggers at unimaginable suffering. Just 12 hours away is Syria with over 400,000 slaughtered in the worst expression of human savagery. But even sadder is over 473,000 injured people who languish in indescribable pain, emotionally, mentally and physically. What is even more saddening is the fact that they live a few hours away from Bethlehem and the Christmas story.

    As the family of Shannon grieve and suffer the loss of their daughter, there is an opportunity for closure. But what about Ria family with two young children caught in the twilight zone, not knowing where mommy is. The cruel act of insanity exposes the nature of evil. Yes we die when those closest to us pass away. It is a cruel reality that abide with us. The good news is that we can through resilience overcome the worst of humanity with a desire to do good.

    Christmas gives us hope as we remember a nation under tyranny and a king being born with the sole purpose of delivering humanity from itself. That work continues today in earnest. Merry Christmas.

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