On behalf of the Hyde and Garnett families, we want to thank you for coming. We loved him deeply as a son, a brother, a grandson, a nephew, a cousin…Love is not an easy feeling to put into words, but here we go.
Khalid Kori Justice Hyde came into this world around 6:25 on the morning of Wednesday, February 16, 1994. Though he was to grow to be a skinny kid, he weighed a full 11 pounds, 4 ounces. He was the second and last child of Shirlette Garnett and my brother Cordel Hyde – the first being a girl, Kamisha.
Shir and Cords disagreed over what to name their son. His mother and family wanted to name him “Kori”; my brother wanted him to be named “Khalid.” He was adamant that his son not be named Kori, who at the time was a star on a soap opera called Another World. In the end, my brother won, but lost.
He was named Khalid Kori – my brother insisted on celebrating victory so he threw in “Justice” – so my nephew’s full name became Khalid Kori Justice Hyde.
But it was a short-lived victory – mothers always win. Of all his immediate and extended family, perhaps only Granny Claudette, his paternal grandmother, called him by his first name – even his father called him Kori. As I said, mothers always win.
From birth, he was his mother’s child. She took him everywhere she went; he was never out of her sight. His older sister Kamisha used to stay over all the time at Granny Claudette as a young child (and I took her everywhere with me when I went out with friends) – but not Kori. No, no, Shirlette was not sharing her handsome son. She loved him dearly, spoilt him even. Yet in short order, he was to grow up and become a very special young man.
Kori was born in Belize City, Belize, the homeland of his parents. He spent one year at St. Ignatius Primary School before he moved with his mother and sister Kamisha to Los Angeles, California. He was only 5 years old. They spent a year in LA and then headed east to Brooklyn, New York, where Granny Netta and her family lived. This would be their last stop.
By any measurement, Khalid Kori wasn’t here with us for a long time. To his mother, he was still her baby. He didn’t live long enough to land on the moon, or become president or prime minister, or discover some life-saving remedy, or open a fancy successful restaurant as he told me in June he was going to do (I told him he would need his Granny Claudette’s help with that). Though he didn’t live long enough, he impacted our lives in ways very few 18-year-olds can ever dream of. It was as if he was here one minute, and gone the next. But for that minute he was here, we will never forget!
He was a young man who felt things deeply. When he loved you, no one loved you better. When he was with you, no one could come against you. But then when he was mad at you, you wouldn’t want that – it was hard sometimes for him to let things go. His feelings ran deep.
Late Sunday morning, September 23, as his life was winding down, he told his family he wanted to send a message to his friends. This is what he said to tell them: “I care for all of you. Friendship is beautiful. Thank you for the prayers. And please don’t forget me!”
Not long after that, he told his mother and Kamisha: “Please never forget me. And stay true to yourself: you are the best. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. Never settle for less, and please let them find a cure for this!”
Even as he was laboring to his last breath, he was thinking of others. No one else should have to go through this, he said.
As profound as he was, as lyrically witty as he was, he was also a Brooklyn kid and his father’s child. He loved to look “fly”…
No one could pick out an outfit for him. He knew exactly what he wanted, and how he wanted it. He was a man of peculiar and expensive taste – just ask his mother. His dad used to give her a hard time about spoiling him so much. But, as I said, mothers always win. And, she would always ride with him.
For Kori, everything had to be just right. He was like that to the very end – he didn’t leave us on Sunday until he was all washed and cleaned up, fitted in a new gown, looking like the handsome young Kori his mom always kept close. Only then did he did take his last breath. He wasn’t leaving any old way.
At his heaviest he was 145 pounds, but packed inside that scrawny frame was the biggest, strongest heart you ever could find. Cancer took away a lot of things from Kori. But it couldn’t take away his heart, his bravery, his warmth, and it couldn’t take away his signature eyebrows – not even after 9 rounds of chemo. He was the spitting image of his dad and remained so until his last breath.
His life can teach us something: that indeed life is short and we need to come together. We need to put aside petty differences, and seize the moment. Tomorrow is just not guaranteed.
Kori suffered a lot of pain in the last few years of his young life; he suffered excruciating chest pains, and whenever he went to the local hospital his mother was told he’s a growing boy, or it must be stress, or “What are you two doing here again?” He was sick, sick with a deadly disease, and no one knew.
But this young man was a soldier. In the face of the worst pain imaginable, he dug deep and soldiered on. He was so incredibly brave. I remember seeing and spending time with him in hospital back in February and March as he was fighting the biggest fight of his life, fighting for his life, day in day out there was always something he had to cope with: the terrible side-effects of chemo, his lungs filling up with liquid, the blood clots – there was always something. And yet he fought like a warrior, a soldier. He held on. There were times when it just seemed so much, when his spirit was low, and his father would say to him: “Dig deep, Kor, dig deep.” And he did. I watched my nephew do battle with this horrible disease and I thought, “There is nothing I couldn’t cope with, nothing that is half as bad as what my nephew had to put up with.” Indeed in his last email to me the day before he was hospitalized for the last time, he said to me (I had been complaining about the long hours at my job), he said: “I know you love your job, Aunt Vonz, so I am sure you will find a way through it.” He set a shining example to us all – to always dig deep no matter what.
On January 30 of this year he was diagnosed with lymphoma and from then he was in a pitched battle to save his life. He ended up at the renowned Memorial Sloan Kettering (or MSK) Cancer Center in Manhattan on February 13, and doctors there can tell you how gracefully and bravely he battled this disease. He was brave indeed and his faith in God remained steadfast. Every night in hospital we held hands with him and prayed together. No matter how tired he was, he always insisted that we should all pray with him before Cords and I left late at night to make the journey back to Brooklyn and his mom remained at his bedside through the night. The doctors, nurses and staff at MSK hospital were amazed at his capacity to absorb pain, and his beautiful smile remained radiant even under such excruciating pain and intense pressure. I received an email last week from staff at MSK hospital that said that they “sincerely felt privileged to have had the opportunity to know such a strong, kind and wonderful young man and to see the love that [our] family had for him… [they said:] Khalid has made such a big impact upon everyone here.”
In the end, the cancer he had was as unique as it was deadly. It ravaged his body, and on the night of Saturday, September 22, he had his moment of truth. His doctors had done all they could, but now, they could do no more. He was faced with the ultimate question – does he direct his doctors to keep him alive on a machine, heavily sedated and unconscious? Or does he direct them to leave him to say one last goodbye to his immediate family, not knowing how long he had to live – whether it would be mere hours, or days? He chose to say goodbye and to go meet his Maker.
He told his father that night, “I’m out, Pops. There is no turning back.” He made his father promise to bring him home – to the place of his birth, the place he had barely spent five years of his life but which remained his home. A memorial service was held for him in New York on Friday September 28 and he was granted his wish and we brought him home on Monday. Today we honor him and say farewell in the church of his baptism. He came to this earth on a Wednesday, and he will leave on a Wednesday.
Our family is moved and comforted by the outpouring of love and condolences from so many people from all over, including from Kori’s many schoolmates and close friends. Their touching stories and reflections on Facebook, knowing that others share our grief, have helped us to bear this burden. The love he shared with them; the love they have for him, have been soothing in this our darkest moment.
His friends might be pleased to know that even in his waning moments he was arguing about sports. He was a Hyde and he was a Garnett – he loved sports. When I was getting him Playstation games for him to play when he was in the hospital, he made it crystal clear to me that only sports would do and only the new releases at that as he had already built up a massive collection of sports video games – American football, basketball and baseball. As he was traveling from us on Sunday morning, he was setting up his own baseball team. He said: “Derek Jeter is the best.” At one point, in between consciousness, he blurted out: “Baseball is an individual sport” in such a tone as if to say, nobody better argue with that. It’s final.
On Wednesday, February 16, 1994, God gave Shirlette and Cordel a son. On Sunday, September 23, 2012, he gave them an angel – their very own special angel.
We end this afternoon with his words, posted September 12, the day after he was hospitalized for the last time. At 18 years old, there was so much he tried to teach us.
He wrote: “Whatever struggles you have and whatever minor issues you may experience, take it with a grain of salt. Always remember that someone has it worse. Just be grateful to God that you’re healthy, breathing and able to wake up every morning. Keep me in your prayers because I’d do the same. Don’t take anybody for granted and be at peace with every decision you make.”
Sometime ago he had written: “You could kill me today, but you could never kill me tomorrow. My spirit is too strong!” It is indeed, Kori. We will never, ever forget thee! You are going home now, my handsome brave nephew. We know you are now in a better place. We love you very much. Rest in peace.