Hundreds gather to say goodbye to Hadiya Pendleton
BY MAUDLYNE IHEJIRIKA Staff Reporteremail@example.com February 8, 2013 10:01PM
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Updated: March 10, 2013 6:50AM
The pretty, light and dark purple gown she wore, maybe taffetta, with matching bolero, put one in mind of a prom dress. The angelic face in the casket was one that should have been filled with life, looking forward to all that high school brings — and more.
Mourners filed into the small funeral home in Englewood on Friday — family and friends and hundreds of grieving Chicagoans who didn’t even know Hadiya Pendleton — to honor the 15-year-old murdered by a gun-toting gang-banger as she took shelter from the rain under a canopy in a park near her school last month.
They gazed upon the angelic face, cried, shook heads and held one another.
And you could tell the family and friends — their bodies wracked with grief, tidal waves of tears flowing as they bid Hadiya farewell, and stopped to give big bear hugs of consolation to her mother, Cleopatra Pendleton.
The woman greeted friends and strangers equally, stoically, her family sitting in folded chairs along the wall, just in front of the casket, and under a looping video tribute to a short life.
“We’re holding up. About as well as can be expected,” the grieving, teary-eyed mother, in a cheery blue and red flowered gown, told friends.
“But I’m still in denial. We all are,” she said. “We’re just trying to get through the next couple of days. Check on me when everything quiets down, because it’s going to be a lot quieter without her around. You know it was never quiet with her around...”
Mourners had to walk past a media horde outside Callahan Funeral Home, 7030 S. Halsted, entering a small foyer where a lithograph of Hadiya greeted them, along with the video looping on three televisions throughout the small hall.
“In loving memory,” the video began. It journeyed from the baby in newborn crib to a toddler with runny nose; the afro-puffed or corn-rowed little girl who always seemed to radiate a big personality; an album of photos over the years with a cherished little brother; and finally, the teenager in a permed bob — beautiful, poised, full of promise.
In the next interior, several huge whiteboard posters lined the wall, ready to accept the multitude of messages a traditional guest book would not hold, for a child who has become a national face of gang and gun violence run rampant in President Barack Obama’s own hometown.
“We’re miserable. I think that’s the word,” said Shatira Wilks, a cousin and the family spokesperson after being asked repeatedly how the family was feeling.
“We are very excited that the first lady is coming,” Wilks said. “And we’re grateful she’s made this not about her, that she is coming as a concerned parent. The Obamas have shown care and concern from the very beginning, and her coming will certainly make this a more pleasant experience for us.”
The family met Friday morning with the Secret Service and White House officials to hammer out the logistics of Michelle Obama attending the funeral at 9 a.m. Saturday at Greater Harvest Baptist Church, 5141 S. State, Wilks said, adding, “It will be a challenge, but a good challenge.”
After signing the poster boards or registry, mourners queued to view the body in the roped-off casket, above which another TV screen broadcast Hadiya’s peaceful face. Then they filed into the final interior, and past the family as they paid their respects, a huge rug-sized likeness of Hadiya — in the smiling photo the nation has come to know — a backdrop on the wall behind them.
For four hours, Hadiya’s mother accepted condolences, finally tiring — Hadiya’s father could not do it — and then headed home to prepare to bury her daughter on Saturday with the world watching.
“She loved a party, with marching bands and everything,” Cleopatra Pendleton told another friend about her daughter, the King College Prep High School student who had performed with other members of her school’s marching band at inaugural events. “We’re going to give her one.”