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Mitchell: It was surreal seeing little Jonylah Watkins in a casket

Funeral Jonylah Watkins New Beginnings Church 6620 S. King Dr. | John H. White

Funeral of Jonylah Watkins at New Beginnings Church, 6620 S. King Dr. | John H. White

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Updated: April 21, 2013 6:47AM

It is surreal to see a 6-month old baby lying in a casket.

Jonylah Watkins looked like a life-sized baby-doll. Her mother, Judy Watkins, picked a petal-pink coverall to lay her baby to rest. The dead baby was placed in a golden-edged beige casket that was slightly larger than an infant carrier. Her cheeks, unlike the sunken cheeks of the dead, still had the robust look of life.

“I want my baby back. I want my baby back,” the mother wailed inconsolably as hundreds of mourners filed past and gave the baby, nicknamed “Smooch,” a final good-bye.

The mourners began lining up hours before the funeral was set to start Tuesday at New Beginnings Church of Chicago at 66th and King Drive.

Close relatives wore pink and white. Most donned T-shirts painted with messages honoring Jonylah or pins bearing the baby’s smiling photograph. Tearful mothers hoisted the baby’s young cousins high on their hips. Grown men, their heads bowed, stood silently with damp eyes.

Jonylah lay between floral arrangements made up of white and pink flowers that spelled out “Mom” on one side, and “Dad” on the other.

Behind her, a lifetime of wrapped boxes, stuffed animals, teddy bears, and toys filled the pulpit. It was a stunning visual of all the birthdays, holidays and family celebrations this baby would not see.

The child was killed when a single bullet tore through her vital organs as she sat in a van on her father’s lap.

Police believe Jonathan Watkins, who was wounded in the shooting, was the target and said he is cooperating with the investigation. No arrests have yet been made.

Mary Young, the baby’s grandmother, called her grandchild an “innocent baby lamb,” and pleaded for an end to the senseless violence to end.

“My neighbors of Chicago. What have thou done? . . .

“It’s now obvious that the time has come when killing one another will no longer be tolerated by anyone.

“The killings have been senseless. The numbers pile up more and more. The sad part about it is there is no declared war,” Young said in her tribute to Jonylah.

Ald. Willie Cochran (20th) called on the community to end shootings.

“I stand here over this child’s body because she wanted to live,” he said.

“Stop killing each other. We can’t put this on nobody else. I want the killer to be apprehended,” he said. “Somebody is going to pay for this child being killed. Bring them forward.”

Rabbi Michael Siegel, of Anshe Emet Synagogue, asked the community to stand together in the wake of this unspeakable tragedy.

“All of us need to apologize to you for not doing our best to make this world a better place,” he said addressing the slain baby.

“We need to apologize for not making her world a safer place,” Siegel added.

The Rev. Corey Brooks, pastor of New Beginnings, was charged with delivering the eulogy. But it is not possible to eulogize a baby.

Instead, Brooks delivered a powerful eulogy for the community.

Brooks turned to the Old Testament and the story about the death of King David’s son to encourage Jonylah’s grieving family.

“I don’t know what I would have done if I was Jonathan or Judy and got the bad news that one bullet touched multiple organs, shoulder, lung, liver, intestines, buttocks,” he admitted.

But David “got up, he washed, he worshipped,” Brooks said.

Then Brooks, who has walked the country trying to raise funds to build a community center across the street from the church, urged the mourners — many of them young parents with children in tow — to make a change.

“It’s time to clean up. . . . When babies are being killed, it’s too dirty. When brothers are killing other brothers, it’s too dirty. When fathers are forsaking their families, it’s too dirty. When children are selling drugs to other children, it’s too dirty,” he said.

“Amen,” some shouted, tears streaming down their cheeks.

It took 20 women to carry Jonylah’s flowers from the church and as many boxes of tissues to wipe away the tears.

Jonylah’s mother followed the tiny casket.

Her father walked a few steps behind.

In her abbreviated life, Jonylah brought the joy that all babies bring.

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