A mother’s grief

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Published December 12, 2014 by the Asbury Park Press

Michelle Scott started counting the days when her only child was killed.

Kenneth Scott was shot in the back on Aug. 29, 2013, one day after he turned 24, two days after his second daughter, Iyana, was born.

Six days later, Michelle finally got to see his body at a funeral home, after an autopsy but not yet prepared for a funeral. All the while, Michelle, 42, kept counting.

One hundred ninety one days after Kenneth’s death, her mother died. “The two closest people in the world to me, six months apart, I lost both of them.”

She counted 363 days to her granddaughter’s first birthday, 364 to her son’s, 365 to the anniversary of his death.

“Every year, that month is going to kill me.”

And then, on Dec. 3, the day she had been counting on finally arrived.

Four hundred sixty one days after her son’s death, police arrested the man they say fatally wounded her son at High Point Condominium Complex in Lakewood.

Umbachi Gabra Jackson, now 20, was charged with murder, unlawful possession of a weapon and unlawful possession of a handgun. He’s in Ocean County jail with a $1 million bail.

Police say the shooting was prompted by an unpaid dice game bet. Michelle said they were both members of the Bloods gang.

“If he wanted to hurt my son, he should have murdered me. He didn’t hurt my son, he hurt me and my family.”

Michelle’s son had a deep voice, he liked to joke with her and follow her around the house.

She gave birth to Kenneth when she was 17 and raised him by herself, with the help of her family. Kenneth started getting into trouble in high school. She enrolled him at a residential school called Bonnie Brae in Liberty Corner. The website advertises the place as “a home and safe haven for boys and young men in crisis.”

He graduated in 2007. On April first 2008, he met Ashley Banks. “Then a year later we had a child,” Ashley said.

She said they never had a dull moment. They went to the mall, they hung around home, he played with dolls with his daughter, Aniah. He liked to listen to rappers like Juicy J and Young Jeezy.

Ashley recalled a weekend getaway to Atlantic City for her birthday. Kenneth played Spanish blackjack and craps, a dice game.

The night he was shot, Michelle rushed to Jersey Shore Medical Center in Neptune. She stepped out of her car and had a panic attack.

Though other friends and family arrived, Michelle was the only one permitted to go up to a surgery waiting room. Nurses joined her. She could tell from the look on their face he was gone. She asked them to pray with her and they did.

A doctor entered the room. His wore the nurses’ expression. He said four words Michelle will never forget.

“He didn’t make it.”

Michelle said she doesn’t know what happened after that. Everything went blank. And that’s how her life has been ever since. Surreal. She knows what happened but she can’t accept it.

Before his death, Michelle said she had no mental health issues.

“It has completely shattered my life,” she said. “Everything that was going right went wrong. I couldn’t concentrate on nothing. I lashed out at everybody.”

She doesn’t have a job. She can’t sleep at night, it’s too quiet and her mind races. She’s paranoid. She doesn’t trust anyone.

Kenneth had children with two women. Iyana is now 15 months old, too young to understand what happened to her father. But Kenneth’s first daughter, Aniah, is 5 and old enough to talk about it. She follows Michelle around the house like Kenneth did as an adult and as a child.

“Daddy’s in heaven, but he’s in your heart,” Michelle tells her. “He’s always going to be in your heart.”

They made a birthday cake for Kenneth last August. Aniah asked if her father could taste it when she took a bite.

Other times, she calls Michelle early in the morning, crying because she misses him.

“It’s OK to cry,” Michelle tells her. “Daddy’s in heaven, it’s a beautiful place.”

Kenneth is buried at Riverside Cemetery in Toms River. The place is a couple acres of headstones on a small hill, quiet besides the wash of traffic from Lakewood Road.

Some headstones date to the 1800s. Michelle’s father, who died in 2011, is buried 20 feet from her son. She measured.

A small whitecross stood on his plot. “Kenneth Pop Scott, Forever In Our Hearts” was written in the middle. “Miss You,” was at the top.

A novelty New Jersey license plate — I AM LOVED — was tucked into a formal marker, nestled among silk flowers. A toy puppy guarded a solar-powered lawn light.

Michelle takes Aniah to the grave.

“This is where Daddy sleeps,” she says. “This is where all God’s children sleep at.”

She is straight forward with her granddaughter about her father’s death. He isn’t coming back. “You’re not going to see him again, Aniah, until we go to heaven.”

Michelle hates going to court. But she said she’ll be at every court date for her son’s accused killer.

As the court process moves along, she’ll keep counting the days.

“I don’t know why I do it. I guess it’s just a part of letting myself know that just because he’s not in my presence, he’s here. Every day, all day, he never leaves my mind. Time doesn’t heal nothing.”