The mother of a Pine Bluff man who was shot and killed last year credits her faith with helping her deal with her grief, and now she wants to help other mothers who have lost a child.
Shundia Austin was one of the speakers at the Tenth Annual Crime Victim’s Memorial Service Sunday at First Christian Church.
Her son, Bendrell Urquhart, was killed on April 26, 2013.
“I’m not the first mother who has lost a child and I will not be the last,” Austin said. “Bendrell is gone but I’m here to keep his spirit alive.”
She said her son died just after the 2013 memorial service and another son and daughter had attended that service.
“They told me about the program and I said ‘maybe I will go next year and support it,’ ” Austin said. “I never dreamed I would be here as a survivor.”
A day after her son’s death, Austin said she saw that he had a lot of friends on Facebook who had posted messages. She joined Facebook that day so she could keep up with those friends.
Since his death, Austin has worked with the Rev. Jesse Turner, Executive Director of ICVR (Interested Citizens for Voter Registration) on the ICVR’s Pen or Pencil program, with pen meaning the penitentiary and pencil education, and has spoken at several statewide meetings.
“Im going to continue to speak out as a mother,” she said, adding that because she had given birth to Bendrell, losing him was “like losing a part of myself.”
“I think about the future and that’s what makes me a survivor,” Austin said.
Before proclaiming Sunday as Crime Victim Survivors Memorial Day, Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth told the overflow crowd that “I have not walked a mile in your shoes and I’m not going to pretend to know what you’re going through.”
She said that with God’s grace, love and compassion, the survivors of crime victims will find comfort.
Before presenting the Victim Service Award to the Revs. David and Edna Morgan of Healing Place Ministries, who co-sponsor the annual service, Prosecuting Attorney S. Kyle Hunter said the annual service is a “reminder of how precious life is.”
This year, Healing Place Ministries sponsored an art contest for students at Pine Bluff High School. The first place winner of that contest, Artisha Rainey, 18, who was to have been recognized with the other winners, was killed in a one-vehicle traffic accident Friday night.
A large contingent of students from the school who also participated in the contest were present Sunday to remember their classmate.
The Rev. Lynn Taylor, pastor of First Christian Church, said “violence intrudes itself into this world and none of us like it.
“Some wounds are so deep and serious they take a long time to heal,” he said. “It’s not something you can just put a Band-aid on. Loss is hard to accept and you never really accept it, you just adjust to it.
“As the result of that loss, you miss the presence of the other person, and yearn to hear voices in this life that you will never hear again but God is present and will help when you experience loss,” Taylor said.
Before ending the service, the Morgans unveiled the 2013 Memorial Wall, which contains the names of 17 people who were killed in Pine Bluff and Jefferson County last year, as well as one from Lincoln County.
Healing Place Ministries also works in Little Rock and the wall listed the names of the homicide victims from Pulaski and Perry counties. A second service will be held in Little Rock this week.
The annual service was also sponsored by the Victim Witness Division of the Prosecutor’s Office and the Area Agency on Aging for Southeast Arkansas.