Not long after the sun rose Saturday morning, they buried two of their own, a mother and her son, fallen 10 days apart, mourned in one service.
He died in the streets over Labor Day weekend, killed by gunfire, multiple bullets piercing his body. She died last week six blocks away in her mother’s apartment of an apparent heart attack, wrecked by the sudden loss of her only son and the unnatural task of planning her child’s funeral.
Together, mother and slain son — Melinda Brewer, 46 and Demetrius Hyppolite, 26 — were celebrated at a double funeral at Greater Bethel A.M.E. in Overtown, their identical white caskets side by side, each crowned with cascading carnations and bows. They were memorialized in a service of prayers and song and dance and the lessons of Psalms and Corinthians.
“She had just been trying to hold on. She was so stressed about trying to give her son a proper burial and her heart just gave out,’’ says niece Amanda Brewer. “To my family, she died of a broken heart.’’
Their story may have gone unnoticed in an urban area like Miami, where death and violence are a knowing presence in the landscape of daily life. This week alone saw one West Dade man fatally shoot a mother and daughter, kill a third woman in a horrific crash, then die of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Beyond South Florida, there were two mass shootings, one in Chicago and another in Washington, D.C. where a gunman killed 13 and injured eight at a Navy Yard.
The untold story of this Miami mother and her son is quieter, but for family members, no less painful.
A year ago, Hyppolite appeared on an episode of The First 48, the popular real life crime investigation series, about the 2012 murder of a 55-year-old man in Overtown. After the show aired, Hyppolite moved to Fort Myers to live with his girlfriend, to leave behind the unchecked storms of the city.Hyppolite was 150 miles away on a mission to start a new chapter.
“He was doing everything he could to start over,’’ says Brewer.
But he missed his family. Hyppolite, who had a brush with the law years earlier but was a maintenance worker before moving, grew up with siblings and cousins, all raised mostly in their grandmother’s two-bedroom apartment in Overtown. He missed the dinners, the friendly football smack talking. Brewer said he came home for the holiday weekend. While at a family gathering at his cousin’s home in Liberty City, Hyppolite left to pick up paper plates and cups.
He had been gone too long that Monday afternoon. The family begun to worry. What they didn’t know is he had already been shot, multiple times while standing outside his car on NW 17th Street. They believe he went back to Overtown to visit one of his friends.
Hyppolite died that same night. The case is under investigation by Miami Police.
His mother, who had moved to Miami as a child from Tallahatchie County in the Mississippi Delta, never really had time to heal from the sudden death of her youngest child. They had shared November birthdays for 20 years, five days apart, and spent many an afternoon arguing over which was the better football team, the Denver Broncos or the Oakland Raiders.
Years before, Brewer had worked as truck driver, a career shortened by a heart condition.
In the days after Hyppolite’s death, Brewer had been stressed over how to pay for his services, wanting something befitting a mother’s love, but unsure where the money would come from. She barely had an appetite and hadn’t been sleeping.