Wish Book

Her son was shot to death. The grandkids help her, and now she wants to help them

Sherita Small is shown at her home in Miami, holding a photo of her murdered son, Zamari. Zamari, who was 16, was shot and killed in 2014 in a case that still remains unsolved. She moved away from Miami Gardens, where the shooting happened, but she still deals with depression and has trouble sleeping.
Sherita Small is shown at her home in Miami, holding a photo of her murdered son, Zamari. Zamari, who was 16, was shot and killed in 2014 in a case that still remains unsolved. She moved away from Miami Gardens, where the shooting happened, but she still deals with depression and has trouble sleeping. cjuste@miamiherald.com

Sherita Small is preparing for her third holiday season without her baby boy. The third time that she will be without her main shopping partner and the boy who made her laugh. Small is still learning how to deal with life without her dear Zamari.

Zamari Pierre-Louis was 16 when he was shot and killed in January 2014. Small remembers the day vividly and still struggles to talk about it. The Hialeah-Miami Lakes student was walking in his Miami Gardens neighborhood when he was shot several times and died. Police have made no arrests in the case.

“You try to raise your child the right way and somebody just comes and takes them from up under you because they’re not raised the right way,” Small said. “The same people who murdered my son, they’re still murdering people because the guns are still there.”

Living without her “riding partner” has taken a toll on Small, especially on her health. She is on disability and unable to work. Before Zamari’s death she worked for years with the Foundation for New Life, a group that helps mentally disabled individuals integrate into their communities. Small suffers from high blood pressure and diabetes and gained more than 50 pounds. Her son’s death has also caused her depression and she sees a psychologist.

Zamari’s death also prompted her to move out of her Miami Gardens home to Miami just weeks after his funeral, because she said she couldn’t stand to be in that house without him.

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Small has found support through the RJT (Restore Joy and Trust) Foundation, a group created by three women who lost their sons to gun violence. The foundation works to support the families of those victims, particularly mothers and young siblings of the deceased, and they offer group bereavement sessions.

Denise Brown, the foundation’s president and one of its founders, said in recent months Small has become more involved with the foundation and volunteered at some of the group’s community outreach fairs.

“Even through all of her pain she’s found an outlet to provide some comfort,” Brown said. “I’m happy that this organization has given her the outlet to help other people.”

For Small it’s another opportunity to pay tribute to her son because he often volunteered with his church to offer comfort to grieving families.

“I just feel like I owe it to my baby because of the type of person he was,” Small said.

READ MORE: How Wish Book helped people in 2015

Though she misses her youngest son dearly, Small still has her other children, Lazavier and Fabian, and her three grandchildren — Fabian’s children: Fabian Jr., Jayvyn and Konei.

She sees a lot of Zamari in Fabian Jr. and often has to stop herself from getting too attached to his personality. “When I tell you he’s exactly like Zamari, I try to be around him so much. He loves to shop, he loves clothes, he loves to dress up,” Small said.

She credits her grandchildren with bringing joy to her life and helping her on her most depressed days, but she wishes she could do more to replicate the happiness they give her. When they spend the night at her house, she doesn’t have a place for them to sleep comfortably and has to put together a makeshift bed. Small also laments that she can’t provide them with nice gifts because she lives on disability checks.

“When I was working I was able to give to my grandkids and now I don’t feel like I give like a grandma should,” Small said. “As long as they’re with grandmama they don’t care, but it’s me wanting to provide something for them.”

She’s wishing for a full bed set complete with a mattress, bedding and all the other accessories so that her grandchildren can rest comfortably when they spend nights at grandma’s house.

And more than anything, Small wants a chance to have a truly happy holiday with the family she still has while never forgetting the much-loved child that she lost in Zamari.

“I haven’t had a good holiday yet since my baby passed,” Small said.

She wishes she could give her grandchildren the gifts that for now are out of reach: They are fond of the popular “hoverboards,” while her granddaughter, Konei, loves Barbie dolls.

And Small wants a chance to bring smiles to the faces of the grandchildren she’s grown to cherish so much more in the past few years, the same kinds of smiles that Zamari used to bring to so many people.

“That would make me feel OK, if they ain’t have to hear grandma say no for the holidays,” Small said. “It has been so long that I haven’t been able to do what I want to do for them.”

A look at how the Miami Herald Wish Book program helped South Florida families in need last year. We're gearing up for the 2017 Wish Book season, and asking our readers to make a difference in a neighbor's life. Go to http://hrld.us/wishbook for m

Lance Dixon: 305-376-3708, @LDixon_3

This story will be updated online as information becomes available.

How to help: Wish Book is trying to help hundreds of families in need this year. To donate, pay securely at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook. To give via your mobile phone, text WISH to 41444. For information, call 305-376-2906 or email wishbook@MiamiHerald.com. (Most requested items: laptops and tablets for school, furniture, accessible vans) Read more at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook.

How to help

Wish Book is trying to help hundreds of families in need this year. To donate, pay securely at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook. To give via your mobile phone, text WISH to 41444. For information, call 305-376-2906 or email wishbook@MiamiHerald.com. (Most requested items: laptops and tablets for school, furniture, accessible vans) Read more at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook.

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