Blue sky shone above and cold wind swept through Forest Lawn Memorial Park as relatives Saturday remembered a young man on the first anniversary of his slaying.
Family members sniffed back tears and choked up as they asked for justice and forgiveness, not vengeance, in the death of Jacquez L. Lewis, who was shot and killed at Lothrop Social Hall in northeast Omaha on Feb. 1, 2013. His killer hasn't been apprehended.
Lewis was among dozens of young people enjoying a night of music at the banquet hall when the shots were fired. Three other people were injured.
Lewis' mother, LaRonda Washington-Lewis, told a group of 50 who had gathered around her son's grave that she naturally was angry.
“But I forgive whoever has done this,” she said. She called it “a day of strength” for the family, a day to recall that her son was “happy spirited.”
“Parents, love your children,” Washington-Lewis said. “God blesses us with children, but they are on loan to us.”
The family tribute mixed sadness and beauty, gratitude and grief. They held hands in a circle as Lewis' mother prayed in a voice that cracked.
“I just thank you, Lord, for giving me such a wonderful young man, to be able to enjoy his life,” she said. “In Jesus' name I pray, amen.”
Lewis was 21 when he was killed and days away from becoming a Marine, relatives said. He had been a fine competitive wrestler and loved the University of Nebraska Huskers, they said.
The family handed out red Chinese lanterns, which are tiny hot air balloons, but the wind and cold enabled participants to launch only a few.
Joe Clark, a cousin, said Lewis was headed for the military to follow many in the family who had served.
“His future was unlimited,” Clark said.
He said he intended no criticism of the Omaha Police Department, “but we want to keep this investigation alive and continued until its conclusion.”
Yvette Lewis, an aunt, said her nephew bestowed on her smiles and laughter. His murder showed, she said, that “it's a cold world out here.”
As people continued to try to launch their Chinese lanterns, Jacquez Lewis' mother said in a brief interview that her son was a forgiving guy. She has made it through this horrible period through prayer, she said.
And, as her son would have wanted, she said, she genuinely forgives his killer, whoever it is.
“Maybe they got lost out there somewhere,” she said of the person responsible. “It's not their fault that they got lost out here in the world.”
Nathaniel Lewis, an uncle, reminded the group that Jacquez liked to say, “No magic, just hard work,” in reference to competitive wrestling. That phrase is on the small gravestone, along with “Husker Boy,” “Son, Brother and Uncle” and the image of hands clasped before a cross.
“God don't make no mistakes,” Nathaniel Lewis said. “We're all on borrowed time.”