For those who weren’t there, something historic took place on Sunday, 5 November, at King’s Sport Centre when the funeral service for the late Beatman Ebanks was held.
It was historic in that this was the largest crowd ever to attend a funeral in the Cayman Islands, as an estimated 2,000 people showed up to pay last respects to this man from George Town known to many as ‘Beats’.
In the preface to his sermon, the Reverend James Arch made a pointed reference to the turnout, and to be there and look around at the mass of people was to be truly astonished.
The rows of chairs originally set out proved inadequate; more were brought in; scores of people remained standing.
But what was even more astonishing was the object of this demonstration.
At first glance, Beatman was a simple working man of George Town, blessed with a healthy sense of humour and a zest for life, but with no extraordinary achievements to be highlighted from his life.
There are no plaques anywhere in Cayman bearing his name, no building or street named after him. Beats was not a popular politician.
He was not a successful wealthy businessman.
He had not pioneered any social benefits or community movements in his country.
He had not been a major developer.
He had not led a religious group.
He had not brought dramatic improvements to the economy.
He had not given employment to hundreds.
He had won no world championships in sport, nor had he been an entertainment star.
So what led more than 2,000 people to come out on Sunday to say goodbye to this seemingly simple ordinary man?
The answer, clearly, is that this was no simple ordinary man.
Beatman, in fact, was unique in the true meaning of the word, because of the extraordinary impact he had on the people he met in the course of his relatively short life.
With his singular, often cutting, sense of humour, his love of people, and his exuberance for life, Beatman had clearly made enduring friendships with more people in the Cayman Islands than anyone else in the country’s history.
And therein lies the most astonishing thing: not so much that 2,000 people knew one man as a friend, but that one man, Beatman Ebanks, had 2,000 friends – people with whom he had managed to share his life and his laughter and his warmth for people.
It is a staggering accomplishment.
How he did it, no one really knows – it sounds impossible – but somehow, without fanfare, over his 58 years, Beatman had quietly bonded with, literally, hundreds of people making each of them feel some special connection.
It was only when we all came together for his last farewell that we realized, with a shock, how wide and how far he had woven this web of genuine human exchange.
Everybody had a funny story to tell about him, as well as a touching one.
What a life he had lived.
The essence of it is that Beats was singular not from what he did, but from who he was.
The 2,000 people who showed up for him on Sunday were striking testimony to that. A truly unique Caymanian has left us.