When the casket closed, Timika Thomas collapsed into her seat, crying as if the air were too thick to swallow inside the northeast Las Vegas church.
Just moments before on Saturday morning, she was hunched over Kwavon’tia Gregory Thomas’ body and planting kisses on his face. It would be the last time she would see her 18-year-old son.
Behind her, an audience of more than a hundred loved ones dressed in red and white — his favorite colors — watched from their seats at Unity Baptist Church as Timika Thomas wailed.
A group of people rushed to her side to console her, and Thomas clenched her fists. Rocking back and forth in her seat, she punched the top of her knees repeatedly, her head tilted, chin to the ceiling, as if she was searching for something. But her eyes remained shut, revealing the red glitter painted across her eyelids.
Her son was shot and killed on Christmas Eve in a parking lot near East Lake Mead Boulevard and McDaniel Street, one of six young people gunned down in North Las Vegas last year between September and December.
Jermariun Hickman, 17, was arrested late last month in Laughlin in connection with Thomas’ death. Hickman was booked into the Clark County Detention Center on one felony count of murder with a deadly weapon.
Kwavon’tia Thomas was born Aug. 18, 2000, in Pomona, California, to Timika Thomas and Edward Southhall, but he grew up in Las Vegas.
He was known to his family as “Nudy,” a nickname given to him when he was little because he would always strip down.
“Mom, he’s getting naked again,” his brothers were often heard saying, according to his family.
He loved listening to music, swimming, playing video games and shooting hoops. But most of all, he loved his family and friends.
So much so, that, during his celebration of life Saturday, it was difficult to discern family members from friends. Nearly every person who shared their favorite memories of Kwavon’tia Thomas declared into the microphone that they loved him like he was family.
His mother did not speak during the service, but instead sang a song titled “My Worship is Real” in his memory.
”You don’t know my story, all the things that I’ve been through,” Timika Thomas, dressed in red from head to toe, belted into the microphone. Her voice cracked at times as she choked back more tears.
Peering at her son’s casket from the podium, she sang a little louder, “You can’t feel my pain, what I had to go through to get here.”
Her powerful voice filled the large church as the white veneer of the casket glistened under the faint light streaming in through the church’s windows. Outside, it was cold and gray.
“I’m going to sing that part one more time,” she said, drawing applause from her family and friends who were now standing in support.
But Timika Thomas wasn’t crying anymore. Interrupting the chorus, she yelled and pointed to the ceiling, “Thank you, God, for 18 years with my baby.”
“I’m going to see my baby again,” she said, her voice trailing off as she walked away from the microphone.
Now standing at her son’s side, she kissed his forehead and cheeks. In a motherly gesture, Timika Thomas lifted her gaze to admire her son’s features, then readjusted the collar of his red button-down shirt.
Kwavon’tia Thomas leaves behind his parents; great-grandmother Pearlie Smith; grandmother Janice Thomas; brothers Kwame, Kwave, Todd, Carlton, Carr’mier and Carr’mony; sister Amika; and a host of cousins, uncles and aunts.