The four doves etched on the inside lid of Dona Elizabeth Ferguson's coffin were pointed east, their wings outstretched, as if they were guiding her.
Ferguson was "Going Home," as the inscription read on the powder blue satin fabric that surrounded this mother, wife, daughter, sister, grocery store worker, churchgoing, God-praising woman.
I didn't know Ferguson, but I wanted to attend her funeral last week. It's the least I could do to pay respects to yet another victim of the crime that has such a grip on our county that at times I just want to scream.
On the day of Ferguson's funeral already there had been 54 homicides in the county this year, up 10 percent from 49 the same day last year.
This crime problem is costing us a lot. We all should be grieving that one more soul has been snatched from our midst because of drugs and guns.
Those of us who didn't know Ferguson just know that she was the mother of five who on June 16 was shot and killed while hanging curtains. A stray bullet from an alleged drug deal gone bad. And suddenly, her life was over.
Ferguson went home to be with her Lord while her young son and nephew stood next to her as she was hanging tan curtains in her living room.
As I joined the procession of mourners who filed silently by Ferguson's body, I was struck by how beautiful she looked, even in death. Through the white netting draped over her body, you could still make out her freckled face. She had a friendly face. The kind that when she smiled you couldn't help but smile right back.
More than 450 people crammed into Freedom Church in Forestville to have a going home celebration for Ferguson. At least 100 people stood down both aisles of the church. They stood shoulder to shoulder for nearly two hours to sing and say goodbye to the woman who worked two jobs to raise her children.
One friend, Robbyn Williams, said Ferguson would come home from her night job at Giant Food and later in the afternoon go to work in the after-school care program at Freedom Church, where she had been a member for the last 16 years. She willingly sacrificed a little sleep to make a better home and life for her family, Williams whispered to me while her eyes filled with tears. There were a lot of people silently wiping tears from their cheeks.
Friends and family say Ferguson wanted to say goodbye to her Capitol Heights neighborhood and move to a safer place.
She's now in the safest place of all.
"God is going to use this for good," Ferguson's sister, Caron Randolph Tolton, said during the service.
Lord knows I hope that there can be some good gained out of this tragedy.
Across the county, in Greenbelt, while we all sang, clapped and rocked to the hymns being sung by Freedom's choir, the Prince George's County Chamber of Commerce was having lunch and installing its next president.
Norman L. Carter, the new chamber president, was having a celebration of his own. Carter told one of our reporters after the luncheon that things are getting better in the county.
He's right to some extent. Homicides are up, but robberies and car-jackings are down. There has been a 44 percent drop in robberies to 270 as of last week compared with 483 a year earlier.
Carter didn't mention Ferguson during his celebration. Perhaps he should have. Crime has a direct effect on business, and the chamber is a group charged with helping its members do better business.
In an interview later, Carter said he didn't think crime is a major issue for his group.
"As business owners, we feel that our elected officials and police officials have their hands around the crime problem," Carter said. Ironically, one of the chamber's longtime members, Giant Food, lost Ferguson as an employee. Two managers of the company spoke so sweetly about Ferguson at the funeral. The company also has set up an education fund for her children.
That seems like a pretty direct link to the crime problem to me.
Things are getting better for the county, but the crime statistics are still too high. And like it or not, we all know it's one of the reasons more businesses aren't locating in this county.
If our leaders--especially the employers in this county--don't mobilize and do everything they can to acknowledge and help reduce the crime rate, it will continue to cost us. It will cost us residents and revenue. It will cost us jobs and businesses. It's costing us all those things now.
While the chamber was celebrating, at Freedom Church, we were celebrating Dona Elizabeth Ferguson's homecoming. Only the celebration at Freedom left my heart heavy.
Talkin' Money appears every other Wednesday in the Prince George's Extra. If you have comments or column ideas, send me a letter or e-mail. You can write to me in c/o Talkin' Money, 14402 Old Mill Rd., Suite 201, Upper Marlboro, Md. 20772. My e-mail address is email@example.com.
CAPTION: Kathy Mason, a co-worker of Dona Elizabeth Ferguson, carries a flower arrangement from Freedom Church after the funeral last week.