Damu Smith looked handsome in his coffin.
His face, with its high cheekbones and sharp jaw, seemed full again. His hair had a soft sheen, having been freshly oiled and woven into small, braidlike twists by his beautician at the funeral home the night before. His unblemished skin was the brown of a honey graham cracker.
The women who loved him most sat on the wood pews at the front of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, a few steps from where he lay. His sweetheart, Adeleke Foster, lovingly touched his face one last time. His sister, Sylnice Williams, dabbed at tears until her tissue was soaked. His 13-year-old daughter, Asha, stared blankly ahead with sad, dry eyes.
In his final days, as he underwent grueling chemotherapy, Smith said he was fighting for Asha -- "I've got to see the man she marries," he cried. But in the end, he was no match for colorectal cancer -- or his own failure to seek medical treatment.