By Selene Raj
Merin Joy would have turned 27 years old on July 30.
Joy, a nurse, mother, daughter, and friend who was slain by her abusive husband, will be celebrated and mourned in South Florida over the weekend before being flown back home to India.
On the morning of July 28, Joy had just finished her shift at Coral Springs Medical Center.
According to loved ones, it was to be one of her last shifts. She had been planning a new life in Tampa, where she was to start a new job, be surrounded by loved ones, be reunited with her child, and be safe from her abuser.
Before she could enjoy that freedom, Phillip Mathew, 34, her estranged and abusive husband, waited for her in the parking lot. Then, he stabbed her multiple times and ran her over twice.
He fled the scene.
Police and rescue arrived and rode with Joy in an ambulance as she was transferred to a trauma hospital, Broward Health North.
In one of her last acts of bravery, she identified her killer to them: Mathew. They later found him at a motel, where he tried to take his own life but was instead taken to the hospital, then into custody and charged with First Degree Murder.
She succumbed to her wounds and died at 8:51 a.m. that morning.
Her tragic, violent death was a gruesome story that shocked and devastated loved ones and strangers alike and the waves of which have been felt around the country and the world, as her roots expanded far beyond South Florida.
Joy would have celebrated her birthday. On this day, the nurses she worked with are in mourning, quietly celebrating the woman they knew and loved, while grieving her after such a sudden and harsh loss.
She was born in Kerala, India, and as part of the large Malayali community in South Florida, and America, she is being missed.
The conversation around her death has brought into the spotlight domestic violence—something Joy tried time and time again to escape.
In the stories that followed her death, it was revealed by the Sun-Sentinel that Joy was painfully aware of the threat that her husband posed—and she had gone to great lengths to protect herself and her child.
She had called the police. Her husband had been Baker-Acted. Her parents had filed a restraining order in India, and she had even left her only child, Nora, two, in India with family on her most recent trip in December, for safekeeping until they could later reunite.
Joy had reached out to the Coral Springs Police Department about the fear she experienced about her husband, as recently as July 19. At the time, less than ten days before her murder, they told her, because no crime had been committed yet, that she should reach out to her divorce attorney instead.
Ultimately, Joy was a woman who had fought, until her dying breath, for a better life for herself, her child, and those around her.
On that last shift, co-workers said she was doing what she had been doing for a while: taking care of people with love, and most recently, taking care of Covid-19 patients in the midst of this pandemic.
Even then, amid personal and global chaos, she embodied her name, Joy, they say.
“Even after the roughest 13-hour-shift, she never looked stressed, never angry, never tired. Always with a smile on her face,” said a co-worker and friend, who declined to be named to maintain privacy at this time.
Merin Joy will be remembered at a memorial service in Davie, before being flown to India, where her family will hold her funeral and say goodbye.
The wake will take place on Sunday, August 2, at Joseph A. Scarano Funeral Home, from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
On Saturday, August 1, the Indian Nurses Association of South Florida also plan to hold a virtual memorial and prayer meeting in memory of Joy. Their meeting will take place from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. via Zoom.
Once she is in India, her family in Kottayam, Kerala, including her parents and daughter, that survives her, will honor her.
Her fellow nurses put together a fund to help with the expenses of her funeral and to help take care of her daughter. They said that, in addition to fighting domestic violence, they also want to ease the burden on her family.
As of July 31, they have raised $5,568 so far, and counting.
It is clear that, whether in Coral Springs, Tampa, or India, those that knew her would remember the compassion she brought into their lives.
“She was such a kind-hearted person. She was so loved by so many,” said her friend.
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- Selene Raj is a writer and a Florida International University graduate. Born in Trinidad and raised in America, she completed her Master’s in Mass Communications in 2020 and has been living in Coral Springs since 2004. She is passionate about the communities she lives and works in and loves reporting and sharing stories that are as complex and meaningful as the people who live in them.
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