Screams echoed through Balmain Worship Centre in Couva on Wednesday at the funeral of drowned two-year-old Romelu Drakes.
Sitting about a foot away from the tiny coffin, Romelu’s parents —Shion Drakes and Regine Phillip— were inconsolable. Like other mourners, they wore t-shirts of his favourite colour (blue) bearing his photo.
After the service, the weeping Drakes helped placed the coffin in the hearse. Drakes was then so overwhelmed with grief he himself had to be lifted to the carpark.
Romelu would have turned three on April 23.
Romelu’s aunt, Latoya Drakes, eulogised and referred to him as a guardian angel who had a love for gospel songs. She said the budding footballer was named after Belgian footballer Romelu Lukaku, of Manchester United.
"Romelu continues to be a hero in his own rights, as he continues to save the lives of other children as he has now brought awareness of the dangers of swimming pools," Latoya said to the packed congregation.
On March 16, the staff at a speech-therapy school where he attended in Esperanza Village, Couva, reportedly found Romelu motionless and floating in an above-ground pool, which has a ladder, in the yard.
The infant, who had a speech-delay, was taken to the Couva district health facility where doctors declared him dead.
Romelu, Latoya said, means mountain or God’s blessing. She told mourners that each letter of his name gave meaning to who he was.
The letter "r" stands for resilient.
Latoya said:"The 'o' means odds and obstacles. He defied all the odds and obstacle of his speech-delay. With his gifted hands, he found a way to let us know what he wanted and when he wanted it. The ‘m’ is for him being his mother’s prince. His mother went from job to job just to ensure he has everything."
She continued that the "e" represented emblem, "l" for love and "u" for unique.
Romelu's parents appeared to be in a daze and gazed at the coffin, which had a glass covering.
Pastor Richard Mohammed, who officiated, told mourners that although Romelu’s life was short, he impacted many people.
Quoting from holy scriptures, Mohammed said the Word of the Lord offers hope and speaks life.
"Romelu is with God.He is in heaven with his grandmother who passed 12 years ago. He is being cared for," the pastor said.
"If we (society) have hope, life will not lose meaning. We have hope in God. Any hope other than God’s hope, is wishful thinking. In this life, we face different trials, but God gives us the comfort of his peace."
Mohammed told "broken-hearted" mourners that in every situation, God is present.
"We live in a broken and sinful world. Some things are brought upon us of which we have no control. However, in the trials and difficulties of this life, we can look to Jesus," Mohammed said.
"We have a way to deal with our problems; give them to the Lord. Difficulties can bring despair, but Christ brings comfort and peace. We may not always feel his peace, but that does not mean it is unavailable to us."
Romelu’s body was taken to the Preysal cemetery for burial.
Since the tragedy, police investigators interviewed several people. Central Division police are continuing investigations.