By Gerald V. Paul
“Pray Mama, pray Pappa,
Pray to God,
Help me to be a good little boy,
For Christ’s sake. Amen.”
Tears flowed for the angelic Elijah Marsh inside St. Matthew’s United Church where he was baptized and outside in the crowd on Saturday as his family said goodbye to the toddler an entire city has come to love.
People came as early as 6 a.m. to find a place in the church, in an overflowing building next door or to patiently stand in the cold for the service of remembrance and celebration. Still more participated via social media.
“We come together as broken-hearted people, mourning the loss of a young boy whose time in this world ended far too soon. May the support we all find here today carry us into the days ahead,” Rev. Lauren Hodgson exhorted in the greeting and welcome.
Bishop Dr. James Robinson of Faith Open Door Ministries intoned “Pray to God” as he led the opening prayer. During the service, children lit candles for three-year-old Elijah, who died after he wandered alone into a bitterly cold night in late February after leaving his grandmother’s apartment at 4:20 a.m. He was found in a nearby yard later that morning after a massive search.
Loving words of remembrance were offered by Curt Barry, Elijah’s biological father, Kito Clarke, his stepfather and his mother Georgette Marsh, among others.
“I tell everyone that Elijah was a man since the day he was born. I always felt confident that he was ready for the world,” Georgette said.
After the service The Camera witnessed Barry’s tears, a father’s love emanating from his heart and soul outside the church amid the hugs sprinkled with thoughts and prayers.
Laila Bellony and Danny Ross sang a duet, His Eye is on the Sparrow. “His eye is on the Sparrow. And I know He watches me.”
Then came hymns the family sung in Jamaica and Canada. “When peace like a river attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll, Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.”
Nestle Canada staff and retirees came in support of Elijah’s dad who works there and his mom who worked there while pursuing her nursing career.
Retired employee, Guyana-born Basdeo Jaggernath, told The Camera “When I came to Canada … one day I walked into Nestle, encouraged by a retiring executive European staff member and worked there ever since. With Elijah’s parents working at Nestle, we are here in full support.”
Of Curt, Jaggernath said, “He’s wonderful guy and loved Elijah very much.
“When I heard the sad news how little Elijah, all by his self, in T-shirt, diaper and boots left the building, I wonder how can this be? Why did he take a walk in the snow on such a bitter cold night? Even an old man like myself would have been shaking in the cold on opening the door. But God knows best,” Jaggernath said.
Among the mourners were Toronto Councillor Joe Mihevc, MPP Michael Colle, Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins and numerous community leaders.
As the little casket, glistening in the sunlight with the Canadian flag removed, was carried from the church, the crowd fell silent as if collectively offering Elijah’s Prayer “for good little boys everywhere.”