The short life of Olisadike “Oli” Soludo Okoye was celebrated through art and song, as more than 400 people attended his funeral at St. Joseph Cathedral Wednesday morning.
His mother Donna Joseph was escorted to the lectern, where, voice shaking, she praised her “bright son.”
“In my heart, I believe you are seated beside grandpa,” she said, referring to her father Desmond who died Dec.2.
During her second funeral in three weeks, she remembered her son as bright, caring and full of life.
Oli’s father, Obi Okoye, wearing a long black African robe, proclaimed his son “was a man at nine-years-old.”
Tears flowed in abundance as Oli’s four-year-old sister Adora walked alone past the casket.
In a grey and pink dress, tights, white socks and black mary janes, she took tiny steps.
Adora placed her beloved brother’s favourite book on a table alongside a basketball, his karate uniform, medal and ribbon, a Beyblade toy, and Oli’s baptismal candle.
His St. Brigid classmates sat in the choir section, neatly dressed in uniform.
They sang like angels.
Nine-year-old Oli drowned Dec. 21 in the swift and frigid Rideau River at Strathcona Park — just a few blocks from his family’s Sandy Hill apartment.
The boy and a friend were playing along the edge of the river when Oli somehow fell into the water. Roughly 16 minutes later, his body was pulled out about 800 metres downstream. Despite desperate attempts by firefighters and paramedics to save him, he was declared dead at CHEO less than two hours later.
At the celebration of his life, ushers handed out brightly coloured foam butterflies and hearts. Mourners wrote prayers and loving messages, which were collected in offering baskets.
Large butterflies mounted on wooden sticks Ñ created by Oli’s peers — were the focal point of the sombre ceremony.
St. Brigid’s prinicipal, Martine Mitton, was given seeds to plant at the school in Oli’s memory.
Oli’s grandma left the church using a walker.
She looked devastated.
Edmund Burke, Joseph’s cousin, travelled from Montreal to attend.
He delivered the eulogy at Oli’s grandfather’s funeral about two weeks ago.
“What a tragedy,” he said. “I didn’t want to come back to Ottawa under these circumstances. It’s surreal.”
Family friend Michaela Onwuachi, 10, said she’ll miss playing video games with Oli.
“He was shy,” she said.
“I wish them peace,” said her mom Antoinette.