Overwhelmed with grief, the father of two-year-old Romelu Amani Drakes had to be bodily lifted from the churchyard as the hearse was leaving with his son’s body for the cemetery.
But before that, inside the church—Balmain Worship Centre—Shion Drakes broke down in tears, the child’s mother Regine Phillip wailed and other relatives screamed during a video tribute for Romelu and the viewing of his body.
While a grief-stricken Phillip was propped up by her relatives in front of his casket, Drakes sadly rolled a small toy car on the transparent lid over his son’s face. The father also placed a white rose on the lid.
Romelu drowned in a pool at his speech therapy school in Couva on March 16. He would have turned three on April 23.
He was his parents’ only child.
During the eulogy, his aunt Latoya Drakes recalled special moments in his short life, including his love for gospel music. Noting that it was at this church that he was offered up at seven months, she said he weighed nine and a half pounds at birth.
“At just three months Romelu’s parents noticed something remarkable. He was particularly very calm while listening to gospel music. Conversely, Romelu loved praising God so he became very excited by listening to the praise songs.“ She said his parents’ families were firm believers in Christ.
“And as he began to grow older he hummed perfectly in time to each and every beat and we began to hear more and more words being uttered as God used his mouthpiece to utter his praises.”
Telling mourners that each song in Romelu’s life was centred around conveyed a special lesson, she encouraged them to apply them to their lives “in order to commemorate his perfected love, his mystical spirit and his resounding presence.” His aunt said Romelu had a lot of nicknames, including Mels, Melu, Popo and Chunky boy. But, she said his dad named him after his favourite footballer Romelu, who plays for Manchester United.
His aunt noted that his name also meant mountain or God’s blessing,
“Anyone who had an encounter at some point during the life of this baby would all agree that he has been God’s mountain of blessings and he is still affecting a lot of our lives today.”
Using the letters of his name to identify some of Romelu’s special qualities, she said R stood for resilience and strength as he rarely got ill; O was for defying the odds and obstacles as his speech delay never kept him back; M meant his mother’s prince; E he was the emblem of his father’s spirit; L was for his loving nature and U was for unique.
“Romelu stood out from a crowd as a baby. He had big curly golden hair. He had a wide gap smile and a very deep raspy voice.”
Noting that his parents worked hard to ensure that he wanted for nothing, she said he was a budding footballer and loved callaloo.
His aunt said his death, however, had sensitised other children about the dangers of a swimming pool.
“Romelu continues to be a hero in his own right as he continues to save the lives of other children as he has now brought awareness of the dangers of swimming pools.”
In the sermon, pastor Richard Mohammed encouraged relatives to seek comfort in God and take solace in knowing that he was with God and in the loving arms of his grandmother who died 12 years ago.
“Today we may ask why and we may not understand, only time will reveal a lot of things about the passing of our baby Romelu but the power of God is here to sustain us,” he added.
Looking on as the casket was placed in the hearse after the service, Drakes became too weak to stand anymore and was carried in his friend’s arms to a nearby vehicle.
Little Romelu was laid to rest at the Preysal cemetery.