In the days before 2-year-old Daylan Walker wandered away from his day-care center and died after falling from the roof of an apartment building, his father had thought it was time the boy learned to play basketball.
“He was just about to take him to the YMCA to learn,” said Matthew K. Thompson, pastor of Jubilee Christian Church in Mattapan, during a funeral for the toddler Saturday morning. “We mourn for this loss of Daylan’s potential. We can only dream of the things that he could have accomplished.”
Thompson looked at the boy’s grieving parents, Donald Walker and Leonela Rivera, and told them to turn to God to heal their broken hearts.
“Have the faith and the confidence to believe that he is with his Lord and savior, Jesus Christ . . . We want him to be here, but he is with Jesus. He’s probably playing basketball right now.”
The sweet thought drew soft laughter from a tearful congregation of about 200 people who filled the church on Blue Hill Avenue on a warm, sunny day to mourn the little boy.
Daylan Johansel Walker — Walker and Rivera’s only child — died on May 28, after he left his day-care center in an apartment building on Columbia Road and climbed the stairs to the roof, where he plunged to his death.
At his funeral, Daylan was remembered as a playful boy who loved toy trucks so much he would take them to bed. Prayers and scripture readings, poems, and psalms were read in English and Spanish. His small white casket was placed at the front of the church beneath a spray of white roses.
Family photos of Daylan flashed on two large screens. In one, he is a newborn snuggling in his mother’s arms soon after his birth on Aug. 13, 2011. In another, he is a smartly dressed toddler with a blue plaid shirt tucked into jeans and a baseball cap sideways on his head.
“During his short time here on earth he has touched the hearts of many,” said Yvette Reyes, a family friend, reading from an obituary printed in the funeral program. “Although this [loss] has left a huge void in our lives, Daylan will remain in the hearts of those who loved him, and those he has touched.”
Mourners held hands and raised their arms to celebrate the life of the boy with big brown eyes and a bright smile.
“From what little I know of him, he was a happy baby,” said the Rev. Chris Sumner, one of six clergy members who took part in the service.
Authorities have called his fall a tragic accident, and the day-care operator, Marisol Rondon-Ramos, voluntarily surrendered her license to officials.
The toddler’s death shocked residents across the city, who have rushed to assist his family.
City Councilor Tito Jackson compared the public response with the kindness and compassion shown after the Boston Marathon bombings.
“This is Boston Strong,” said Jackson, addressing the congregation who responded, “Amen.”
“When we receive donations from Blue Hill Avenue and from Boylston Street. When we have folks who helped us from Roxbury and Dorchester, to West Roxbury. That’s Boston Strong.”
Jackson recalled a conversation he had with Rivera shortly after her son’s death. “She said, ‘I want my son’s life to mean something,’ ” he said.
He suggested the city is taking steps to improve safety at day-care centers.
“Daylan’s life is not in vain,’’ Jackson said. “There are people in many positions looking to make sure that something like this will never happen again. Daylan’s life will always mean something to the city of Boston.”
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