The older sister of Kuothhorko (Kuzi) James spoke lovingly of her younger brother’s unbridled joy whenever he was drawing, jumping on the bed or playing basketball or soccer with his siblings.
Thirteen-year-old Nyagaak delivered a eulogy straight from the heart Saturday at the funeral service for seven-year-old Kuzi held at Windsor Seventh-Day Adventist Church.
The youngest child of Rebecca and James was the victim of a fatal hit-and-run near Jefferson Boulevard and Haig Avenue on Nov. 15.
An investigation by the Windsor Police is ongoing as they search for a silver minivan and its driver.
“Hello,” Nyagaak said before reading her thoughts and fond memories of her little brother.
“Kuzi was one of the sweetest and brightest kids I’ve ever met. I’ll always remember how caring he was,” she said. “Even though he couldn’t communicate what he was trying to do, he would always show it with his actions.”
Kuzi was autistic and struggled to verbalize his thoughts although Nyagaak noted that hardly meant he was ever overlooked in a room.
“My little brother was always so full of energy, sometimes too much for us to handle. But we still enjoyed every minute of it,” she said. “From jumping on the bed to jumping in the living room to jumping in the backyard. There was never a quiet moment in our household. His presence and energy will always be missed in our lives, and in our hearts.”
One of Kuzi’s favourite forms of expression came through in his love of drawing.
Cars, houses and cartoon characters all sprang to life in a brilliant splash of colour.
“But the thing that really touched our hearts the most is when he would draw us, his siblings and his parents,” Nyagaak said.
She recalled how Kuzi would impulsively take to drawing on a wall if he couldn’t find a piece of paper quick enough when inspiration struck.
“His drawings on the wall still look back at us to this day,” Nyagaak said.
Two of Kuzi’s brothers, Jacob and John Tongyiek, served as pallbearers Saturday. Church officials said the family have been members at Windsor Seventh-Day Adventist since they immigrated from South Sudan in 2008.
“Thank you for allowing us to walk with you this week in your tragedy,” said Pastor Alex Golovenko. “Don’t allow this to crush you. We have been torn down but we are not broken.“
A representative from the Windsor-Essex chapter of Autism Ontario spoke briefly at Saturday’s service.
“His family understood his unspoken words, his inspiring love of art,” she said. “Your son was a force in this world. That will not be forgotten.”
Before the formal program began, some in attendance headed to the front pew to offer condolences and hugs to the family.
One young lady offered Rebecca a beautiful purple orchid.
A slide show of candid pictures from Kuzi’s life scrolled across the walls on each side of the pulpit. They showed a happy child wrapped in the arms of friends or family, enjoying birthday cake, a day at the arcade or the simple pleasure of blowing the top off a dried dandelion.
“We will cherish the many beautiful memories we made with Kuzi these past seven years for the rest of our lives,” Nyagaak said. “He was an amazing blessing from God and I’m so happy I got to be his big sister for the time he lived. Even though we will miss him dearly, his time has come to rest. I thank God for all he has done in our lives and for Kuzi’s life.”
Family and friends then proceeded solemnly to Windsor Memorial Gardens for a graveside service.
“It’s so sad,” said one woman as she paused from her walk through the neighbourhood on a pleasant fall day.
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