A massive attendance ensured St Paul's Church was filled to the rafters last Tuesday morning, 24th April, as family, friends, well wishers and distinguished guests (including Dame Joan Ruddock) came to say goodbye to TJ, the young man who died from his injuries after being knocked down by a hit-and-run driver on Deptford Church Street.
TJ's white coffin arrived in a beautiful white horse drawn carriage, and was borne into the church by six of his friends (including Crossfields resident Jordan). TJ's uncle Steve delivered a superbly eloquent eulogy about the boy who he had raised as his own child. TJ would have been celebrating his 18th birthday in early May, and his graduation in a couple of month's time.
Young Jamilia touched everyone's hearts as she sang a note perfect and emotional rendition of I Will Always Love You – there could not be a dry eye in the house. Tributes were paid by many others: young relatives Ololade and Abimbola; teachers and leaders from Addey & Stanhope, Croydon College and Second Wave Youth Arts; and his friends stood up as a group and one by one came forward to speak.
Their words came unrehearsed and from the heart as they talked of their friend's supportiveness, his sunny disposition, his academic achievements and ambitions, and how he was always looking out for them.
Although the service was very High Church (St Paul's is Anglican), Father Paul's no-nonsense shepherding ("mobile phones off please") kept the congregation on terra firma. Since the accident had occurred right next to the church, the rector had observed the daily vigil held by TJ's friends at the crossing on Deptford Church Street now known as 'TJ's place'. Father Paul suggested TJ's real 'place' was next to God, in our heads and hearts. At the end of the service, Second Wave gave mourners a memorial card which had photos of TJ and the words "a good friend, our beloved TJ was respected by everyone. We will never forget his kindness, his gentle smile and his friendship."
As is Deptford tradition concerning very special people, the cars (and coach) followed the horse drawn carriage bearing the coffin all the way down Deptford High Street as the funeral cortege processed to Grove Park cemetery, where the service continued and TJ was buried.
Rest in peace, TJ
See our earlier post in March to read further tributes.