SYDNEY, N.S. – Police, paramedics and ground searchers each placed a spruce cutting on top of James Delorey’s casket following a funeral Monday for the little boy who died last week after spending two nights lost in woods.
The seven-year-old’s disappearance and death captured national attention after he followed his dog, Chance, into the woods near his home in South Bar, outside Sydney.
The boy’s dog sat in the front passenger seat of the hearse as it pulled into the parking lot of Holy Redeemer Church in the Sydney neighbourhood of Whitney Pier.
Chance was led into the large Roman Catholic church behind the tiny casket and stood outside later with the boy’s family as those who took part in the search blanketed it in green.
Few people were willing to talk afterwards about the service, which included a choir singing Christmas carols.
An emotional Paul Vienneau of Cape Breton search and rescue could barely speak as he described the funeral as “very sombre, very heartbreaking.”
Rev. Errol MacDonald said during the sermon that Canadians didn’t get the miracle they hoped for after the boy was found in a spruce stand barely clinging to life.
But the priest insisted there were miracles in the tragedy, and Vienneau agreed.
“There was a miracle and then he turned into a Christmas angel,” Vienneau said.
James’s dog returned home two days after the boy disappeared and searchers were able to trace his prints near to where the seven-year-old was found curled up under thick stand of spruce.
James wasn’t wearing winter clothes and was suffering from extreme hypothermia when he was airlifted to Halifax, where he died.
The search was made more difficult because James was autistic and couldn’t speak.
MacDonald commented on the massive search effort and outpouring of emotion after his death.
“This is the busiest time of the year. Everyone is caught up with their own agendas,” the priest said.
“Yet in the past week, everyone stopped. And in that stopping they found the true meaning of Christmas – that a child would give us hope.”