Family, friends and strangers unite in final farewell
With tear-swollen eyes, Jennifer Neville-Lake kissed her hand and extended it toward the hearses bearing her three children and father away into the night forever.
To a family that has lived a nightmare since learning of the car crash — allegedly caused by a drunk driver — that would rob them of three flourishing lives and a fourth mature one, the funeral service in Brampton Sunday evening brought a measure of closure, if little comfort.
“They went together holding hands,” Neville-Lake said, recalling how her two youngest died side by side at the Hospital for Sick Children hours after the collision at an intersection in Vaughan one week before.
Earlier Sunday, relatives, friends and community members gathered under dimmed lights for a visitation that brought home the tragic reality.
The bodies of Daniel Neville-Lake, 9, his brother Harry, 5, and sister Milly, 2, lay in open caskets. Blankets reflecting the children’s love of Star Wars, My Little Pony and Snow White draped the oak as prayer candles burned.
“All my babies are dead,” said their mother. “We’re still trying to understand it.”
Daniel’s heartbeat persisted until nearly an hour and a half after the crash on the afternoon of Sept. 27, his mother said. “He was such a fighter. They all were,” she said.
Behind her at the visitation lay the body of her father Gary Neville, whom his grandchildren called Papu. Neville-Lake’s mother Neriza Neville and grandmother Josephina Frias are still in hospital.
Neville-Lake said burial would likely take place after her mother is released. Frias, in her 90s, is suffering from numerous broken bones and a brain bleed, Neville-Lake said.
As for Neville-Lake and her husband, the pain is unimaginable, a family friend said. They are “standing firm” right now, but when they are alone in their house, and the children aren’t running around them, that’s when it hurts,” said Edel Lee, who attended the visitation at Brampton Funeral Home & Cemetery Sunday.
The children’s father Edward Lake greeted close friends and strangers alike at the visitation, accepting endless hugs and handshakes.
Ines Silva, who lives several blocks from the funeral home, came Sunday morning even though she doesn’t know the family personally. “I’ve been to funeral homes before, but I’ve never been in a situation like this one today. If something happened to my family, my grandkids, I couldn’t . . . it touches me so much,” she said.
Dozens lined up to enter the funeral home before the doors opened around 9:30 a.m., with scores more arriving throughout the day to offer sympathy and pay respects.
Many mourners bowed their heads in prayer, making the sign of the cross as they viewed school photos of Daniel and Harry taken just two days before the fatal accident.
Beside the boys’ caskets stood two bicycles, one still with training wheels. Daniel’s Cub Scouts uniform hung a few feet from Milly’s flowered dress. Toy light sabres and basketballs sat near a War Amps certificate of achievement for Harry, who had undergone an amputation of one fin- ger, the result of several health difficulties he overcame.
More than 300 people later attended the funeral, spilling over into an auxiliary room opened to accommodate the mourners. Neville-Lake remained composed as she spoke about her children’s quirks and joys, her husband at her side.
“Daniel and Harrison shared a room, and they got to have this really typical brother relationship . . . Harri- son would come home, throw (Daniel’s) homework in the garbage and then hide under the table. He liked especially to squish ( jelly beans) into Daniel’s ear,” she said with a laugh.
The funeral service included passages from Ecclesiastes and The Little Prince. It culminated in a processional set to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” — the song Jennifer and Edward sang before kissing Harry and Milly goodbye in the early morning of Sept. 28.
Adriano Ruchetta, Daniel’s godfather, said: “Don’t judge a book by its length; judge it by its richness . . . Sometimes those (songs) unfinished are the most spirited.”
Marco Muzzo, 29, is facing18 charges, including four counts of impaired driving causing death. The Muzzo family owns the construction company Marel Contractors and condominium builder Pemberton Group and is worth nearly $1.8 billion, according to Canadian Business magazine.
York Regional Police say the collision occurred at Kirby Rd. and Kipling Ave., a crossroads with a stop sign, surrounded by farmers’ fields. Around 4:10 p.m. on Sept. 27, Muzzo’s SUV is alleged to have shot into the intersection, slammed into the side of the Neville-Lakes’ minivan and then struck a third vehicle, according to Crown lawyer Brian McCallion.
A funeral was held Sunday for the NevilleLake children — from left, Daniel, Milly, and Harry — and their grandfather, Gary Neville, who were killed when their van was struck by an alleged drunk driver.
Jennifer Neville-Lake embraces her husband, Edward Lake, as hearses bearing her children and father pull away.