Erica Velazquez stood in the front of a funeral home chapel and thanked the more than 200 people for coming to her young son’s wake. But as she spoke she couldn’t help but look back and peek at her son’s body, dressed in an all-white suit clutching a toy dog.
She had remained strong throughout the wake, trying to put on a smile for those who had cried the whole night, but each time she looked back, once... twice... three times – in between words – her eyes watered and her voice cracked. Daniel Velazquez was only 7 years old.
Daniel died last Thursday, four days after he was shot in the neck with a bow and arrow.
He was hit with an arrow shot by his 11-year-old brother in the Green Spring Valley mobile home park off Old Stage Road early Sunday afternoon March 15,. His family says the boys were playing and that it was an accident.
“It’s been horrible,” Erica Velazquez said of the past week. “I just feel like my heart is going to explode and I just can’t believe it. I’ve been trying to stay strong for my kids that are here, but we’ll always carry him in our hearts and he’ll always be with us. Always.”
She has also tried to assure her 11-year-old son that she doesn’t blame him for the accident.
“I know he would have never done anything to hurt his brother on purpose because I know that he loved him,” she said.
Capt. James Stevens, a Wake County Sheriff’s Office spokesman, said the incident also appeared to deputies to have been an accident, but Sheriff Donnie Harrison said the case is still under investigation.
“We’re waiting for the family to grieve a little bit, but we’re still looking into some things,” Harrison said Wednesday.
Daniel’s funeral was held Thursday at St. Bernadette’s Catholic Church in Fuquay-Varina.
There weren’t many dry eyes at the packed funeral home Wednesday night. Many people were standing. Adults and children were both crying. Nearly half the people in the chapel wore white shirts with a picture of Daniel on the front and a message on the back that read “Sweet Angel Dani,” the name many called him.
One-by-one, family members, classmates and teachers walked up to the casket to get a glimpse at his body and say one last goodbye. They touched his face and gave him a kiss.
Dani was a second-grade student at Ballentine Elementary School in Fuquay-Varina. Nearly all who described him said he was fun loving. But the most common story family members and friends told was that he was always running around – a typical 7-year-old kid who loved to play.
“We just never really imagined that this was going to happen to anybody, let alone Dani,” his aunt Nancy Velazquez said. She wiped her eyes.
“We’ve been trying to hang in there, but it’s tough.”
His aunt Yesenia Nieves said the same. She said each day, while Dani was in the hospital, she’d visit hoping that he would wake up. But he didn’t.
“He had a big heart and was always playing with all the kids,” Nieves said. “He loved Pokemon. That was his latest phase.”
When Erica Velazquez thinks about her son, she smiles. She said Dani was a mama’s boy.
“He was... He is the best kid to have as a son,” she said. “He’s so happy all the time, running around, just having fun. He was so nice to everybody and loved to make friends with everybody.”
“He lived his life to the fullest. He was always running, playing, having fun and laughing. He never stopped.”
How to Give
The family is looking for donations to help pay for funeral expenses. The link is http://www.gofundme.com/pn621s