ST. PETERSBURG — In a small white brick church, a young mother dressed in peach lace made her way toward a tiny white coffin topped with an aquarium of live lizards.
But as Sikkina Wilson, 22, neared the body of her little boy in the open coffin, she collapsed in the arms of relatives and wailed above the music: "Baby, please come back."
Grief roared in like a tornado at the funeral of 5-year-old Kevon Wilson as more than 200 people gathered at Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church on Saturday.
Family members held each other and cried loudly as they remembered the boy, who was killed May 28 at the Pinellas Point apartments where he lived with his mother. That day, a 14-year-old girl got the keys to her mother's Volkswagen Cabrio, backed up and then drove forward into Kevon, pinning him against a concrete wall.
After a while, someone closed the coffin of the soulful boy who loved Spider-Man, SpongeBob SquarePants and lizards. Seeing his tiny body in a black pinstripe suit and a yellow cummerbund took their breath away.
Several ministers representing both sides of Kevon's family tried to make sense of the loss for friends and relatives gathered in the church. They said Kevon was taken away so others might recognize how much life is worth living.
"With the untimely death … of our little brother, he was exalted to the position of messenger of God," said James Muhammad, a student minister of Louis Farrakhan's in the Nation of Islam and a close friend of Kevon's father's family. "What is the message? Respect life. Rejoice in life."
"Yes, living requires responsibility," said the Rev. Clarence A. Williams, pastor of Mount Zion, where Kevon was in the choir. "There it is. Take it. Life is yours. The world is yours. Go ahead and make a difference for Kevon."
As family members grieved, they also expressed indignation that no one from the 14-year-old girl's family had contacted them. The girl apparently got her mother's keys to retrieve her school books and then tried to drive the car. She has not been charged in connection with the incident so far, and her name has not been released.
"As a family, we want an apology," said Krystal Green, 27, Kevon's aunt.
At Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Clearwater, Kevon was buried just steps from his paternal grandfather, who was buried there exactly seven years ago Saturday.
Family members grabbed red roses and purple snapdragons from the flower arrangement atop his small coffin to remember him. His toys — a plastic dinosaur, a stuffed Spider-Man — were stuck amidst the white peace lilies, yellow mums, peach roses and orange birds of paradise that traveled with him from the church in St. Petersburg to the cemetery in Clearwater.
"In life you must realize that God sends us blessings in disguise," said his uncle, Luther Green, reading from a prepared speech. "He was an angel before my eyes although he was only 5."
As his mother, who is pregnant, walked back to her limousine, she hugged well wishers and clutched flowers. "He's going to a better place, and he don't have to worry no more," she said.
Kevon's father, LeeAndre Green, 26, and his sister, Tivica Green Muhammad, 34, are trying to organize a gathering for the children at Pinellas Point Apartments, many of whom witnessed Kevon's death. Perhaps if there had been a place for the children to play at the apartment complex, this wouldn't have happened, said Kevon's aunt, Tivica Green Muhammad.
"These children witnessed as tragic a thing as you can ever witness in your life," said Kevon's grandmother, Ernestine McCrone, 51. "He wasn't just pushed into the wall. He was wedged into the wall. Who's going to help those children who saw that?"
Times staff writer Leonora LaPeter Anton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 727-893-8640.