Eight-year-old Thomas Valva, whose tragic story I covered in depth in yesterday’s post, was laid to rest today.
Over 150 mourners, including family members, friends, strangers, and public figures, gathered for the funeral Mass at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Roman Catholic Church in Melville, New York to say goodbye to the little boy whose mother called him Tommy.
Before the service began, Thomas’s mother, Justyna Zubko-Valva, and his brothers, ten-year-old Anthony and six-year-old Andrew, leaned down to kiss the small, gold-trimmed white casket.
During a poignant homily given by Bishop Andrzej Zglejszewski, who baptized Thomas as a baby, the community heard what a special little guy he was.
Thomas was, the bishop said, a “very energetic child” who loved to play. “Like every child, full of life, running, making noise, even during the Mass, even in the church.”
“Thomas was just a little boy,” said Bishop Zglejszewski, who is the auxiliary bishop for the Diocese of Rockville Centre. “He just wanted to be loved, wanted to be hugged, wanted to be cherished, he wanted to be wanted. He was a gift.”
He continued, “Thomas, little boy, thank you for the gift of you. Thank you for the gift of life. I am sorry that it was way too short for you. But I thank you for your beautiful life… I thank you for your beautiful smile, for the blessing you gave to this world and thank you for the challenge that you have made for all of us… perhaps because of you, other children will not share your fate and we will have the courage to admit our faults and change.”
The bishop continued, “Our legal and social system failed him. I am sorry to say that somehow we failed him. Do you know why? Because we create systems. We choose our elected officials. We make our agencies that are supposed to take care of life — take care of children. What happened? What went wrong?”
“I hope the message of this tragedy will teach so many hearts and so many minds, just simply because we have to do something about this,” the bishop said. “How long and how many lives will it take for us to learn?”
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, who was in attendance at the service, has promised that there will be a thorough investigation of the agencies that let Thomas slip through the cracks.
Justyna read from the Book of Revelation during the service, and ten-year-old Anthony even read from the Bible. “Good is the lord to the one who waits for him,” Anthony read.
As pallbearers loaded Thomas’s casket into a hearse, Andrew, safe in his mother’s arms, gave a little wave, as if to say goodbye to his older brother.
Thomas’s final resting place is the Saint Charles Cemetery in East Farmingdale.
Click here for my future and ongoing coverage of Thomas’s case.
Sources: New York Post, Newsday