By Ed Brock
In the middle of the funeral for his 2-year-old son, William Miranda, Jr., calmly walked down the aisle to where his other son and a young girl were playing.
He gently placed the boy into the arms of a woman in the mourning party, then lifted the girl, pecked her on the cheek with a gentle smile, and sat her down in the pew as well.
Behind him, standing over the tiny coffin of young Xavier Miranda, the Rev. J.E. Hogan with the New Life Tabernacle Church of God in Christ spoke about King David mourning the death of his son.
"I will go to him, but he will not return to me," Hogan intoned, quoting the Old Testament king.
On Feb. 10 around 7:10 p.m., an armed man kicked in the door of the Hunter's Bay apartment where Xavier Miranda lived with his family and demanded money. He grabbed Xavier and put the gun to his head.
Xavier's aunt walked in, the robber pushed her down and bullets began to fly between the robber and 22-year-old William Miranda. One of those bullets hit Xavier in the neck, and he died the following morning at a children's hospital.
The unknown shooter ran away.
At the New Life Tabernacle on Cleveland Avenue in Atlanta, about 200 people who came to mourn Xavier's death gathered to tell him good bye with tears and song.
A greeter welcomed each mourner with "Praise the Lord. It's a celebration," as they passed into the chapel where Xavier lay surrounded by flowers, watched over by a display shaped like the cartoon character "Sponge Bob."
"I lost one of my soldiers," said Xavier's great uncle Rory Miranda. "He couldn't be with me here but I know he'll be with me in the future."
Rory Miranda also said he had pleaded in the media that "they can bring this terrible person (responsible for the crime) to justice."
William Miranda and Xavier's mother, 22-year-old Chimere Calloway, like many other members of the funeral party, were dressed in white. They didn't speak at the service, but Xavier's grandmother Cassandra Calloway led the congregation in a version of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" in memory of her grandchild.
"There's so much that you can remember about him," Calloway said. "That was my life. My heart is broken into a thousand pieces."
After Hogan's thundering eulogy, the family picked up the small white coffin and carried it out of the church. Xavier was buried in Forest Hills Memorial Gardens in Forest Park.
In the program for his funeral is a poem by his cousin titled "Lil Man But Strong Heart."
"Lil Man but strong heart, mind of his own. He's one of a kind, there is no clone," the poem reads. "The Lil Man and strong heart I know is still inside me and I ain't letting go. Boy, ain't nothing tearing us apart because you're still the Lil Man with strong heart."