Heartbroken schoolmates of 16-year-old friends say pair shared ‘special brotherhood’
Reuven Simon and Joseph Sebastian, both aged 16, died after getting into difficulty in the water last Monday.
The congregation at the joint service in St Mary’s Church, Ardmore, Co Derry, heard their deaths were “nothing short of unbearable” as their best friends described them as fun and compassionate.
The boys, from the city’s Indian Kerala community, were pupils at St Columb’s College and had received their exam results last week.
The coffins of the friends, draped in their school uniforms, were carried to their final resting place at St Mary’s Church graveyard.
As well as those gathered inside the church, hundreds watched the service on a screen outside.
The main celebrant was Rev Clement Padathiparambil, the national coordinator of the Syro Malabar Church in Ireland.
He was joined by other Syro Malabar priests serving in Europe and parts of the service were said in Malayalam.
Waterside parish priest Fr Michael Canny said: “We have been robbed of two young boys who left a deep impact on us.
“We all feel bewildered by the sense of loss and the intensity of grief that we have experienced over these last few days
St Columb’s College principal, Finbar Madden, Altnagelvin Area Hospital workers and Foyle MP Colum Eastwood were among those who spoke at the funeral, delivering words of comfort to the grieving families.
St Columb’s College students addressed mourners, saying they were Reuven and Joseph’s best friends. The pair had “grown up together, played together, laughed together and cried together”.
One described Joppu (Joseph) as a “kind and compassionate” friend who sought to cheer people up if they were feeling down.
He added that Reuven was a “strong and caring person” who strove to help everyone.
Another student said: “As best friends, Reuven and Joppu were inseparable. I remember as I was walking down to school, they were always walking together, laughing and supporting each other through their daily hardships.
Yet another student said he never got to experience the joy of having a brother, but Reuven and Joppu became more than brothers.
“They were everything to me,” he added.
The students spoke of a “special brotherhood”, where plans were cancelled if one of them was not available.
“Words can’t describe what these boys meant to me,” a heartbroken friend said.
“When Reuven and I were wee, we slept over at each other’s houses all the time. He knew I had a fear of the dark and being alone, so he always had my head in his arms.
“That’s the thing about Reuven, he was fearless. He showed something beyond courage and bravery. I should be honoured. That’s just the way he is.
“I want to speak on behalf of the boys and say that we will always be there for his parents and siblings.
“I’ll support them until the very end. I know I’ll never replace you, but I promise to do my best.”
On behalf of Joseph’s family, Abraham Sebastian said words could not describe the suffering and loss they are feeling, “mourning the life that was, but also the life that might have been”.
“Not only was he a loving son and brother, but he was a kind and giving friend, someone who was always a pleasure to be around,” Mr Sebastian added.
“His loss leaves a huge emptiness in all our hearts.
“Joppu, you are up in heaven with the angels. They will take our place and give you all their love. Goodbye, Joppu. You will live in our hearts for ever.”
Reuven’s younger brother, Evin, said: “You were my only brother and I love you so much, even when you irritated me every single day.”
Evin said Joppu was the most humble person he knew. “Rest in peace, my dear Reuven and Joppu,” he added.