COQUITLAM, B.C. — Samson Wong wept Saturday as he apologized to his teenage son, saying he wishes he could have protected the young man from the stray bullet that took his life.
Alfred Wong was heading home to Coquitlam with his parents on Jan. 13 when a bullet pierced their vehicle on a Vancouver street, striking the 15-year-old. He died in hospital two days later.
Vancouver police have said they believe the shooting was gang-related.
"Alfred, forgive Mom and Dad. We tried to protect you," Samson Wong said at his son's memorial service on Saturday. "Mom and Dad have been talking. We wish the bullet went for our heart, not yours."
Sobs could be heard throughout the Coquitlam Alliance Church as Wong spoke to the crowd of about 700 mourners, saying he still can't accept or believe what has happened.
Mom and Dad have been talking. We wish the bullet went for our heart, not yours.Samson Wong, Alfred's father
"Every morning when we wake up, we tell ourselves it was a dream, a bad dream," he said.
His son's body lay a short distance away, dressed in a red plaid shirt and grey toque, in an open casket.
Wilfred Wong told the crowd that his younger brother was his "closest companion and an irreplaceable pillar" in his life.
"Fifteen years was far too short a time on Earth," Wong said. "But for 15 years, he lived a life full of happiness and joy. Thank you, Alfred, for being in our lives, reminding us to always be true to who we are and to always cherish the people we love and care about."
He said the teen had plans of becoming an engineer and filled his spare time with many extracurricular activities, including swimming, taekwondo, video games and basketball.
Alfred Wong's basketball teammates sat in a pew together, dressed in their black uniforms.
His long-time basketball coach, Steve Ashley, told the crowd that Wong was a true sportsman who found freedom in the game.
As the only left-handed player on the team, he had to work twice as hard to master drills meant for right-handed players, Ashley said.
He added that after Wong's death, the team played a game using only their left hands to honour their friend.
"It wasn't pretty," he said.
Thank you, Alfred, for being in our lives, reminding us to always be true to who we are and to always cherish the people we love and care about.Wilfred Wong, Alfred's brother
Pastor Caleb Choi of the Coquitlam Christ Church of China, where the Wong family are congregants, urged the crowd to hold Alfred in their hearts and honour him by living positive lives.
"Drowning in our grief is not enough. We must continue to live on," he said.
A memorial video of Alfred's life showed a chubby-cheeked baby, a grinning toddler, a family on vacation. It showed a teen breaking a board to earn his black belt in taekwondo and squirming away from a mom singing him happy birthday.
Outside the memorial, Sam Chan, a youth leader with the Wongs' church, said it's been difficult for the community to come to grips with the sudden death.
"There's no real way to explain this. I think at this time, the important thing is to cry with those who want to cry, talk to those who want to talk, just sit there with those who just need some time," he said.
'The family is very strong'
Performing a funeral for a 15-year-old is completely different from other memorials, Choi said outside of the service.
"We have no words to comfort the family, no matter what we say," he added. "What we can do is just pray for them."
Choi noted that Wong's family has set up two scholarships in the teen's name — an attempt, he said, at making sure others get to live out Alfred's dreams.
"The family is very strong. Even in the saddest time, they still have a positive mentality. That's very amazing."
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