Hundreds of loved ones gathered at a Langley church on Tuesday to remember a seven-year-old girl who was a “once-in-a-lifetime friend” found dead in an apartment late last month.
Friends, family and caregivers packed the auditorium at the Christian Life Assembly, fighting back tears, to tell the story of Aaliyah Rosa’s too-short life.
The girl’s death has been declared a homicide after her body was found in the building near 200 Street and 68 Avenue in Langley’s Willoughby neighbourhood the night of July 22. A 36-year-old woman, who was taken into medical care at the time, is believed to have been involved, but police have not provided details.
Pastor Bill Ashbee asked for a moment of silence as he read a prayer for Aaliyah.
“In the middle of a puzzlingly evil act, God loves children,” Ashbee said.
He addressed the girl’s father, Steve Rosa, who was sitting in the front row with other family members.
“Steve, we’ve talked, and I understand some of the questions you have, all of the emotions… all of the whys. We’re here on this journey with you,” Ashbee said. “This is a safe place for you today, Steve. A safe place for all.”
Trish Wright, one of Aaliyah’s after-school teachers, spoke about a vivacious girl who brightened every room she walked into.
“She wore her heart on sleeve and let you know exactly how she felt,” said Wright. “Aaliyah would be the first one fighting with the boys over which Hot Wheels were hers… she stood her ground for what she believed were her truths.”
With a constant sparkle of mischief in her eyes, Aaliyah was always the star of the show.
“Aaliyah loved to play ‘freeze dance’ with her favourite pop star Taylor Swift blaring from the stereo. The girls would all sing from the top of their lungs: ‘We are never, ever, ever getting back together!’” Wright said. “I’m shocked we didn’t wear that CD out.”
And no matter what, Aaliyah was forever “daddy’s little girl,” Wright said.
When Steve dropped off his daughter every day, Aaliyah would ask him to stay.
“‘Daddy, please just one more hug,’ she would beg. And Steve would always give it.”
Nadia Causley, the mom of Aaliyah’s best friend, Stella, talked about a girl with a contagious smile who made the Causley family her own.
“Aaliyah is a once-in-a-lifetime friend. She and Stella will always be besties,” said Causley.
The two girls met in pre-school, but Aaliyah quickly became much more than that.
“She became a part of our family… our rambunctious fourth child,” Causley said. “When she would come over, it would be full-on arguing and fighting with all of our kids with the familiarity and love of siblings.”
She paused, gathering her emotions.
“I can’t believe she’s gone,” she said. “Aaliyah was awesome. For those of you who didn’t know her… you missed out. The world missed out.”