Mourners Gather For Final Goodbye To Dyllan Burrell

Mourners stand for the recessional May 19 at the funeral for Dyllan Burrell.

Dyllan Burrell was remembered May 19 for his faith, his sense of humor and his ability on the football field during his funeral at Eternal Life Christian Center on Franklin Boulevard.

Mourners packed the center’s sanctuary to pay their respects to the 14-year-old Franklin High School freshman who died on May 8, after he collapsed during gym class.

People representing every aspect of the young man’s life spoke to his memory, some evincing tears and others, laughter, through their comments.

Frank Chmiel, the FHS principal, talked about the effect Burrell’s death had on the school community.

“Dyllan’s absence from our school has had a deeply saddening effect on our faculty, staff and students,” he said. “Yet it was in his loss that so many people came together; the students, families, faculty and staff at Franklin High School and across the district answered the call asking, how can we help?”

“The offers of support went beyond our district, as superintendents, principals, teachers and coaches from other districts offered their support too,” Chmiel said. “We yelled and cried together in mourning over Dyllan. We sat there dumbfounded, barely able to move or say a word, just looking at his face, and asking in our hearts, why? Then we hugged each other, said encouraging words, and prayed together. We were there for each other, just so we could hold it together.”

“Over 1,000 message of love and support for Dyllan and his family were written on posters in the school over the next days by students, faculty and staff,” he said. “Know that Dyllan not being in our school anymore injures us, and right now we are in a healing process.”

“Even as time passes, and the wounds heal, just like in real life, when it comes to serious injuries, there’s always that scar or some sore, achy spot where there was a fracture or a tear, when even when were in the best of physical condition, still bothers us and reminds us of what happened,” Chmiel said.

“As principal of Franklin High School, I lost one of my Warrior students,” Chmiel said. “Dyllan’s teachers lost an engaged pupil who loved learning. His classmates lost a loved friend who was fun and full of life. We all lost a young man who was a valued member of our learning community.”

“But our loss is Dyllan’s and heaven’s gain,” Chmiel said, to a rising chorus of “amens” from the mourners. “Dyllan dwells in a new learning community of perfect knowledge and happiness, heaven. He has a new heavenly principal, the Lord. He has new teachers and classmates, saints, angels, saved souls because we know that Dyllan put his faith in Jesus and loved him.”

The Rev. Marcus Jackson Jr., pastor of Radiant Church in Piscataway and a mentor of Burrell’s, remembered Dyllan for his energy and his sense of humor.

“He always smiled and he always ran everywhere he went,” he said. “I used to pick up Dyllan on the way to youth group,” he said. “Dyllan always had a joke or something funny to say. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense and you laugh anyway. You smile with him because he was infectious. He was a young man that we just loved.”

Referencing chapter three in the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible, Jackson said that those gathered are “in a season of mourning.”

“But I promise you, there’s a season of joy on the other side,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that joy’s coming tomorrow, it doesn’t man that joy’s coming next week or in the month or even sometime this year, but I promise, you joy is on the way. Family, don’t miss your season of joy because you’re lingering in your season of mourning too long.”

Jackson said that when he starts to feel sadness over Burrell’s death, he takes himself “to a place of great memories.”

One of those memories, he said, was from last month when he and his family ran into Dyllan while buying ice cream on Hamilton Street.

“I‘m standing there with my two kids and Alyssa (Dyllan’s older sister) pulls up and before the car even stops, Dyllan jumps out the side door and he runs and he jumps on me, and he throws his arms around me,” Jackson said.

The pastor challenged Burrell’s family and friends to live the rest of their lives for Dyllan.

“If we had the power to hit rewind, I bet we would,” he said. “If we had the opportunity to say something or do something, we wouldn’t hesitate to take that opportunity. But since we don’t have the opportunity to hit rewind, can I challenge you to hit next?”

“You can live your next for Dyllan,” he said. “You can live the next season of your life for Dyllan. You can honor Dyllan and honor his family by deciding today I’m going to live my next for you. My next year in ministry, Dyllan, I’m going to live for you. I’m going to dedicate this to you. I’m going to work harder, I’m going to pray harder, the opportunities to share the Gospel, I’m going to do this for you. Family, live your next for Dyllan. Dyllan would want you to live your best life.”

Alyssa Burrell said her brother was “truly special.”

“Every person Dyllan encountered, he touched, he moved, he inspired,” she said. “Whether you knew him for 14 years or 14 minutes, Dyllan’s mere presence etched a mark on your heart. Dyllan was a little brother to me, and one of the best people I’ve had the privilege to know.”

One of Burrell’s uncles, Sandre Grant, said his nephew was “such a powerful person and so humble in his truth.”

“What I do for myself to make me feel better is I think my nephew did what he was supposed to do when he came here, and God took him, he completed his mission,” Grant said. “So many of us are older than him, but I think he surpassed us with his goodness and love. I think that’s why he’s in a way better place than we are now.”

Burrell lived in North Brunswick for several years, and played Pop Warner football there. When he and his father moved back to Franklin nearly two years ago, he decided to continue to play for the Indians.

Ottis Blount, one of Burrell’s coaches on the team and also pastor of the Greater Worship Kingdom Church in New Brunswick, said Dyllan “loved faith, family and football.”

“Dyllan wasn’t just a player of mine, Dyllan became like one of my sons,” he said. “Dyllan became a brother, Dyllan became a friend.”

Blount said that Dyllan’s commitment to his Christian faith was strong.

“I remember one Sunday, we were about to play for the Central Jersey championship, and Dyllan came up to me, he said, coach, I know that we’re coming down off the hill, but I want to know if we could pray on the field,” Blount said. ”

“It resonated and resounded in me,” he said. “What kid, about to play a championship game, would focus on his faith? He said, pastor coach, because that’s what he started calling me, this is what it’s all about, faith, family and football, but my faith comes first.”

“And I was surprised,” he said. “All of the laughing and joking went out the window, and Dyllan called his team around and said everybody get on their knees. Those who did believe and those who didn’t believe, get on your knees. He commanded their attention, he got down on his knee and began to recite the Lord’s Prayer. Everybody who was in that circle began to recite the Lord’s Prayer.”

From then on, Blount said, the team recited the prayer before each quarter.

Talking about how a play Dyllan made during the championship game “plowed the way” for the team to win the title, Blount said, “today Dyllan brought us all here for one last act of glory. Dyllan was a champ. We won Central Jersey on the back of Dyllan.”

“I’m proud to stand before you to honor such a great man, to honor such a great giant,” he said. “Dyllan has made his transition, he’s in a place where trouble, he don’t have to deal with it. Sickness, he don’t have to deal with it. Tears, he don’t have to deal with it. All he has to do is reign in victory. He plowed the way for us, and he’s plowing the way for you.”

Also during the funeral the Eternal Life Christian Center Dance Team performed to “In His Presence,” and the Community Fellowship Mass Choir sang.


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