'Sorrow and joy all tangled up': Family says final farewell to 11-year-old Jude Strickland

Jude Strickland's family members reflect on his life and what made him special, roughly a week after he died from being hit by a pick-up truck on his way home from school.

The Strickland family has used their faith to push through a whirlwind of emotions after their son's death

Jude Strickland celebrated his 11th birthday in this picture. His parents say he enjoyed video games and YouTube, among other activities like climbing trees and playing outside. (Submitted by Jamie Strickland)

If you were looking for Jude Strickland in his home and couldn't hear him cracking jokes, couldn't find him playing video games and couldn't see him climbing a tree, his parents say you could probably follow the trail of apple cores that led to his bedroom.

Messy, funny, outgoing, energetic and devout are just a few of the words people who knew the 11-year-old have used to remember him.

His parents, Jamie and Vanessa, bid their final farewell to their second-oldest son after burying his white casket, taped drawings and all, on Monday afternoon.

Jude died on Dec. 3 after being hit by a pick-up truck two days earlier while crossing the street on his way home from school. Police say the 28-year-old driver didn't stop for both the traffic light and the crossing guard.

Hours after Jude's burial, Jamie and Vanessa sat in their living room alone. While the other three boys were with friends, their home near Eleanor Park on the mountain was still.

Jamie and Vanessa Strickland, Jude's parents, sat in the home on Monday after burying their 11-year-old son. They say they have been dealing with a whirlwind of emotions for the past week. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

It was the first pause they had experienced since the tragedy. It has been a whirlwind full of emotion and reflection, they said.

"When we see God do one thing, He's actually doing 10,000 things at the same time. We may only get to see a small part of it," said Jamie, "and so there's that immediate part of it — with Jude's death that is extremely hard to understand, process and take — but at the same time, we know God has used this to encourage so many people."

Sorrow and joy tangled together

Jude's parents said he button-mashed away while playing Minecraft and Fortnite. This summer, he also "flailed" around the street with his brothers on Rollerblades. His parents say he was always game to try something new, with Jude wanting to begin a YouTube channel, learn karate, try rock climbing and even look at becoming a missionary.

While Vanessa describes Jude as Jamie's "Mini-Me," Jude was also an admirer of Toronto Maple Leafs player Auston Matthews, YouTuber Steve "Dangle" Glynn and Dude Perfect's stunts online.

Jamie Strickland, the father of 11-year-old Jude, said his son loved this shirt. Jude's username when he played video games was "judeisawesomme" — which is how many people remember him. (Submitted by Jamie Strickland)

"He was always trying to flip his bagel into the toaster, and he'd say, 'This is the Bagel Flip,' and he would throw it and it would not go into the toaster, and he'd say 'No, no, no, I'm going to get it this time, Mom,'" Vanessa said as she and Jamie both laughed.

"[Jude] would like to watch SteveDangle's videos and crazy reactions and in some ways … Jude has those expressions as well. And a couple years ago at a Blue Jays game, he met SteveDangle and that was a highlight for him."

At school, Jude's friends knew him as outgoing, kind, funny, and as a child who tried to include others.

He was also, like his parents, a "strong believer in Jesus" and had an exceptional talent of memorizing Bible passages. 

"Not just because his parents did it, it was important to him as well and his hunger to know more about the Bible, who God is, and even days before, we had a conversation about heaven," his mother said.

A light post near Royalvista Drive, a side street off Upper Gage between Stone Church and Rymal Road, is full of notes, toys, flowers and mementos dedicated to Jude Strickland. The stretch of Upper Gage is also peppered with signs urging drivers to slow down. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Jamie is an associate pastor at the West Highland Church, which held a service for Jude on Sunday.

Erin Strickland, Jude's aunt, and her husband Ryan Butchereit, say their kids felt especially close to Jude. 

"Jude was Jude in every scenario and he didn't change," Ryan said on Monday.

One of their fondest memories is of Jude climbing a tree to save a neighbour's cat.

But all the memories are bittersweet for his family.

"Sometimes it causes joy and sometimes it causes sorrow knowing those moments won't happen again. Looking forward and knowing we have the memories of the past, but we won't be making future memories together with Jude," Jamie said.

Jamie and Vanessa Strickland look at some of Jude's writing about the Bible. Jude was known to excel at memorizing Bible passages and verses. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Like most parents, they wanted their son to grow and start his own family and achieve his own goals — but they also recognize not all is lost.

"As a mother, I want you to be with me for the rest of my life, but if I truly believe being with Jesus in heaven is far better than we can ever imagine, then there's joy I can experience knowing that. I want him here but I also want the best and I truly believe where he is right now is the best for him. It's that sorrow and joy all tangled up together," Vanessa said.

'As Christians, we forgive'

The family has received a tidal wave of support across all forms of social media and through donations to their GoFundMe page.

Jude's school, Templemead Elementary School, and the police have been especially helpful, the family said.

Jamie and Vanessa added that all the support has extended Jude's legacy, with comments coming from people like MP David Sweet in the House of Commons.

"We were extremely touched by that," Jamie said.

Asgar Manek, the lawyer who was representing the driver on Dec. 3, said the situation is "very sad" and that his client was "very emotional" at the police station.

The driver, who is charged with dangerous driving causing death, was expected to change lawyers.

Jude's aunt and uncle hope it can be a reminder to people to drive carefully.

"I just pray that anyone that hears this story and gets this update takes an extra minute over this holiday season to be cautious while driving. Don't be in a hurry, stop at stop signs and red lights," read a social media post from Erin and Ryan.

Jamie and Vanessa only see one way forward.

"As Christians, we forgive … there's no verse about what you do to someone who … leads to the death of your child," Jamie said.

"We don't want to hold onto bitterness. We would want to forgive him and our life isn't going to be about holding bitterness or resentment against someone."