OZONE PARK — Every Sunday, Stephen James gathered his 19-year-old sister, 6-year-old nephew and 2-year-old niece and took them to Calvary Assembly of God church on Rockaway Boulevard for the 11 a.m. service.
On Monday morning, hundreds of mourners packed the same church to bid a tearful farewell to James, the 21-year-old devoted boyfriend and electrician stabbed to death last week following a dispute on Liberty Avenue.
“You’re everything I wanted,” wailed James’ mom, Geeta James, 43, as she stood over her son’s body before placing a white rose inside the casket.
“I have nothing left inside of me now,” she continued. “My whole body feels empty. My heart is fading away.”
James was stabbed May 12 following a night out at Level Ultra Lounge on Liberty Avenue, where he was celebrating his girlfriend’s 21st birthday. The girlfriend, Debra Alli, said her boyfriend and another man had been thrown out of the club after getting into an argument, but it was unclear whether that was the same man who pulled a knife on James.
Police last week released surveillance showing three people of interest in connection with the killing, but no arrests had been made as of this week.
On Monday, surrounded by stricken relatives in the church, James lay in a brown casket wearing a white button-down shirt with a royal blue striped tie beside his trademark Knicks hat.
The crying of mourners echoed throughout as those close to James sang "Amazing Grace" and "What a Friend." The Rev. Lance Ramsaraoop reminded James’ loved ones of the ways in which he touched their lives.
“I’m not here to preach or to usher Stephen into glory today,” Ramsaraoop told mourners. “There’s nothing I can say today that will change where he is. But because he’s made an impact on each and every one of you, his influence can change your life for better.”
Alli, James’ girlfriend of more than three years, sobbed in front of the casket.
Friends read her reflection and held onto her as she began to waver with grief. But after a few minutes, Alli collected herself and addressed her boyfriend once last time.
“We will meet again,” she told him. “But until we do, I will forever love you and cherish our moments and memories.”
Outside the church before the service, James’ 19-year-old sister, Cristal Holder-James, remembered her brother as “loyal” and “protective,” saying she could turn to him whenever anything happened.
Inside the church, she stood beside his casket and read a poem that posed a question no one seemed able to answer.
“You never said you were leaving," she read. "You never said goodbye. You were gone before we knew it. And only God knows why.”