Through his trademark glasses, Maddox Derkosh looked at life with the eyes of a child, fascinated by a world that he was just beginning to explore.
He was captivated by the bigness of trucks, and by the tractors he sat on during trips to Lowe's and Home Depot. He jumped at the chance to blow out candles on a cake, even if it wasn't his birthday.
And, in the car with his mother a few weeks ago, he looked out the window at St. Bernard Church and, instead of a building, his little eyes saw a collection of sand castles.
"In his short life, he saw so much with those eyes," said the Rev. David Bonnar, the Mt. Lebanon church's pastor.
This morning, hundreds of people gathered within that castle, where Maddox was baptized and where his parents, Jason and Elizabeth Derkosh of Whitehall, were married, to say their goodbyes to Maddox, the 2-year-old boy who died at the Pittsburgh Zoo Sunday. Maddox was visiting the zoo with his mother when he fell into the African painted dog exhibit and was mauled.
The casket, small and white in the cavernous hall of the church, was followed into the church by his parents, who held one another as they walked up the aisle with a few dozen other family members and friends.
Father Bonnar, who presided at the 80-minute funeral Mass and delivered the homily, said that in his 25 years as a priest he had "never experienced such a heart-wrenching moment."
"This is a tough time for so many," he said.
He said he has been touched by how many people have donated toy trucks in memory of Maddox. Just outside the church entrance, the bed of a pickup truck overflowed with the trucks, which will be donated to a children's Christmas charity. Thousands also have been delivered to William Slater II Funeral Service in Scott.
Father Bonnar commended the Derkosh parents for thinking of other children, even as they experienced "unspeakable suffering and pain."
"I think I speak for everyone in this church and in the community by saying that we walk with you today and promise to be here for you tomorrow and for many years to come," the pastor said.
At the end of the service, Father Bonnar read aloud a letter addressed to the Derkosh family from Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik, who spent time with the family Thursday.
The letter read, in part: "I have no doubt (and I know that you believe it so too) that dear Maddox is working hard from heaven as your new guardian angel."
Kaitlynn Riely: email@example.com or 412-263-1707. First Published November 9, 2012 5:15 AM