Two brothers who were tragically killed by a python while they slept at a friend's home during a sleepover were remembered Saturday for how they touched others during their short lives.
Hundreds attended the funeral service for four-year-old Noah Barthe and his six-year-old brother Connor at St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic Church in Campbellton, N.B., where the boys were remembered for their love of video games, playing outdoors and the differences in their personalities.
Family friends Melissa Ellis and Nadine Poirier eulogized the boys together, recalling Connor's bear hugs and how Noah told his preschool teacher he wanted to be a basketball player when he grew up.
"Were they taken from us too soon? Absolutely. But how much time would have been enough?" asked Ellis.
"If people all over the world are feeling even a fraction of what we felt over the almost seven years of knowing the boys — inspired, lucky, blessed, hopeful — then our hearts are full. The boys are continuing to change people, help people and heal people's hearts, including ours."
In front of the altar was a photo of the two boys, their heads leaning against each other with broad smiles on their faces.
A single light blue casket was carried into the church, which holds about 1,200 people and was almost full to capacity. Campbellton deputy mayor Ian Comeau said the family decided to bury the boys together.
Poirier described how Connor was protective of his little brother, often letting him go first and watching out for him.
"He saw only the good in people and even if he was having a rough day, he'd tell you he had a good one," she said.
Noah was known for helping other children at his preschool.
"If you ask anyone at daycare who their best friend was, Noah was the answer," said Poirier.
"He never did anything halfway. When he did something, he did it to perfection."
Ellis said Connor was loud and Noah was quiet.
"Yet together you saw how special their bond was, and each of them needed to be near each other," she said.
Rev. Maurice Frenette told the boys' parents, Mandy Trecartin and Andrew Barthe, that their lives have been changed forever in ways no one else can imagine.
"We all try to understand the best we can, but you know, no one here can feel what you feel. But I am sure that everyone here feels for you, for what you are going through," he said.
Questions still surround the circumstances of the deaths, but before the service Frenette said the funeral was a time to help the family.
"We're not here today to make any judgment or to try to find an answer to the inquiry, but we are here to take a pause and to be with the family," he said.
"Today we want to basically be there for them and tell them of all the love we will try to share with them during this time of sorrow."
The two boys were found dead Monday morning after a 45-kilogram African rock python escaped its enclosure in the apartment where they were staying. Police say the snake slithered through a ventilation system located above its tank and fell through the ceiling into the living room where the boys slept.
Preliminary results of autopsies show the boys were asphyxiated by the python, which provincial officials have said was not permitted in New Brunswick.
On Friday, 23 reptiles that were banned without a permit in New Brunswick were seized from the store, while four large American alligators were euthanized.
The apartment and store are owned by Jean-Claude Savoie, a family friend of the boys who took them shopping and to a farm before the sleepover on Sunday with his son. Savoie has not returned repeated messages seeking comment.
During a stop in New Brunswick on Friday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper expressed his condolences to the family of the boys and said the federal government would review what happened to determine whether it should play a role in the regulation of exotic pet shops.
Comeau said Campbellton and other municipalities should await the outcome of the police investigation before changing regulations.
"We don't want to make any decisions yet," he said. "I know it is something that will be on the agendas of many, many municipalities ... looking at what can be done to prevent such a tragedy."