When a neighbor of Misti and Amir Hassan glanced out of his window last week, he saw Amir dressed in a cape and holding a rail spike in one hand. Amir peered over the balcony of his apartment and then tossed the spike, which was attached to a long rope, into the yard below.
The neighbor went outside and asked Amir what he was doing.
“I’m an elf, and I’m doing magic,” Amir replied.
This story was one of the many examples of Amir’s creativity, wisdom, kindness and sense of humor shared by teachers, friends and family members at a memorial service Friday. Police found Amir, 9, dead in his apartment last Wednesday. Amir’s mother, Misti, has been charged with his murder and will enter her plea Nov. 16.
More than 70 people gathered at the Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland for Amir’s service, which was hosted by Amir’s father, Chad Reed, and his family. Although a media frenzy accompanied Misti’s hearing on Thursday, only one photographer and one cameraman attended the ceremony. No one mentioned Misti or spoke about the circumstances of Amir’s death.
Somber attendees, dressed mostly in gray and black, filed into the stone chapel just before 1 p.m. Several children attended the service, including one boy who wore a white T-shirt emblazoned with Amir’s photograph and the line, “In memory of Amir Hassan.”
Each person received a program filled with pictures of Amir smiling, playing with toys, holding a soccer ball and playing a guitar. A poem Amir had written about himself with the lines “Who would like to see Ozzy Osbourne in Concert, the next Woodstock, the Police live and world peace” was printed on the back.
Jazz music played by a live band accompanied the quiet chatter and occasional baby’s cry until Reverend Anthony Jenkins, dressed in a long, white robe, rose to deliver the opening prayer. Jenkins reminded the attendees that they were there not to be sad, but to “celebrate Amir’s life and begin to move forward.”
Amir’s uncle, Carlos Reed, then displayed a slideshow, which began with pictures of Amir as a baby in a hospital bed and proceeded chronologically through his short life, while The Police’s “Every Step You Take” and Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower” played. In each picture, Amir wore a giant grin and a mop of curly brown hair that fanned out like a halo at least three inches above his head. Most pictures showed Amir by himself, although Chad Reed, Carlos Reed, his aunt Ayanna Reed and his younger sisters Maya and Bella Reed occasionally appeared with him. Only one photo showed Misti holding Amir as a baby and kissing the side of his head.
The remainder of the service was filled mostly with personal reflections from any of the attendees who wanted to share a memory of Amir. Ten people rose to speak, including his neighbors, teachers, parents of his friends, his uncle, and Susan Hodge, the principal of Amir’s school, Emerson Elementary School.
“Amir was only called to my office once,” Hodge said. “It was for making the ‘rock on’ hand signal in his class photograph.”
Hodge held out her hand with her thumb and pinky finger extended to demonstrate while the other attendees laughed.
“I remember there was a girl in Amir’s class who was being a bit of a bully,” Hodge continued. “We were talking about what we could do with his class and Amir said, ‘She just hasn’t been loved enough. If we love her more, that will help her.’”
Others spoke about Amir’s intelligence and wisdom, commenting that talking to him often felt like talking to an adult.
“A few weeks ago I saw him, and we were talking and got on the subject of toys,” said a man who introduced himself only as a friend of Amir’s uncle. “He told me, ‘You know, I don’t really like to shop at Toys ‘R’ Us or those other big stores. I like to shop in smaller stores that are more a part of the community.’”
Jackson, the pastor, closed the service with a speech about how everyone needs to follow the example of Amir and love each other more.
“The only thing that Amir gave was love,” Jackson said in a booming voice. “Let’s not leave here today without learning from him that we all need to give our love more. That’s what Amir did, and that’s the message we can take from his life.”