Dylan Christopher "Jack" Hockley was born at Winchester Hospital in England on March 8, 2006. He moved with his family to the United States in January 2011 as they relocated to Newtown, Connecticut.
On December 14, 2012 Dylan was killed in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary alongside 19 of his first grade classmates and six brave educators. Seven days later, his life was remembered by family and friends at a Celebration of Life Service held at Walnut Hill Community Church in Bethel.
We are grateful to all the members of the Church who worked so hard to create this tribute to our special little boy, and everyone who came forward to share their memories of Dylan, many of which you can read below. Niro's beautiful re-imagining of "Hallelujah", once heard will never be forgotten.
After the service, Dylan's big brother Jake released 26 balloons for the victims of the shooting while the pipers of the New York & New Jersey Port Authority Band played "Amazing Grace"; 20 purple balloons for the children and 6 white ones for the teachers. Jake held on to Dylan's balloon and released that last of all.
Video: Memories of Dylan
"Somewhere Over The Rainbow/ What A Wonderful World" by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole
Compiled by Pete Briggs
Special Reading: Alex Gormley, "I'm Still Here"
Friend, please don’t mourn for me
I’m still here, though you don’t see.
I’m right by your side each night and day
And within your heart I long to stay.
My body is gone but I’m always near.
I’m everything you feel, see or hear.
My spirit is free, but I’ll never depart
As long as you keep me alive in your heart.
I’ll never wander out of your sight-
I’m the brightest star on a summer night.
I’ll never be beyond your reach-
I’m the warm moist sand when you’re at the beach.
I’m the colorful leaves when Autumn’s around
and the pure white snow that blankets the ground.
I’m the beautiful flowers of which you’re so fond,
The clear cool water in a quiet pond.
I’m the first bright blossom you’ll see in the spring,
The first warm raindrop that April will bring.
I’m the first ray of light when the sun starts to shine,
And you’ll see that the face in the moon is mine.
When you start thinking there’s no one to love you,
You can talk to me through the Lord above you.
I’ll whisper my answer through the leaves on the trees,
And you’ll feel my presence in the soft summer breeze.
I’m the hot salty tears that flow when you weep
And the beautiful dreams that come while you sleep.
I’m the smile you see on a baby’s face.
Just look for me, friend, I’m everyplace.
Reflections: Diane Dorman
I first met Dylan when he was 8 weeks old during my interview to be his nanny. I instantly fell in love with him, Jake, Ian and Nicole. I was so pleased to be offered the job, starting in June 2006 and spending the first 3 months working alongside Nicole who was still on maternity leave, getting to know the family.
Dylan and Jake loved the rides at Paulton’s Park, a local Theme park, and I suffered seven rides in a row on “The Stinger”, ending up feeling really sick and the boys still wanting more.
Dylan loved routine and repetition and this extended to all things and in particular DVDs. Up, Wall-E, and The Gruffalo were watched so often he could stand in front of the TV acting out The Gruffalo as it played.
Fridays were chill out days meeting up with other nannies and their children. To start with Dylan would just sit and watch the other children but as time went on, he began to play alongside and occasionally join in with the other children. He idolized his big brother Jake and always tried to keep up with him, sneakily practicing things like the Wii on his own until he could do it perfectly and then show everyone.
Dylan would often sit and watch Jake, Andrew and Ollie play and run around – they always tried to out do each other in making him laugh. Hide and Seek was another favorite game with neither Ollie nor Dylan able to keep quiet whilst hiding – often shouting out “here I am”.
Like all young children, Jake and Dylan loved playing with boxes and when the new car seats arrived in big boxes, we’d spend all afternoon singing Jack-in-the-Box songs and jumping out the boxes.
Reflections: Lin Trott
Nicole and I first met when working together at Norwich Union Healthcare and our friendship really blossomed over our desire to start at family. We both found ourselves pregnant within weeks of each other. Jake and Andrew were born within days of each other and our families bonded over the next 2 years.
I was pregnant with Ollie when Dylan was born and I remember the first time I saw him in the special care baby unit he was so small. Our four boys became close friends over the next few years and enjoyed many play dates including visits to local attractions with Diane, or Nicole and Ian. One time we had a proper English picnic on a freezing cold day at sandpit in the New Forest – as always I took far too much food and our picnic for 4 fed all 8 of us.
D had a love affair with certain foods and he knew what he liked and only liked what he knew. One memorable birthday party Nicole made a special chocolate cake; it was an amazing creation and looked delicious. All four boys kept asking for a slice and eventually the candles were lit, blown out and the cake cut. D was given the first slice and took a bite, instantly he screamed and burst into tears. Concerned and confused we all gathered round but we were unable to discover the problem until one by one each of the boys tried a slice of the cake – much as the cake looked delicious – is was not! I don’t think that D ever tried chocolate cake again.
We had a weekend away camping in Wiltshire and an image that sticks with both Keith and I is of Dylan and Ollie sitting on the table in our caravan bouncing along to the Dubliners – “All for me grog”, not exactly the most appropriate song for two young kids!
There are so many amazing memories like this that we all have and can take comfort from over the coming months but for me and Keith the most precious of these is the week we spent together in San Diego this summer. It had been nearly 2 years since we had seen each other and I was concerned that D might have forgotten our closeness, but within hours all 4 boys were in the pool, Jake, Andrew and Ollie jumping around like mad things and D holding tight to the edge. I managed to convince him to try Andrew’s floaties but there was no way he was letting go of the side. Over the next dew days whenever he thought nobody was looking he would try a little paddle or grab for a float. Such was D’s determination to join in that despite his fear by the end of the week we made a whole length together.
D was the most amazing little boy, his loving nature, and his smile could light up a room and his memory will live on in the hearts of everyone who met him.
Reflections: Donna Barbagallo
Ian, Nicole, & Jake ~ Thank you very much for inviting me to speak about Dylan. I feel so very honored.
Hello everyone. My name is Donna Barbagallo, and our family came to be friends with the Hockleys when they first moved here from England not too long ago. Their son Jake was placed in our son Max’s 1st grade class, and they have been fast friends ever since. They soon began to have playdates at each other’s houses, and that is how I first met sweet Dylan.
I began to see him regularly as Jake & Max became better friends, and I found myself actually staying during the playdates (rather than just dropping him off) because Nicole was always so kind, by offering me a cup of tea and allowing me to talk with her as long as I wanted. Those shared moments were lovely.
So as we came around more often to their house, I started interacting with Dylan more frequently. And there was just something special about this boy that drew me to him. He was such a “bright light”. Upon ringing the doorbell, I would look through the slim glass panes on either side of their front door, and watch for his beautiful little face to pop up. And he’d always say loudly, “Donna!” “Donna’s here.” And I was instantly filled with happiness each time. (Who doesn’t love a reaction like that!?) But what I found most endearing, is that Dylan continued to greet me like that each time I came. It didn’t matter if I saw him an hour before, or 5 days ago, he would still give me this enthusiastic welcome every single time. And truth be told, when my husband Tony would offer to pick up Max from his playdate, I would always jump up, grab my keys, run for the door & say, “No thanks Babe....I’ll go get him.” Because I selfishly longed to receive that joy that Dylan had in store for me.
Dylan used to come over to our house sometimes too. So while the boys would play Wii games, Dylan liked to watch movies. We have this little portable DVD player that we use for long car rides, but when Dylan came over, he used it to watch movies because the boys monopolized the TV in order to play the Wii. Dylan would select his favorite movie and put on his big headphones, and he was good to go. But the best part of those memories, was remembering what Dylan would do while he watched the movie. He’d find a funny part that he really liked, and he’d just keep rewinding that section & play it over and over and over again...all the while laughing himself silly. His laugh was completely contagious, and we all found ourselves laughing along side him, even without seeing or hearing the movie. The genuine joy in his voice and the sheer delight of those cartoons, was happiness in its purest form. And he shared that joy with us, by just being himself.
When I close my eyes and picture Dylan, it’s hard for me to think of him in any other way than happy. But then again, why wouldn’t he be? He had 2 loving parents (chosen especially by God) and a kind, protective big brother who adored him immensely. Jake, I hope you realize what a blessing you were to Dylan...and you should take comfort in knowing that he loved you SO very much. As I look at all those beautiful pictures of you two together (from the photo boards & on the video screen) I can truly see just how much joy you gave to him as well. You were a wonderful, wonderful big brother.
We will all miss him dearly, and we feel so fortunate to have gotten to know him, even if just for that short amount of time. We are forever changed by his presence. He taught us to be joyful, to laugh hard, to seek pleasure in little things, to welcome each other enthusiastically, and to love deeply. I know it feels like there’s a dark shadow hanging over us, but a sweet friend of mine from my bible study class reminded me that: “Wherever there is shadow, there also is LIGHT.”
I know it’s going to take a lot of time for our hearts to heal, and rightly so. We can’t always be strong, but what we can do is always strive to have the courage to hope!
Hope for a better day, hope for a moment of happiness, hope for a sense of peace. I promise to honor your son by finding a moment of happiness each & every day: by thinking of a special memory, or giving a hug to a friend, or in believing God’s promises. Cling to those closest around you & lean on them, because we are all here for your sweet family. We are here, we are here, we are here. And we love you.
In closing, I just wanted to end by reading a bible verse from Joshua 1:9 ~
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."
Song: Dylan's Hallelujah
Sung by Niro Feliciano, accompanied by William Kadeg
Lyrics adapted by Dushyanthi Satchi
Sung to Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah"
It’s calm, it’s clear, it’s a peaceful day
Walking through the heavenly gates
Hand in hand with teachers and my friends
Our laughter ringing in the air
The sweetest music everywhere
The angels welcome us with Hallelujah
Though you think we’re worlds apart
We’re not so far, you’re in my heart
Every night I’ll sing to you this song
On heaven’s trampoline I fly
Soaring through a purple sky
Singing down to you my Hallelujah
Mrs. Murphy’s here with me
She’s happy too, now don’t you see
Together we are playing on the moon
So when you see those beams of light
Know they’re shining from my smile
With all my heart I love you, Hallelujah
Video: Life of Dylan
"Songbird" by Eva Cassidy
Compiled by Pete Briggs
Parents Eulogy: Nicole & Ian Hockley
Thank you for joining us today to celebrate Dylan’s life. Though his life was so much shorter than any of us would have hoped, there is still so much to celebrate.
But before we speak of Dylan, there are other things we want to share.
First, we must give thanks. There are so very many people who have come together to support our community through this tragedy. From state and federal organizations, emergency services and first responders, to individual acts of kindness the list seem endless. We wanted to express our gratitude to everyone involved in the efforts to support the many families affected by this tragedy and to put Sandy Hook and Newtown back together.
In those first days, we had to turn off the television to avoid confused reporting and sensationalism. However, this meant we also missed the heart warming stories from around the world of communities that extended aid and prayers to our town. The benefits of social media came to the fore here, as friends unconsciously filtered the news by sharing only positive messages.
We have received fantastic counseling, on both an emotional and spiritual level. By exploring the experiences and feelings of this past week we’ve gained new perspectives about Dylan and the events that have happened. We thank them for guiding us here.
With foresight the authorities provided The Families with dedicated police support. I want to publicly acknowledge “Trooper Greg”, as he has become known to everyone in our circle. He is now part of our extended family and we are thankful he is with us.
I have been an IBMer for 14 years now, almost to the day. “Support” is an inadequate word to describe how the people of IBM have carried us through this week. I have also received messages from my colleagues around the world. Never more than right now has it felt like a family itself.
There are so many friends who helped us in this first week, providing accommodation, food and a shoulder to cry on. Many more stand ready to help in the coming weeks, as the media frenzy dies down and the community rebuilds. We thank all of those.
We give thanks to the teachers and administration of Sandy Hook Elementary School. Those who protected the children that survived, including Dylan’s older brother Jake, and those who selflessly died trying to save so many. You are forever in our hearts.
Though no one death is more or less significant than another, we must give tribute to one person. Mrs. Anne Marie Murphy was a special education teacher and Dylan’s aide. Her role was to look after Dylan - support him when he needed it and encourage his independence when he didn’t. I had the privilege to meet Mrs. Murphy a few times. I was struck by her warmth and kindness. Meeting her family this week, I am struck by those same qualities in them. Dylan and Mrs. Murphy had a special bond. Dylan looked at his class picture on our refrigerator every day, smiled and said, “There’s my class! There’s Mrs. Murphy!” Last Friday at the firehouse, I looked for Mrs. Murphy, knowing that no matter what, she would be with Dylan. When I was informed of his death and the many others, I dared to hope that Mrs. Murphy would be alive, but in my heart knew she would not have left him. Her family confirmed to us that she died trying to protect Dylan and knowing that eased our pain, because whatever else had happened, Dylan had not been alone. We offer our condolences to Mrs. Murphy’s family, and our heartfelt thanks to her for looking after our little boy in death as in life.
Next, let’s speak of change.
As part of the mobile generation, my entire calendar resides solely on my iPhone. I looked at my calendar yesterday for the first time this week, and read I had ironically entered today as “the end of the world” based on theories around the Mayan calendar. I do not believe today is the end of the world. I believe it is the start of something new. It is the end of a very long week; a week that began in tragedy and is now ending with so many of our beloved children and teachers having been laid to rest. But the sun will rise again tomorrow. Tomorrow will be the start of a new period of healing, of peace and of positive change. I don’t know what that change will be, but I think it is very fitting that this new change, this new beginning, comes from a peaceful, quiet place aptly named “New”town.
Dylan’s big brother, Jake, asked us a question over breakfast yesterday. He asked, “Why is everyone around the world talking about this?” A relative of mine provided the answer. The world is talking because of the children. Even in horror movies and violent video games, it is unacceptable to kill children. People might want to be scared or thrilled, but they do not want to lose faith in humanity.
I have not lost my faith in humanity. The overwhelming amount of support from family, friends, neighbors, colleagues and our beloved community is proof of the inherently benevolent and good nature of people. The acts of kindness and solidarity that we’ve heard taking place around the world have amazed us.
In truth, this has been difficult for our family to comprehend. We isolated ourselves in the first few days after Dylan’s death. This was just about our little family and our huge sense of loss. But now that we’ve emerged from our cocoon, we are starting to understand and appreciate how what happened last week is starting to change the world.
Finally, let us remember Dylan.
Dylan “helped” us choose Sandy Hook to settle in. We were relocating from the UK in January 2011, the Big Snow. While house hunting I had toured towns across Westchester and Fairfield counties, and Newtown just felt “right”. I visited Sandy Hook school, met the staff and dear Dawn Hochsprung, saw the special needs facilities and knew this was right for both our sons; that Dylan would flourish here. As we said in our statement we will never regret this decision.
Today you’ve heard our friends share some of their fond memories of Dylan. Earlier this week, Dylan’s grandparents spoke of their love and memories of Dylan. For us, we remember his smile. His laugh. His love of bouncing on trampolines and eating chocolate. His beautiful eyes and mischievous grin. His deep empathy in reacting to the feelings of others. His favorite books. The giant purple dots he made almost every day at school. His sensitivity to loud noises and his love of routine. His computer games and his most loved movies. The way he would lie in the warm sand at the beach, or take joy in finding the moon in the sky. How he called lightning “beautiful”, even while he was scared by the thunder. How he would ride a rollercoaster time after time and still not want to get off. The way other children were drawn to him, and how he wanted to play with them so much, even though he didn’t always know how. The way he loved to cuddle, have his back stroked, be tickled, or use other people as pillows when he snuggled against them.
Not all children on the autism spectrum enjoy being touched, so we felt very lucky that Dylan loved to cuddle. Though we always felt Dylan was a bit special, discovering he was autistic was difficult for us at first. With the support of the school, Dylan’s development was progressing strongly and we began to believe he could be capable of an independent life in the future. Having a child with special needs in your family has its challenges and compromises. But it also adds so much happiness and strength. Dylan was pure, innocent and joyful and in trying to see the world from his point of view, our family’s mind was opened in ways it might not have been otherwise. He helped us to be stronger people than we might have been without him.
A fund has been created in Dylan’s name to benefit children with autism and other special needs. Over time the independent trustees will take guidance on how to maximize the impact of the donations and contribute to the change that this tragedy is driving across the world.
Like many people on the spectrum, Dylan demonstrated several aspects of repetitive movement. Autistic individuals are sometimes known to rock their bodies, roll their heads or flap their hands. Dylan was a flapper. Whenever he got excited or happy, he jumped up and down and flapped as fast as he could. One day I asked Dylan, “Why do you flap?” In all honesty, because Dylan had under-developed language skills, I wasn’t expecting him to answer. But he did. He said, “Because I am a beautiful butterfly.”
It has been said that something as small as a butterfly flapping its wings can cause a hurricane halfway around the world. That a small change or single occurrence in one place can result in large differences elsewhere. It redefines the future.
Dylan is our butterfly. All of the children and adults who lost their lives last week are our butterflies. And if one butterfly can cause a hurricane, then 26 butterflies can change the world.
As parents, we all advocate on behalf of our children every day. Because of Dylan’s special needs, we advocated for him even more strongly. Today we celebrate the life he had. After tomorrow we will continue to advocate for Dylan and all the children and adults who’s lives were lost here, to make a change so that their deaths were not in vain. Earlier this week at the vigil, President Obama said “These tragedies must end, and to end them, we must change.”
That’s why I believe something positive will come from this. I refuse to accept this as a “senseless tragedy”. I believe Dylan and the others that died with him are catalysts. And while I selfishly wish my child was still here with me, and while I fear the empty space in my heart may never be filled, I am also at peace, taking comfort in the knowledge that his death will have meaning. There will be a positive change from this and we will be part of it. Newtown, will be part of it.
We’ll miss you Dylan. But we thank you for the happiness you brought to us and so many others. We thank you for filling our hearts and for opening our eyes to new perspectives. We thank you for being a wonderful son and awesome little brother. And we thank you and your friends for the legacy you will leave behind. You are in all our hearts and minds, forever. We love you so much, Dylan, our beautiful, beautiful butterfly.