Friends and family remembered many things about 8-year-old Khalil Singleton at his funeral Saturday.
His love of baseball.
His love of books and learning.
His kindness to classmates.
But most of all, they remembered his smile: the wide, welcoming grin with which he greeted everyone.
Mourners gathered Saturday at Mount Carmel Baptist Center in Ridgeland to remember the child killed Sept. 1 in the crossfire of a gun battle on Hilton Head Island as he played with friends in his grandmother's front yard.
They filled two sections of 15 rows of seats, each 15 chairs wide. They stood at the back of the church and along the wall and spilled over into a kitchen area.
Flower arrangements with wide, white ribbons that read: "my brother," "our nephew," "my grandson" and "our teammate" covered the front of the church, flanking the small white-and-gold casket. One arrangement had flowers that were the colors of one of Khalil's baseball teams -- blue and orange -- and was adorned with a team picture. Another had a red baseball bat nestled among the petals.
The front page of his memorial program showed Khalil, his famous smile on display, in a blue-and-white baseball uniform, his bat held high above his right shoulder, poised to swing for the fences.
"This guy played all day long, 100 percent," family friend and baseball coach Ronnie Moore said. "We might not understand why you left us so soon or why you left us before we were ready to say goodbye, but ... you have given us memories too beautiful to forget."
Khalil's parents, Kareem and Katrina Singleton, nodded, smiled at the memory those words recalled and wiped away tears.
Jill McAden, principal at Hilton Head Island Elementary School, where Khalil was a third-grader, said his smile and the kindness behind it lit up his classes.
"It would be an understatement to say Khalil was liked at school," McAden said. "He was loved."
Turning to Khalil's parents, she then read a handmade card from one of Khalil's schoolmates.
"He was my best friend," McAden read. "Well, he was everyone's best friend. ... He was a kind boy and kind to everyone in school."
The card recounts how Khalil gave up his recess to keep a classmate with a broken collarbone company.
"Khalil is always in your heart," the schoolmate wrote. "And I know this because I feel it, and I am only in the third grade."
As that part of the card was read, mourners seemed to sigh collectively, the soft sound one of heartbreak and loss.
As the child's father sobbed quietly, Elder Raymond J. Hamilton read a statement Kareem Singleton had written.
"You were my son, my heart, my mini-me," Hamilton read. "Although I am broken and hurt, it is gratifying to know God wanted you to be with Him."
At the end of the service, as the casket was rolled from the front of the church, parents and grandparents hugged their children tightly, holding them close as they swayed to the music of the choir.
Follow reporter Anne Christnovich at twitter.com/IPBG_CrimeNOB