Hundreds of mourners turned out to pay their respects at the funeral of four-year-old cancer victim Jessica Whelan.
Jessica, from Oswaldtwistle, who had been suffering from stage four neuroblastoma, died on Sunday, November 20.
Members of the public let off balloons as a procession led by police horses made its way down Stone Bridge Lane, along Heys Lane and Catlow Hall Street to Saint Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, in Oswaldtwistle, where more than 400 family, friends and acquaintances said their goodbyes to the fun-loving little girl who touched the hearts of people across the world.
Her father Andy Whelan said: “It was overwhelming to see that amount of people in the church. The amount of support people have shown makes me very emotional, I just had to look down through my tears. “We’ve been to see her daily at the funeral director’s and saw her yesterday one last time to hold her hand and give her a kiss.”
Angel keyrings made by Jessica’s schoolfriends at St Mary’s RC Primary School in Oswaldtwistle were handed to mourners.
Wearing a pink tie, dad Andy Whelan left the church with mum Nicki Prendergast, behind a pink coffin with a handwritten message from Jessica’s grandparents reading: “Your heart was ready but ours were not, sleep well Princess, love always”.
The procession then continued along Howarth Street, Union Road, Dill Hall Lane to Queens Road West, Queens Road and Burnley Road. It was met at the gates to Accrington cemetery by Jessica’s favourite horses from Accrington Riding Centre, ‘Jessie’ and ‘Bobbysox’. Along with police horses, they led mourners to the crematorium for a private service for friends and family. Singer Ellie Goulding’s ‘How Long I Love You’ and the classic ‘You Are My Sunshine’ played as those gathered joined in a celebration of brave Jessica’s life.
Andy said: “Jessica’s mum sang ‘You Are My Sunshine’ to her every night at the end. We’ll never get over losing her but if, in her short lifetime, she’s managed to inspire people to do more research into childhood cancers and if her organs help someone, that gives us a little comfort.”
Jessica’s organs and tissues will be donated to the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.