Smiles for Jess
HUGE TURNOUT FOR FUNERAL OF BRAVE YOUNG GIRL WHO ASKED FOR A FUN FAREWELL
A HUGE turn-out of people came to pay their respects at the funeral of brave schoolgirl Jess Shepherd who died after a long battle with a rare cancer.
The 10-year-old, from Ruislip Gardens, passed away on September 7 after battling neuroblastoma, which mainly affects babies and young children, for seven years .
When Jess, who had a “zest for life”, and her famly were told the heartbreaking news that her condition was terminal, the young girl decided she wanted to plan her own “FUNeral”, including picking her favourite song ‘Roar’ by Katy Perry to be played at the ceremony.
The funeral was held on a beautiful autumn afternoon at Breakspear Crematorium, in Ruislip, on Thursday September 27.
An overflow area in the north chapel was made available for members of the public who wish to attend and pay their respects without a personal invitation.
‘She was very brave’
Jess’ grandmother, Louise Walker, paid tribute to the young girl who was “always smiling”.
“She had little sayings like ‘don’t be sad, it’s a waste of a day’ and ‘if you worry, you can’t enjoy life’ and she really did live exactly how she said things. She tried not to worry, she was a very brave girl,” Louise said.
“Jess inspired other people, they would say that if she could manage then so could they.”
Get West London was invited to attend the funeral by Jess’ family and we were able to share updates from the day for those who could not be there in person.
Amazing and colourful tributes were given in memory of Jess at her funeral. Her favourite colour, pink, was the major colour picked for the lovely flowers placed in her honour.
Jess’ grandmother Louise Walker has thanked all the people who have decorated Haresfield and Ruislip “so beautifully” in pink.
She said: “You made us cry in the car all the way here.”
She also thanked Jess’ school in Harefield. “She loved school so much, and they supported her so so well. I do not think a day ever went by when she did not want to be at school. There were times when I had to say you are not going and she would not speak to me for hours.”
“Biggest thanks is to Jess’s medical teams who have worked tirelessly over the last four years.
“Her consultant went above and beyond and tried every single thing to get her into remission, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be.”
She had little sayings like ‘don’t be sad – it’s a waste of a day’ and ‘if you worry, you can’t enjoy life’
‘You’re gonna hear me roar’
Roar’ by Katy Perry was played at the service.
Celebrant Karen Hopkins said the song had “lyrics which could have been written for Jess” hada special significance, partly as Jess’ favourite song, but even more so after Katy Perry dedicated a performance of the song to the brave youngster back in June.
Many celebrities sent Jess special messages of support after being con- tacted by her family and friends via social media.
Comedian David Walliams, BBC radio DJ Sara Cox and Colleen Rooney all replied to requests to tweet Jess with heartfelt messages of admiration and support.
The song ‘Circle of Life’, famous from the Lion King soundtrack, has been played to start the service.
Jess’s mum Danielle said a short prayer and she told those gathered: “I want to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for all the support you have shown Jess over the years. Despite the hand she was dealt, she always insisted on living life to the fullest”.
Flowers spelling out ‘Jessica’ are displayed in the window of the hearse, with more flowers spelling out ‘roar’.
The community in Harefield got together to decorate as much of the area as possible in pink in memory of Jess.
Suzy Flood, who took the photos, wrote on social media: “Moved beyond words today.
”When a little girl’s smile and laughter brought a village, and people from across the world, together. Pink ribbons have been put up in Harefield in honour and memory of the very beautiful Jess who tragically lost her battle with neuroblastoma, age 10. RIP beautiful.”
Louise Walker, Jess’s grandmother, said: “Since her death, we have had amazing support, especially in Harefield and Ruislip. I have not seen it myself but I’m told Harefield has gone completely pink for her because it was her favourite colour and Ruislip is doing the same.
“Jess organised her own funeral when she realised that there was not anymore hope.
“We had lots of difficult conversations and she told us exactly what she wanted, which made it less hard for us
“She said she did not want anyone to be sad and she wanted them to have fun, although I told her I couldn’t promise that no one would cry.
“She chose her own music, including her favourite song ‘Roar’ by Katy Perry, which she always said was written about her, because she wanted a lot of dancing.”
IMAGES: JAKE DARLING
Brave Jess Shepherd, 10, said she didn’t want people to be sad at her funeral and decided there should be colour and music there
There were tears at the service but also moments of the joy inspired by Jess