There were heartbeaking scenes in Donaghcloney on Sunday as Cameron Truesdale was laid to rest.
The parents of the Waringstown 13-year-old both spoke of their son’s bravery and his love for his family.
Members of dad Hammy Truesdale’s band Downshire Guiding Star lined the route for the cortege dressed in white shirts and simple red ties.
Cameron’s school - Brownlow Integrated College - was also represented with a number of staff and pupils in attendance.
All three of the overflow halls for Donacloney Elim Church were packed to overflowing, with audio of the service relayed via speaker for those standing outside.
Cassandra Finnegan, Cameron’s mum in an emotionally charged address told mourners: “You are all I could have ever asked for in a son.”
With a mother’s grief etched deep in every gasped syllable she said: “I will love you always and forever.”
Cameron’s dad, Hammy also paid his own tribute - dressed in a Chelsea shirt with Cameron’s name on the back with the number 13 - to represent his son’s age.
He said: “My son was born at 6.21pm on Saturday, April 23, 2005, although if you talk to his mum she says it’s 6.41. So there’s too many people here Cassie so we are going to agree to 6.31 and leave it at that.
“The day he was born, believe it or not, I actually missed his birth. I had just stepped out to check the Chelsea score. Now before you judge, we were winning the league for the first time in 50 years. Cameron’s mother very kindly told him this fact and any time me and him were having a bit of backward and forwards he would always remind me that I was out checking the Chelsea score as he arrived.
“But that wasn’t the most important thing happened that day for me, my son entered the world.”
He went on: “After Cameron was born, mum needed a wee operation and I had two hours with my son and I held him in my arms and I sat and I placed my finger in his hand and he held that for two hours. I had the most precious two hours with my son.
“Of course, mum done all she could to manipulate the first word but it was ‘Da’. it was ‘Da’.”
He added: “A few instances early on in his life I want to share, one of them was when Northern Ireland were beating England, I woke him so that he could see it on TV, he had no idea what was going on, but we were beating England.
“His first steps, down in Lurgan Park with his mum... just at the end as we were going home, I don’t remember what way it went but he went from one of us to the other, For anyone here today the next time you are in Lurgan Park down at that fountain, you’ll know that’s where he took his first steps.
“When he was very young we got our first dog, Bailey, and Bailey doted on him and he doted on Bailey. Sadly Bailey passed away very young, he had cancer as well.”
He related a story when one night Cameron ‘went missing’: “Absolute panic. I have a ‘Dad’ voice, and it goes deep. That’s how I started roaring, roaring his name to know where he was, We were outside running about, screaming everywhere, police on the way, where’s Cameron - sitting under his wee table in the kitchen. Once my voice came on he didn’t want to move.
“There’s a couple of things that I’m very lucky did happen. At ten years old his mum got him a couple of bottles of non-alcoholic Kopparberg, which he liked. So one Twelfth of July Cameron joined me in the Orange Hall after the parade and he brought his two wee bottles and I sat and had my first drink with my son there. I’m not missing out on that, that’s happened.
“And just on Sunday, his mum brought him round to have his first shave,
“As I sat thinking of all the hobbies Cameron had and all the interests he had, it dawned on me they aren’t important, his family was his hobby.
“He loved being with his family, he was devoted to his sisters, he doted on his mother, he got into way too much trouble with me than I wish to admit. He went farming with David and was up to the weirdest things with Cheryl. That was that man, selfless and pure with a love for all of us.
“Cameron had many qualities and attributes, so many in fact that I couldn’t list them all. He was stubborn, he got that from his mum. He was determined, and I’m proud to say he got that from me. He was quiet, he loved alone time, he got that from his mother too. And he had this ridiculous cheeky grin, he and I heard it said he picked that up from me along the way.
“He had a massive degree of weirdness, that comes from Cheryl but he had the ability to sit back and listen, to take stock, which he got from David.
“Most of all he had love, love for his family, love for his friends.
“As Cameron got older his mum and I parted ways but I never left the children. I didn’t want to be an engineer or write a book or anything growing up. My dream was to be a father,
“I lived that dream. Wonderfully, with a son I shared all my passions with.”
He went on: “He paraded at Scarva in front of a hundred thousand people and he did that at three years old. We’ve been to Chelsea together on numerous occasions and the first time he went was over a Remembrance Sunday and he stood there proud in a Chelsea shirt with a Poppy on his chest.
“We watched the wrestling together... and every year on Wrestlemania he always wanted the day off school the next day, a long, long night. Every year he had to come with ideas to talk his mummy into letting him stay and have the day off school.
“I don’t know what I’ll do next year.
“Last year he caught his first fish out at Craigavon Lakes.
“He loved animals, loved them. We have a wee dog Lola, Lola comes to us by chance... Cameron always said Lola wasn’t his dog, he was Lola’s boy. That dog loved him. And as the stress came on, I had no choice but to let Lola go. She went to a friend. When Cameron started taking really bad, that friend released Lola. When that dog came in and jumped on his bed that child sat up. He loved her.
“Cameron always shared everyone else’s passions. He loved to spend time with every single one of us doing what we loved.., He was a family man.
“I want to touch on the achievements, just on the achievements. At first diagnosis is he spent just three nights in hospital. He breezed through his radiotherapy and was straight back to school. He successfully completed his first year with excellent grades. He ran his own tuck shop, had his own fun day when we were trying to raise money.
“He reached none months post diagnosis, he wasn’t supposed to.
“We moved to Mexico, he underwent ground breaking treatment. He then reached twelve months, he wasn’t supposed to. I was fortunate, I travelled with him as a lads’ holiday. Yes we were there for chemo, but I had three lads’ holidays with my son. That’s how we treated it. Yes we had to check in every 30 minutes with his mum but it was a lads’ holiday nonetheless.
“He navigated a full month in Mexico and big dues to his mum she navigated a full month on her own with three children.
“He successfully fought for two months with all he had and in the end he proved that DIPG did not define him, he proved his strength, his courage, his determination, his zest for life and love for his family. That’s what defined my son.”
He thanked everyone involved in the funeral, church, pastors and funeral director.
He thanked the medical staff and nurses for their professionalism and care for his son.
Hammy also paid tribute to his band Downshire Guiding Star for standing by him during the most difficult of times.
He also paid thanks to other bands and individuals and said the support had been immense.
Thanks were also expressed to family and friends for all of their support.
Paying tribute to Cameron’s stepfather, Hammy said: “To David, I want to say thankyou for loving Cam as your own. And I want to say thank you for stepping back when it was time to step back.
“I want to say thank you to Courtney and Caitlin, who I love as my own, they are wonderful girls and they loved their brother.”To my wife, Cheryl, stayed by my stayed, stayed at home as I went to Mexico. I love you. “I want to say thank you to Cassie, for giving me my children.
“I want to say thank you to Cameron, for giving me the privilege and honour to be your father, son.”
Lastly I want to thank you Chloe, you have been the ray of sunshine for all of us. Your beautiful smile and love of life has been refreshing and has kept your daddy afloat.
“I am only sorry I could not save your brother. I want you to know that I tried my best.
“You have been the forgotten child in all of this, and you stood back saying it was okay, that your brother needed us more than you did but I promised her everywhere your daddy goes you will come with me. And as you grow older always remember that your brother loved you and he is still very proud of you and so am I.”