The mother of murdered teenager Jon-Jo Highton admitted she was “overwhelmed” by the outpouring of love for her son on the anniversary of his death.
Tracey Highton led a “celebration of his life” at the 18-year-old’s graveside in Preston Cemetery where more than 50 family and friends released balloons in his memory.
“I expected a lot of people, but it was just so overwhelming,” she said. “Jon-Jo was loved by so many people, but he never knew that. To see so many people there was very touching.
“It was a bittersweet moment for all of us who knew and loved him. It was a celebration of his life, not his death, and for the 18 years that he gave us.”
Many of those who gathered at the graveside wore T-shirts with the message “RIP Jon-Jo” and bearing his photograph.
With mum Tracey were big brother Byron, Jon-Jo’s partner C-Jay and their three-year-old son Taylor, who was clutching a yellow rose.
It was raining at the cemetery. But just as we were about to release the balloons it stopped. It was a very moving moment.Tracey Highton
A message attached to a balloon released by Tracey read: “My beautiful darling baby boy. No words can describe how much my heart is broken without you. I hope you know how much I loved you and still do. Life will never be the same.
“Please give me the strength to live. I promise I will look after Taylor.”
Afterwards she said: “It was raining at the cemetery. But just as we were about to release the balloons it stopped. It was a very moving moment.”
The family and friends later gathered in Deepdale at the spot where Jon-Jo was murdered.
At exactly 11.19pm, the moment he was brutally attacked, they released Chinese lanterns and lit candles.
Tracey said: “I think I will always have to do something on this day every year to remember Jon-Jo.
“But at the moment it is still so raw and I will need to give it some thought when I’m feeling in a better place.”