Mum pays tribute to community after schoolboy Reece Holt’s funeral service

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The mum of schoolboy Reece Holt has expressed her gratitude to the community after hundreds of mourners gathered to say a final goodbye to her son after he lost his brave fight against cancer.

The 13-year-old’s mum Rachel O’Neil told those gathered at Lancaster & Morecambe Crematorium on Friday that she was “eternally proud” of her son, who passed away on January 18 after fighting Anaplastic Astrocytoma, a rare malignant brain tumour, for almost three years.

Reece's coffin is carried into the chapel. Pictured are pallbearers Stuart O'Neil, Rachel O'Neil, Martin O'Neil and Lewis Macfarlane. Photo by Mike Jackson.

Reece's coffin is carried into the chapel. Pictured are pallbearers Stuart O'Neil, Rachel O'Neil, Martin O'Neil and Lewis Macfarlane. Photo by Mike Jackson.

“We will always save a place for you at the dinner table Reece,” she said. “I am eternally proud of you, you are a true warrior, I love you very much.”

Rachel said they got through his battle through laughter.

“He would hold his breath just to see what would happen to the monitors and that’s how we got through the fight, through laughter,” she said.

She also said how Reece loved his brother Callum more than anything else.

Reece's family and friends inside the chapel at Lancaster & Morecambe Crematorium. Photo by Mike Jackson.

Reece's family and friends inside the chapel at Lancaster & Morecambe Crematorium. Photo by Mike Jackson.

“He was the first person Reece would ask for in hospital,” she said.

“He wasn’t really a computer game kid. He was a real family man, he loved having his family round for Sunday roasts but it would mean I would end up cooking for 10! He loved it.”

Dr Chris Pyle, head at Lancaster Royal Grammar School, also spoke at the service, saying Reece was “courageous beyond his years”.

“In being there Reece taught us some lessons we will never forget,” he said.

Rachel O'Neil speaks at her son Reece's funeral service. Photo by Mike Jackson.

Rachel O'Neil speaks at her son Reece's funeral service. Photo by Mike Jackson.

Rev Lorraine Moffatt added: “He is an extraordinary and inspiring young man who touched so many people.”

Reece’s love of Star Wars shone through in the Order of Service, which contained quotes including one from Obi Wan Kenobi: “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”

Another, from Yoda, read: “Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force.”

The service began with the REM song Everybody Hurts as Reece’s coffin was carried into the chapel by pallbearers including mum Rachel, dad Chris, stepdad Lewis Macfarlane and uncles Stuart O’Neil, Martin O’Neil and Dave Holt.

Reece's decorated coffin inside the chapel at Lancaster & Morecambe Crematorium. Photo by Mike Jackson.

Reece's decorated coffin inside the chapel at Lancaster & Morecambe Crematorium. Photo by Mike Jackson.

During the hour-long service, Chloe Hargreaves sang the Sarah McLachlan song, In the Arms of an Angel.

After prayers and committal, the service closed with Reece’s favourite songs, One Vision and Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen.

Earlier, Reece had been taken on his final journey dressed in his Lancaster Royal Grammar School uniform.

He was laid in a unique coffin covered in a galaxy design and adorned with photos of himself, his cat, the Team Reece charity logo and the LRGS school badge, and was carried in a white horse-drawn carriage.

The funeral procession travelled from Reece’s family home in Overton and along Morecambe promenade on its way to the crematorium.

Well-wishers lined the route to pay their respects, many of them holding gold balloons to mark childhood cancer awareness.

Reece Holt's funeral procession arrives at the crematorium.

Reece Holt's funeral procession arrives at the crematorium.

Members of the local Pebble Art group also painted stones gold with messages for Reece before laying them out along the promenade.

Those attending the funeral service were asked to wear something gold, or to dress in the Team Reece charity colours of gold, purple and green.

Children from Reece’s schools, Overton St Helen’s CE Primary School and LRGS, attended the service, and were given priority after family and friends to ensure they were able to sit inside the crematorium. Many other mourners stood outside the chapel to listen.

Collections at the funeral were for Team Reece, the children’s brain tumour and cancer charity.

Reece launched the charity himself in a bid to help other children through their battles with cancer.

A celebration of Reece’s life was held after the service at the Globe Arena, Morecambe.

Poppin’s Parties & Events decorated the room with a spectacular gold stars and planets theme, while Reece’s classmates at Lancaster Royal Grammar School made a display of planets, which will now be hung in the new Team Reece offices at White Cross in Lancaster.

After the service, Rachel expressed her gratitude to everyone in Morecambe for their support.

She said: “On the hardest day of my life I am truly humbled, honoured and proud to be a part of our community.

“They brought me to tears with the outpouring of love and respect for Reece and I will always look back on the day with a smile in my heart because of it.

“It meant the absolute world to me.”

The horse drawn carriage arrives at the crematorium. Photo by Mike Jackson.

The horse drawn carriage arrives at the crematorium. Photo by Mike Jackson.

Some of the flowers at Reece Holt's funeral service.

Some of the flowers at Reece Holt's funeral service.