There were tears - and laughter - when hundreds of people said a final farewell today to a brave young man who spent most of his short life battling cancer.
Sam Hedger, who died at his home in Billingshurst on October 28, had asked people to wear his favourite colour blue at his funeral at Worthing Crematorium, and they did. There were also blue and white floral tributes.
Twenty-year-old Sam had displayed his humour to the end when he asked parents Linda and Kevin to ensure he himself was wearing his favourite T-shirt, emblazoned with the words Walking Dead.
So many people wanted to pay their respects to Sam that not all could fit into the crematorium chapel and a TV link was set up to relay the proceedings to another room, but still crowds spilled outside.
Sam had specified that he wanted a piper playing Amazing Grace as he was brought into the chapel. And more of Sam’s favourite music was played as slideshows were shown of Sam’s life during the moving service.
One of the slideshows featured Sam’s sister singing Your Are My Sunshine - a song often sung to Sam when he was younger.
Other music chosen by Sam himself included Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing, Paradise City by Guns ‘N Roses and Run by Snow Patrol.
There were also family readings, poems and photo tributes, along with many memories shared of Sam’s inspirational life.
Sam’s sisters Molly and Becky shared fond childhood memories of mischief and fun with Sam.
The service was conducted by the chaplain of children’s hospice Chestnut Tree House, the Rev Stephen Gurr, who read a letter to Sam - written by his parents Linda and Kevin - outlining how proud they were of him and how much he had filled their lives with laughter.
A special ‘memory jar’ was on hand at a gathering at Billingshurst’s Jubilee Fields after the funeral into which people were invited to place photos, memory notes and jokes they had shared with Sam.
Sam’s mum Linda had earlier shared her thanks for ‘wonderful messages’ of support on Facebook. “Sam clearly touched so many with his bravery, resilience, wonderful humour and beautiful nature,” she said.
A Facebook page called Sam’s Dreams was set up by family friend Caroline Greenfield when Sam’s condition was first diagnosed as terminal. Now money raised through the page will be donated in Sam’s memory to Southampton General Hospital, the Snowdrop Trust, Macmillan and the children’s hospice Chestnut Tree House.