Oscar Knox: Mum and dad of little superhero get standing ovation at 'Mass of Angels'
The parents of Northern Ireland's inspirational superhero wee Oscar Knox received a standing ovation in church yesterday as they paid highly emotional tributes to their "wonderful and special" son at his funeral service.
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and boxing champion Carl Frampton were among nearly 1,500 people who applauded Stephen and Leona Knox after they fought back tears to praise the five-year-old boy who died on Thursday after a two-and-a-half year struggle against neuroblastoma, a rare and aggressive cancer.
It was the first time they had talked publicly about their courageous son who touched the hearts of hundreds of thousands of people after his family launched a massive social media drive to heighten awareness of the disease and to raise money.
At the end of the 'Mass of the Angels' for Oscar at St Bernard's Church at Glengormle,y where Olympic medal-winning boxer Paddy Barnes read one of the prayers, Stephen Knox said: "Oscar meant the world and more to me and Leona. But in all honesty there are no words that could ever do him justice.
"He was kind, caring, sensitive, loving, smart, mischievous and unbelievably funny. He was the most wonderful little personality and he had an uncanny ability to wrap people around his little finger within seconds of meeting them – particularly female nurses."
He said Oscar had spent half of his five years battling cancer. "He has seen things that no child should ever have to see; he has felt pain that no child should ever have to feel. But he endured it all with the most amazing courage and determination to win.
"Sadly for Oscar it wasn't to be but his fights touched the hearts of people the world over and he has achieved much more in his five-and-a-half short years than many of us could ever hope to achieve in a lifetime."
Stephen said words couldn't express how proud his family were of "their incredible little boy".
He added: "I love you wee man. Best muckers for ever."
Leona said Oscar might have died two-and-a-half years ago.
"But Oscar put on a brave face, fought hard and gave us so much more wonderful time with him. Thank you wee man," she said.
Leona said that what made her and her husband particularly proud was that everyone he met, he made a better person.
She said she recently explained to her son that he would be going to heaven by speaking to him about his favourite film Peter Pan.
"We talked to him a few weeks ago about going on a journey to Neverland. We explained that in Neverland there are no sore knees, no sore heads and no sore tummies," she told mourners.
"Oscar had always told us that when he grew up he wanted to drive a big green tractor instead of a car and he was so excited to hear that Old McDonald lives in Neverland and allowed people to drive his big green tractor if they were five-and-a-half." But Leona said the best thing for Oscar about Neverland was the prospect of it having the biggest dodie (dummy) shop in the world and he would get a new dodie every day.
"When we got to this point in our story, Oscar took his dodie out of his mouth, had the biggest smile and said: 'This is the best day of my life'."
After the service, there was a private cremation for Oscar.
Since his death, more than £25,000 has been raised through a special Just Giving page after the Knox family asked for donations to made in lieu of flowers to the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children and the Northern Ireland Children's Hospice where he died.
Dozens of mourners wore football, GAA, rugby and ice hockey tops at the funeral after Oscar's parents said they wanted it to be a colourful celebration of his life.
Last night Leona tweeted: "Thanks guys, you did it! Absolutely took my breath away. Sorry @Wee_Oscar soaked you all! #TeamOscarForever."
Boxer Carl Frampton, who wore a Crusaders football jersey, said: "The service was a fitting tribute to a brave wee man."
He later revealed he was going to donate blood as his own way of honouring Oscar.
There were also emotional scenes at Parkhead yesterday afternoon where Celtic FC players wore black armbands and a tribute was shown on big screens before the game against Dundee United.
Back in Belfast, the tributes continued last night when City Hall was lit up teal and yellow – the colours associated with the Oscar Knox Appeal – after agreement from all political parties.
And the night skies were filled with Chinese lanterns when hundreds were released in tribute to Oscar.