Poignant scenes as Ryan (4) is laid to rest after short illness
Mourners gathered in their hundreds in east Belfast yesterday for the funeral of four-year-old Ryan Ross who died on Sunday after a short battle with leukaemia.
The service was held in his home in Gawn Street while outside a crowd of more than 300 waited in silence while small groups took turns to go inside and pay their respects to the family.
A white coffin with red roses on top was carried out by Ryan's father Gary and his older brothers Aaron (19) and Dylan (14).
His mother Julie and sister Olivia followed.
Chelsea were Ryan's favourite football team, and a floral tribute in the club's royal blue was displayed spelling the young boy's name, with another saying 'Brother'.
As the coffin was taken down Gawn Street two-year-old Olivia - with whom he was especially close - was carried behind her father and brothers.
The huge crowd followed before the funeral cortege proceeded to the burial at Roselawn.
Earlier in the week Gary told the Belfast Telegraph that he and Julie had been totally shocked by the sudden nature of Ryan's illness.
Just weeks ago he had been running around in his Chelsea shirt playing with his sister.
Gary said: "We're still trying to come to terms with our loss. It's very, very hard.
"Ryan was so full of life. He was a lovely boy to have around and he was so loved by all his friends at school, his family and all our friends."
Ryan had been attending preschool at the Carew II centre on Tamar Street and was looking forward to starting primary school this year.
Gary added: "He was a normal four-year-old boy and he enjoyed life to the max. He loved his sister and they always had a ball together."
At the end of last month his parents had taken Ryan to their GP after the youngster felt tired and rundown, and had trouble sleeping.
He was initially diagnosed with anaemia, but a second blood test revealed that he had leukaemia and he was taken for treatment at the Royal Victoria Hospital.
Having started chemotherapy a few days later, doctors said they hoped he would survive given his early diagnosis. Despite a positive reaction to the initial treatment, his condition deteriorated rapidly and he sadly passed away after suffering two cardiac arrests last Sunday morning.
His father said he was overwhelmed by the support shown to his family: "He was much loved by everyone here in the community in east Belfast. It means a lot to us all that the community are supporting us.
"They've been there from the moment we found out he had leukaemia and we're so grateful for all the support. It brings us some comfort."
A fundraising page for the family has so far raised £5,160. Further donations can be made at: https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/RyanRoss