Global balloons tribute to lost son Michael Craig leaves mum floating on air
Balloons were released across the world yesterday in harmony with a heartbroken local mum to support her very special tribute to her late son on his 26th birthday.
Joyce Craig travelled to Australia to release a balloon in memory of Michael on the beach where he'd hoped to start a new life before he was diagnosed with a brain tumour last year.
And in response to an appeal by Joyce to friends on Facebook, dozens of people joined in and released balloons across the world.
Joyce, the Belfast Telegraph Mum of the Year, flew to Australia last weekend to fulfil a promise to Michael that she would mark his 26th birthday on the spot where he had planned to start a new life.
Joyce was to fly Down Under last summer with Michael and stay a month to help him settle into his new home. His aim was to be there to celebrate his 25th birthday. He was diagnosed with a brain tumour in August and passed away last February.
Yesterday dozens of tributes to the young man were posted on his mum's Facebook page as she revealed just how emotional it was to stand on the beach and remember Michael on what should have been a day of celebration. Joyce told friends: "Just leaving now to set off my balloons and watch the sunset.
"Happy birthday to my big son Michael. Just wish he was here with me in Aussie to celebrate. Missing him soooo much.... thank you to everyone who will setting off balloons too."
Joyce was cheered by the many messages of support which flooded her Facebook page on what was a very emotional day.
People from as far away as New Zealand, Canada, Australia and America joined her in marking Michael's birthday by setting balloons off into the sky. Joyce (58) lost a daughter Nicola, who was disabled, four years ago aged 26. She also has a 23-year-old son Christopher, who has cerebral palsy and requires round-the-clock care.
As she continues her tour Joyce revealed a special meeting she hopes to have next week.
Among many messages of condolence sent after Michael passed away, one posted from Australia, stood out for Joyce - a childhood friend, Alexandra Gilchrist. Joyce tells the story: "Alexandra said that she had lost not only a best friend but her husband as they had been married in a school play when they were seven years old. It made me smile and warmed my heart.
"I decided to contact Alexandra to thank her. I hadn't spoken to her since she was a little girl of 10 and she is now a 25-year-old young lady."
During a long chat filled with laughter and tears Alexandra reminded Joyce of a necklace Michael had given to her as a child. He had bought a heart necklace in two halves with two chains and gave one to Alexandra and kept one himself.
Said Joyce: "Michael gave Alexandra one half of the heart and he kept the other and Alexandra told me she still had her half and asked me if I would like it.
"I was in tears, 15 years later and she still had it. I later went to Michael's room and there on his bed headboard was a little treasure chest box which I opened and inside was his half of the necklace.
"Now I am going to Auckland where Alexandra lives and we will finally bring the two hearts back together again... something I believe Michael had always planned to do."