Hold your babies close, says dad of little Carson Carter killed in holiday hit-and-run
The father of a nine-year-old boy who was killed in a hit-and-run in Tenerife urged parents everywhere to hold their children tight as he bid farewell to his "wee buddy" yesterday.
Hundreds of mourners in Abbot's Cross Congregational Church in Newtownabbey wept as Carter Carson's tiny coffin - painted in the colours of the Northern Ireland football team - was carried into the building to the anthem You'll Never Walk Alone.
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Rev Nigel Kissick extended his sympathy to the youngster's entire family, including little sister Eeva, as he prayed they would all find comfort in the days ahead.
"It is on days like today that we are forced to consider what life is all about. Carter's death puts life into perspective for all of us," he told the congregation.
He added that he shared the belief of Carter's dad Stuart that his son's death may serve a higher plan.
"As I sat with him on Saturday night he said to me that maybe God had to take his little lamb for a bigger purpose. He touched on a great biblical truth," he said.
"And like God's own lamb, Carter was full of compassion."
Stuart, too overcome by grief, was unable to read the moving words he had penned for the service.
Church worker Andrew Cuthbert shared the heartbreaking tribute on his behalf.
"From Carter's first breath he was my pride and joy. His infectious smile lit up the room and he was the most doting big brother, who loved his sister dearly," he said.
"He even had her hooked up to play Xbox with him, they were inseparable.
"But the Lord wanted Carter at this time. Perhaps the 'Heavenly Select 11' was a little weak in defence - now they are strong."
The devastated dad appealed to parents everywhere to "hold your babies close" and urged everyone to "squeeze the hand of your loved ones".
"Gently kiss your children on the cheek and never let the boring obligations of life distract from the cherished gift of family," he added.
Before bidding his son farewell, Stuart said that the brief time they shared together taught him more about life than anything else.
"When my time comes, I can only hope to be half the person you had already become, so long wee buddy," he said.
As Stuart clung to Eeva, who was wearing a Liverpool FC kit, Rev Kissick reiterated his emotional appeal.
"Are you listening, fathers, are you listening?" he asked.
"Some of you are more concerned with running about with your mates while your children are neglected.
"Mothers, are you listening?
"You only have them a short time, so hold them tight and love them well."
Joanne Griffith, the principal of Abbots Cross Primary, where Carter went to school, broke down and wept as she told mourners how Carter had recently confided in his grandfather that he wanted to be chosen as the star pupil of his year.
"Just before Easter he achieved that goal, and now Carter will forever be our star pupil," she said.
"His enthusiasm for life, sense of fair play and his ability to help others create and enjoy friendships are rare and precious qualities through which Carter made our world a better place."
Carter's team-mates from 18th Newtownabbey youth team formed a guard of honour as his coffin was carried from the church and taken to Carnmoney Cemetery.
One man has been charged in connection with the collision that happened outside Gran Sur shopping centre in Adeje, Tenerife, almost two weeks ago.