“We will meet again – our superhero up in the sky.”
That was a message from Bradley Lowery’s heartbroken mum for the little man who inspired the world.
Gemma Lowery read out her poem out at the funeral of her the six-year-old who died last week after a long and painful battle with his illness.
His funeral in the family hometown of Blackhall, County Durham, drew thousands of well-wishers who were inspired by the young football fan’s courage and smile as he struggled to survive childhood cancer neuroblastoma.
Bradley died a week ago in his parents’ arms at his home.
He was a mascot for Sunderland several times last season and was also a mascot for England at Wembley.
The crowds watching the funeral cortege pass by shed tears wearing football kits from different clubs.
Bradley’s tearful dad Carl and friends lifted the red and white striped coffin, which had a picture of Sunderland’s Stadium of Light on its side.
Among the mourners was Bradley’s celebrity sporting hero Jermaine Defoe.
Bradley had a close friendship with the 34-year-old football star, who described the little boy as his “best friend”.
Outside the church, a line of superheroes gave a comic book guard of honour.
His mum Gemma was understandably distressed as she made her way from the car to the church doors and was comforted by her family.
Bradley was baptised six years ago in the same church.
Sunderland AFC paid an online tribute to their heroic young fan today, posting a picture of him on its website with the words: “Bradley Lowery 2011 – 2017. Red and White Forever.”
There was hope last year that Bradley might get treatment in the US but his family announced in December that it would likely be his last Christmas and his cancer was terminal.
Meanwhile, the family have become recognisable for the most heartbreaking of reasons and they were forced to ask people at the funeral not to request selfies.
Unbelievably, they felt they had to write on Facebook: “Can I ask people not to approach anyone tomorrow for autographs or photos.
“Everyone is at the funeral to pay their respects and say goodbye.”
The funeral was “open to everyone who would like to come and celebrate Bradley’s life” and there were speakers outside for those who couldn’t make it into the church.