Eccles bids farewell to 'little angel' Laura: Hundreds attend funeral of five-year-old transplant patient. Liz Hunt reports

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The Independent Online
'If anyone, should ever write, my life story, For whatever reason that might be You'll be there, in between each line of pain and glory,

Because you're the best thing that ever happened to me . . .'

OF ALL the hymns and carols sung at the funeral of Laura Davies yesterday, it was this song by Gladys Knight and the Pips, one of Laura's favourites, that proved the most poignant moment for her family, friends and the people of Eccles, Greater Manchester, who gathered to say goodbye.

At first it had seemed inappropriate, somehow out of keeping with the pomp and formality of the occasion which had been paid for by King Fahd of Saudi Arabia. At 11am, a 15-vehicle cortege had left the Davies' family home. Four police outriders preceded the hearse, which bore the crest of the City of Salford and was drawn by two black shire horses. Five funeral cars piled with wreaths and flowers in the shapes of teddy bears and small animals, from well-wishers around the world, followed the ornate bronze and metallic grey casket. Another 10 black limousines full of mourners moved in a slow procession around the town.

People stood at the roadside with heads bowed. The men from Eccles fire brigade stood to attention outside the station and the girls from Laura James hairstylists watched solemnly as the cortege passed.

But as the words and music of 'You're The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me' filled the Church of the Holy Cross and spilled out via speakers on to the Liverpool Road, where hundreds of people huddled in the bright, cold morning, the tears flowed. In his homily, Father Terry Drainey said that there had been many reasons to write the short life story of Laura. She died aged five at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, early last Thursday. She had fought tenaciously for survival from birth, with a perished small bowel, and had bounced back after every setback, delighting the thousands of people who contributed to the cost of her treatment in America, including King Fahd, with her feisty personality and her love of showing off.

But two multiple organ transplants within 15 months took their toll, and it became clear that, in the words of Adrian Bianchi, the surgeon who had cared for her in Manchester, 'there was nowhere else for Laura to go'. In the end her mother, Fran, and father, Les, asked doctors to switch off the ventilator that had been keeping their daughter alive. 'There are those with the clever gift of hindsight who would say 'What a waste of time, Laura died anyway'. But in that short time Laura did so much. I am sure that many things have been learnt from her brave fight,' Fr Drainey said.

She had done in a childlike way what many great men and women tried and failed. She 'united people of different rank, culture, religion and race', he said. This was a Mass of thanksgiving for her life.

Throughout the Mass her parents had been composed. The service had been a fitting tribute to them and their daughter. Her fight had been their fight. When the moral debate over her treatment had raged and people said that she had suffered too much, they had held fast to the belief that they knew best. But they had always said that when Laura was no longer fighting they would accept it and let her go. At the final commendation of the body, the song of farewell was provided by Laura herself, her own rendition of 'Show Me The Way To Go Home'.

For a little girl who had wanted to be an angel in her school Christmas play, the Mass of angels yesterday was a poignant farewell. Laura was buried in her beloved white sneakers, and the dress she would have worn to her First Communion, had she lived.

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