Published: 11:03, 09 January 2020
The life of a little boy with big dreams for the future was remembered through sadness and smiles as hundreds gathered for his funeral.
Six-year-old Joe Ward-Bates - known to those closest to him as Joey - died surrounded by his family and beloved dog at his home in Stalisfield on December 14 after a three-month battle with an aggressive brain tumour.
He left behind mum Becky, dad Michael, and older sister Lucy, as well as many other family members and friends.
Described as a “happy boy with an infectious smile”, Eastling Primary School pupil Joe adored Lego and the colour yellow, with the men of his family donning Lego-themed ties for his funeral at Charing Crematorium.
Joe - who would have turned seven on February 6 - was diagnosed with the rare and incurable cancer DIPG, a primary, high-grade brain tumour affecting children, on September 19. During his treatment and battle, his family called his tumour ‘Jack’.
In spite of their grief, Joe’s family have pledged to join the fight to find a cure for DIPG tumours working with Abbie’s Army, a charity set up by the parents of a young girl who died from the same cancer.
They gathered together as Joe’s blue coffin, adorned with bright yellow stars, was carried into the chapel to Promises, by Sam Smith.
Celebrant Nigel Andrews, who led the funeral, told the congregation: “Despite his condition, Joey continued to smile and tried to do the things he loved, like singing in the car on the way to treatment, and just trying to have fun.
“Joey’s battle with Jack was one he was never going to win. And that battle ended on December 14.
“His family shared an early Christmas with him and other times of smiles.
“Now Jack may have won that battle with Joey, but his family have made sure his death may help others.
“Jack is no longer a part of Joey - he has been removed so that he can be studied with a view that in the future he can be defeated.
“Joey’s life may have been short but the memories he has made with you all will live on forever.”
Prior to his diagnosis, animal lover Joe spent much of his childhood outdoors, and a tribute on behalf of his family and friends, read by Mr Andrews, touched on this.
“In many ways, he had a bit of an idyllic life, growing up in the country with open fields around,” he said.
“Grandparents, nanny Julie and grandad Dave, have a farm - a little boy’s playground that he loved visiting and going to with dad Michael on the tractors.
“He wasn’t a boy who wanted to be stuck in front of the television all of the time, although he obviously liked watching his favourites - Paw Patrol and the Marvel characters, especially the Hulk, I understand.
“And, surprisingly, some of his father’s favourites rubbed off on him his as well, and he just loved watching the A Team, or Knight Rider, and for some unknown reason, Storage Hunters. Possibly the search for random treasures struck a chord with him.”
Another great love of Joe’s was children’s favourite The Gruffalo.
His funeral on Monday, punctuated with tears and laughter and ended by Rita Ora’s Carry On, featured a reading of the classic tale by Eastling head teacher Melanie Dale and teacher Janette Johnson, alongside Mr Andrews.
The congregation was also told of Joe’s love for race cars, with the youngster holding aspirations of one day being a driver.
“Even six-year-olds have dreams for the future,” Mr Andrews said. “OK, we know they change with the weather sometimes, but for Joey the two choices seemed to be either being with mum in the pub, or to be a racing car driver - of course, in a nice, bright yellow racing outfit.”
In a touching tribute by devoted mum Becky, read out by Mr Andrews, she promised to live out Joe’s dreams on his behalf.
“Joey, they say time’s a healer,” she said. “But I don’t believe it’s true. How can time heal my heart, when part of it died with you?
“Your smile was infectious, it brightened up the room. Your giggle, and your laugh, could lift any mood.
“Life will never be the same for us, and I just don’t know what to do. I can’t imagine going on without you by my side.
“The promise I will make right now is always to speak your name and love you, now and always.
“I will do all the things you wanted to do, Joey - a skydive, fly a helicopter, race in a yellow sports car, go-karting with your friends, Strictly Come Dancing, Legoland, and Florida to see the pufferfish on a glass-bottom boat.
“I will do it all for you, my darling boy. I will love you forever and always.”
More by this authorKatie Davis