Airdrie boy honoured at touching memorial service
Between 600 and 700 people attended the funeral service of Airdrie’s Jayden Phaneuf, 6, on Feb. 2 at Calgary’s North West Family Church.
Danial Thomas, a family friend, said the service was inspiring and included an honour guard of firefighters, complete with a bagpiper and drummer. Irricana firefighter Kelly Saunders also attended the funeral and presented the Phanuef family with a helmet shield made especially for the young boy.
“It was very special,” said Thomas, adding between 50 and 75 firefighters attended the funeral in full uniform.
“It was a very wet-eyed moment… to know that firefighters would honour a little boy (was inspirational).”
Phaneuf was diagnosed with a rare form of childhood cancer in December, 2010. Multiple tumours on his spine, skull and back were discovered when the young boy’s legs suddenly stopped working.
After receiving a clean bill of health in March, Phaneuf’s cancer returned last fall and he passed away on Jan. 28.
He was confined to a wheelchair and the community to rallied behind the Phaneuf family to build a new home to make day-to-day activities easier.
The family moved into their new home on Jan. 18.
On Dec. 22, in a show of support for the boy’s fight against cancer, firefighters from 18 departments and other emergency services planned a tour of the Irricana firehall and decided to name Phaneuf, an honourary fireman.
When they found out Jayden wasn’t feeling well enough for a tour of the station, the crews gathered in Airdrie and brought the parade of trucks to his street.
They were able to collect a number of gifts for Jayden including custom-made bunker gear, a certificate from Rocky View County naming him an honourary firefighter and a custom-made helmet with a shield with his name on it.
Thomas said the firefighters’ involvement at the funeral was touching, but the service had other inspiring moments.
One included a group of seven youth and adults, including Jayden’s brother Nicky, 10, who each shot Nerf guns three times into the crowd of attendees during the service to resemble an honour guard.
“The father of two other children (involved in the Nerf-gun salute) spoke of the fun they had with the Nerf guns,” said Thomas. “It was one of the fondest things (Jayden) did.”
By far the most memorable part of the service, said Thomas, was when Doug and Loralie, Phanuef’s parents, spoke.
“The biggest highlight was the strength of Loralie and Doug themselves,” said Thomas, adding the couple thanked the community, family, friends and health-care workers who were there for the duration of their son’s illness.
“Doug got up and spoke a message that was just amazing,” added Thomas. “Many people commented on the message.”
As for the family, Thomas said they are working through the shock of losing their son and brother.
“They are spending some time as a family and discovering what the new normal is,” said Thomas. “Jayden has gone to heaven and now we have to learn to go on without him. This wasn’t the ending we had hoped and believed for, but it is the beginning of a lot of other things.”
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