IT was a day that many had expected to be unbearable as the family of brave Kai Laidlaw said goodbye to their “beautiful boy”.
But as the sun shone through the trees and hundreds gathered at Warriston Crematorium, wearing bright colours and carrying dinosaur toys by their sides, the three-year-old was given the cheerful send-off his parents desired.
Diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukaemia at just eight months old, Kai endured a series of gruelling treatments and operations in his short life, as well as extensive periods of time in the Sick Kids hospitals in Edinburgh and Glasgow. But despite his illness, Kai “remained a brave, jokey and courageous child”, celebrant Robert Anthony told mourners at the Lorimer Chapel yesterday afternoon.
“In Kai’s short years, his parents made sure that he never entered or experienced a gloomy or sad room and we are going to make sure he does not today,” Mr Anthony said.
“His parents told me that no matter how difficult things got, Kai was always smiling. We should try to emulate his attitude throughout this ceremony.
“If he could smile through his difficulties, then we should too.”
Kai loved dinosaurs ... he was famous for his dinosaur roar which echoed through both Edinburgh and Glasgow’s Sick Kids Hospitals - everyone knew him by that roar.Robert Anthony
Family and friends travelled from far afield to be at Calvin Laidlaw and Pam Neilson’s side as the couple, from Leith, said their final goodbye to their son.
Among the 300 people gathered at the chapel for the humanist service was Kevin Persisi, a painter and decorator from Oxford.
The 50-year-old walked 500 miles to fundraise for Kai last year and wrote a song named Beautiful Boy based on the toddler’s story which was played during the ceremony.
Dressed as an elephant in recognition of Kai’s love for animals, Kevin said: “Every moment of the walk was worth it, it’s heartbreaking.”
The crowd, carrying dinosaur balloons and superhero capes, entered the chapel to the sound of the Lion King theme tune The Circle of Life before being greeted by a selection of cheery photographs of Kai flashing across a large screen.
As silence fell across the room, the youngster’s tiny coffin – decorated with dinosaur illustrations – was carried into the chapel by his father Calvin, who is in a wheelchair.
Loved ones wept at the heartbreaking sight as the 49-year-old cradled the colourful casket into the chapel.
As the ceremony began, Mr Anthony told how Pam and Calvin wanted the ceremony to be a celebration of their son’s life – not a “gloomy” experience.
Kai’s older brother read a poem entitled Our Little Kai before the Love of My Life by Queen was played – a song described as having great significance to Calvin and his son.
He read: “What would you do in three short years?
“Would you make them the most or hide from your fears?
“Our little Kai chose to live every day with a smile and love to give.”
The ceremony heard a selection of stories from Kai’s short life, many making mourners momentarily forget their sadness to laugh at the many happy memories.
Mr Anthony said: “It was often difficult for Pam to get Kai to eat, but Kai loved Bru, that’s what he called Irn-Bru.
“He liked Bru with a straw and he loved cheese and onion crisps, which were kept in a big, green bowl that he could eat at all times of the day.
“Kai loved dinosaurs, animals and cars.
“He was famous for his dinosaur roar which echoed through both Edinburgh and Glasgow’s Sick Kids Hospitals – everyone knew him by that roar.”
Kai was first diagnosed with infant acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in September 2013. The youngster had to have his left eye removed the following year, after the disease spread dangerously close to his brain – making radiotherapy unsafe.
Matters had started to look brighter for the family, as Kai’s health seemed to stabilise but in March last year, their world was turned upside down once again when doctors revealed that the leukaemia had returned.
This time the illness had become more aggressive, with more than 50 per cent of the bone marrow in his tiny body riddled with cancer.
The family had planned to travel to London for Kai to undergo an experimental bone marrow transplant at Great Ormond Street Hospital – a specific treatment that isn’t available in Scotland.
Pam and Calvin said it was the only hope for their son and they weren’t prepared to give up until they had tried everything.
But doctors feared that little Kai wouldn’t survive the wait and, due to other health complications, the family opted for a transplant in Glasgow instead.
After the operation, they were confident things were looking up, but their dreams were dashed in October, when the leukaemia returned for a third time.
Kai’s battle has inspired hundreds of people throughout the city to participate in fundraising events to raise money for children’s cancer charities.
His story, documented regularly on a Facebook page written in Kai’s own words, attracted followers from all over the world – with many leaving tribute messages after his passing on Monday, January 18.
Mr Anthony told the service: “Kai gave Pam and Calvin the gift of being able to say goodbye, as they were able to spend his last day with him in hospital.”
Mourners left the ceremony to the sound of the Jungle Book’s Elephant March, holding balloons and T-shirts with messages to Kai.
The crowd released the balloons into the air in the youngster’s memory.