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Anna Leask

Anna Leask is senior police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Christchurch earthquake: Emotional farewell to baby Jayden

Grant Smith is assisted as he walks behind the coffin of his 9-month-old son, Jayden Harris.. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Grant Smith is assisted as he walks behind the coffin of his 9-month-old son, Jayden Harris.. Photo / Mark Mitchell

He never made it to his first birthday, but baby Jayden David Harris made a big impact on those who knew him.

The 9-month-old's big blue eyes and cherubic smile captured the hearts of the nation this week, after it was announced he had died in last Tuesday's earthquake.

Little Jayden was in his bed when the quake hit. His mother, Tracey Harris, was in the kitchen preparing a bottle for him.

As the house shook violently, a 21-inch television fell from a chest of drawers, landing on him.

Miss Harris tried desperately to protect Jayden, but the force of the quake knocked her to the ground. By the time she got to him, she knew he had suffered massive head injuries.

She rushed him to hospital, but tragically, his injuries were too severe and he died.

Yesterday, Miss Harris was flanked by family and friends as she arrived at her youngest child's funeral. She approached his tiny white coffin, surrounded by teddy bears, and opened it to say her last goodbye.

She stroked little Jayden lovingly before taking her seat beside him for the ceremony. Jayden's father, Grant Smith, also sat near his son with his mother and the couple's young daughters Stephanie, 3, and Vanessa, 2, who were both wearing blue.

Jayden's coffin was filled with his favourite toys, including a tiny blue teddy bear.

As the clouds of dust billowed outside, celebrant Pam Morrison spoke of how difficult it was to understand why Jayden had been taken.

"It is a huge departure from the natural life cycle," she said.

"Our hearts are heavy with sorrow as we struggle to make sense of the death of a little boy. We are facing a loss that is so sad, huge and so heartbreaking that there are no words to say. There are no words of comfort that can cushion the blow of the death of your precious baby son."

Miss Harris and Mr Smith were too distraught to speak of their loss.

But Miss Harris' mother, Gabrielle Brooke, spoke of her "angel", whom she called her "little JD".

"Tracey, I'm so proud of you for being the best mummy in the world for Jayden. You gave him the most priceless of gifts - your unconditional love - and you gave him 100 per cent," she said.

"You bravely fought to give Jayden everything that he needed. You were his world. His cheeky grin and his big blue eyes said he loved you with all his heart and spirit."

Mrs Brooke spoke of Jayden's infectious giggle and loving nature.

"Jayden, you came into our lives for what feels like too short a time. Yet, my little JD, you have left your footprint on my heart and enriched my life beyond measure. I'm going to miss you, little man."

Mr Smith's sister Carmel read an eulogy he wrote for his son.

"On February 22, 2011, my life was turned upside down," it said.

"Jayden my boy, you have left a hole in my heart that can never be replaced or repaired. You are an inspiration to me, your mother and your sisters. May you go to a better place without pain and sorrow."

During the service, a black-and-white photo of Miss Harris holding Jayden close to her and kissing his cheek as he gazed at the camera was displayed on a screen.

The photo was so moving it prompted one of his little sisters to walk up to it and say hello to him.

Both the little girls were picked up to see their baby brother for the last time. They seemed too young to know what was happening, but realised their mother was upset, cuddling her and telling her not to cry.

After Jayden's birth, Miss Harris turned for help to Holly House, a residential and education programme for young mothers.

Manager Cheryl Yusaf said Miss Harris stayed at the house for several months before going it alone with her baby.

"Tracey had limited skills and needed help to parent Jayden. She wanted to be the best mother she could be for her son," she said.

"She sang, she played, she laughed, she talked - she built up a beautiful relationship with him.

"We asked her to give it everything she had and she did. And now we're asking her to let him go.

"Jayden was everything to Tracey. She can be proud of that, she made his short life a pleasure. He knew that he was loved, secure and nurtured and he had a lot to smile about."

As Jayden was carried from the church, to the hymn Amazing Grace, Mr Smith broke down. He had to be helped outside to say his final goodbye to his son.

Mourners released blue and white helium balloons as a tribute to the baby they loved so much.

- NZ Herald

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