Three hundred purple balloons were released yesterday at the funeral of 2-year-old Sativa Eagle, whose brave battle with cancer inspired New Zealanders around the world.
Before the Tauranga service, father Tim Eagle wrote: "Your big day today my baby girl. Miss you like crazy but daddy will be strong for you today my baby girl."
As her little purple coffin sat among soft toys and purple flowers, family and friends delivered their tributes through tears and, at times, laughter.
Sativa, twin sister to Indee, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia on January 5, 2011, when she was just 4 months old.
More than 6100 people put their names to a Please Help Baby Sativa Facebook page, and yesterday many released purple balloons all around New Zealand and as far away as Perth in Australia, California and New York in the US, and London in the UK.
In Auckland, Raewyn Crowe said the nurses who had treated little Sativa at Starship Hospital's Ward 27B had blown up balloons and signed messages to the little girl, to let them go in the Domain.
Sativa had cheated death several times before she had a bone marrow transplant in May in the hope it would cure her. It was her last chance at life.
But at the end of August, just days before the second birthday she shared with twin sister Indee, she relapsed. More bone marrow was injected into her body in a desperate bid to push out her cancerous cells, but on September 11 parents Sheree Roose and Tim Eagle were told their daughter was dying.
Friends described yesterday's funeral service as "beautiful and emotional".
Roose and Eagle were commended for their strength and courage. "If they continue life with this passion, they will do really, really well for themselves," Roose's uncle Phillip Melvin said.
Whakatane's Rod Topperwien, whose 3-year-old grandson Chace died of leukaemia in June after a massive online fundraising campaign to put him on a drug trial in London, attended yesterday's funeral.
"Tim, what a tower of strength you were," he wrote afterwards. "Our hearts are certainly with you all. It was a beautiful service. Purple suits Tiva."
- Bay of Plenty TimesBy Amy McGillivray, Julia Proverbs