Our beautiful daughter Jessica was born in September 2011 with a severe heart defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome. This was diagnosed at her 20 week scan and we were initially told that she was unlikely to be suitable for surgery. However, a pioneering in-utero operation at 28 weeks to enlarge a hole in her atrial septum was carried out and she was able to make it to term and get through her first open-heart surgery at just eight hours old. Jessica underwent five more surgeries during her life. Her final surgery - the Fontan procedure - took place in December 2017. She initially made a good recovery but sadly passed away suddenly on 14th April 2018 at the age of 6. This is the story of a little girl whose half a heart overflowed with love. She was, and will forever be, our little miracle and brought joy to all who knew her.

Saturday 19 May 2018

Jessica's final journey

Yesterday’s celebration of Jessica’s life was everything that we wanted it to be for her. A beautiful sunshine day, surrounded by family, friends and love, sharing memories of a little girl who touched so many people’s hearts. It was a day of both sadness and smiles, laughter and tears and was a fitting tribute to our little miracle.

Tissue paper flowers made by the Girls' Brigade
Photo taken by Charlie Pugh

We were able to spend some time with Jessica in the last couple of days before her funeral. Being able to sit with her, to hold her hand, look at her beautiful little face and give her kisses, to read some of her favourite stories to her and to tuck her in one last time with her Kerry snuggled next to her was such precious time.

Jessica arrived at our home for the last time at 12.30pm. The three of us, along with Jessica’s grandparents followed her to the church for the celebration of her life. The service was led by our minister Nick. Nick’s first service at our church was two days before Jessica was born. We are glad that he was able to lead her last service at church, having known her throughout her short life.

Jessica's casket arriving at church

It was a beautiful service. Jessica’s godparents Bryan and Nicki shared our chosen Bible readings. Michael and I shared our memories of our little girl with her special heart, reflecting on how she taught us to live life to the full and enjoy every moment. We have so many happy memories to look back on and we are thankful for them all. Jessica’s godmother Katy shared a poem she had written as a tribute to Jessica. Jessica’s reception teacher, Miss James, shared some memories of Jessica at school and Stephanie, the Girls’ Brigade Captain, shared her memories of Jessica at Girls’ Brigade. These were followed by a video showing photos of Jessica throughout her life, interspersed with a couple of video clips of her, and finishing with one where she takes a final bow. The way she used to bow after doing a dance, or a show always used to make us smile. It felt like the right way to end the video sharing memories of her life.

Jessica's casket at the front of the church
Photo taken by Charlie Pugh

After the service, Jessica’s pink heart-covered casket was carried to the meeting area in the church to allow people to say their last goodbyes to her. The church was absolutely packed. A huge thank you to Michael’s colleagues for setting up screens and a sound relay into the meeting area and side room to ensure that those attending were still very much part of the service even though we couldn’t fit everyone into the chapel, Tracey who organised the refreshments and beautiful cake display and the church staff and stewards who helped make everything run smoothly. We only had a short time at the church before we had to leave for GreenAcres and we didn’t manage to speak to everyone who attended. Thank you so much to everyone who came – we certainly felt surrounded by your love and support even if we weren’t able to speak to you in person.

Nanny saying goodbye to Jessica
Photo taken by Charlie Pugh

We were honoured to have a police and TFL escort holding the traffic to help the first part of Jessica’s journey from church to her final resting place at GreenAcres.

Michael and Sophie saying goodbye to Jessica as her casket arrives at GreenAcres

The service at GreenAcres was a much more intimate one with Jessica surrounded by the closest members of our family, her godparents and a couple of our close friends who had been a significant part of her journey. Nick led the beautiful brief service at the graveside, with godmummy Gillian sharing a poem before Jessica was laid to rest in her forever bed. We each threw in a pretty flower for her and Sophie pressed the button to start the bubble machine. She and Jessica always loved trying to catch bubbles in the garden together. As Sophie gave Jessica her flower and tossed in a little handful of earth, she waved and said “bye, bye Jessica.” Throughout the service at church, and the one at GreenAcres, she was a little superstar.

Jessica's casket being carried through the woods at GreenAcres
Photo taken by Charlie Pugh

Sophie with bubbles at GreenAcres
Photo taken by Charlie Pugh

We were welcomed by our family and friends shortly afterwards at Chalfont St Peter Community Centre where we shared memories of Jessica over sandwiches, cakes and cups of tea. It was lovely to be able to spend time with family and friends and remember our little girl.

We have been so touched by all the little things that have been done so far in Jessica’s memory, and those that are planned. Sophie’s preschool has created a garden area for the children with pretty flowers, a bench, butterflies and dragonflies and called it “Jessica’s garden”. Jessica’s school held a day for her – “Jessica’s day” – the day before her funeral where the children came dressed as princes and princesses and had a balloon release in her memory. It made us smile to see one of the male teachers dressed in a princess dress for Jessica. He will be Sophie’s teacher next year when she starts in the same reception class that her sister was in.

Sophie sitting on the bench in "Jessica's garden"

Thank you to everyone who came to Jessica’s celebration, who have shared messages of love and support on our social media, or who have simply been holding us in prayer over these last few weeks. Thank you also to those who were involved with the arrangements yesterday and helped make that final journey an easier one. Yesterday was a tough day, but we felt so surrounded by love throughout. You all did Jessica proud and made her send-off a truly beautiful and special one. This morning has been harder still – having to start facing the reality of life without Jessica without having the focus of her funeral to distract us.

I had originally intended for this to be the final post in Jessica’s blog as her last journey. However, her story is still a little unfinished. We are still waiting for the final results of the post-mortem and so her cause of death remains unknown. It may be that the results are inconclusive but we will update this blog when we are able to share this piece of information about Jessica’s journey and if there are any future stories to share about the things that are being done in Jessica’s memory. The stories of our life as a family and our own journey through our grief will still continue over on Louise’s blog at https://littleheartsbiglove.co.uk


  1. It sounds like it was a beautiful celebration of Jessica's life, you have been so strong as a family and have given Jessica an amazing send off even though I imagine it's broken your hearts to say a final goodbye. Thinking of you as always x

  2. Oh this sounds like a wonderful way to celebrate Jessica's life. You have done her so proud every step of the way. X