When four-year-old Link Simpson passed after a brave two-and-a-half-year battle with cancer, his family did not weep at a traditional church service or have a flower-covered coffin.
Instead the family threw a huge party and fundraiser for more than 200 people at Link’s school in Atherton, Greater Manchester, where guests sang and shared stories of Link’s life. The service was completed with a traditional Māori Haka tribal dance performed by Link’s dad.
“Link was an inspiration – he lived life to the fullest,” said Link’s dad, Bradly, 43, who came to the UK from his native New Zealand 15 years ago.
“A party felt more natural to us. Link didn’t travel in a hearse and we didn’t have a coffin. Link was carried by Clare, his mum. Link didn’t lead a normal life for a 4-year-old, so a celebration of his life felt more fitting. He didn’t have a traditional service because we didn’t feel the need to say goodbye. There is no end date to Link’s life – he is forever four.”
At just 20-months-old, Link was diagnosed with cancer known as alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma (ARMS) and hospitals and treatments became a normal part of his life.
“Link was a very sociable child and wanted to be part of everyone’s conversations. Link was a friend to all and loved by anyone who met him,” Bradly added.
After Link passed on 21 April 2022 he lay at rest in a cold room, known as a Sunflower Suite, at his local children’s hospice, Derian House in Chorley, Lancashire, where family were able to visit him freely.
“Derian House’s Sunflower Rooms allowed us time to grieve and gave us a level of closure,” continued Bradly.
“We stayed in one of their family flats at the hospice and were able to visit Link whenever we wanted to. The hospice continues to support all of us – myself, his mum Clare, and his sisters Millie and Sophie, emotionally.”
At the huge party held in Link’s honour, at Parklee Community Primary School in Atherton last week, guests enjoyed music, dance, face painting and a bouncy castle.
To end the day, family and friends released biodegradable balloons into the sky covered with messages around Link’s short but eventful life.
The joy-filled event raised over £800 for the hospice where Link was cared for, and a JustGiving page opened for donations has reached over £1,500 so far.
“We wanted to raise much-needed funds so the hospice can continue their amazing work for families just like ours,” said Bradly.
The Simpson family also held a private ceremony on May 3, where Link was given a guard of honour by Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, which had previously made him an honorary member of Red Watch.
Caroline Taylor, Head of Income, Marketing and Communications at Derian House Children’s Hospice, said: “We pride ourselves on being able to look after every family in a way that best suits them.
“Link’s family weren’t keen on tradition and instead they chose to celebrate their beautiful little boy’s life in a way that felt right for them. The benefit of hospice care is that we can be flexible and put the individual needs of our families at the forefront of care.
“It costs £5.7million to run our hospice every year and the money raised at Link’s celebration will help us to be able to offer the same high level of personalised care to other families in the future.”