BALLOONS were released into the sky as hundreds of people said their goodbyes to schoolgirl Abi Owen at an emotional funeral service yesterday.
There was standing room only at St Michael's and All Angels Church, in Bishop's Cleeve, as loved ones gathered to mourn the death of the 12-year-old, who suffered a sudden brain haemorrhage earlier this month.
Family members read moving eulogies describing her as an "effervescent" and "beautiful" young girl.
There was barely a dry eye in the church as a group of Abi's friends from Cleeve School stood up in front of the congregation and performed a version of Gary Barlow's Sing.
Abi's uncle Neil Owen read out a poignant eulogy from parents Kelly and Mark Owen.
In it they said: "Abi's death has rocked our souls to the core. We are truly heartbroken and words cannot convey the sorrow and the loss that we are feeling. Our world has changed forever."
The couple described Abi as a loving daughter and a caring elder sister to her siblings Jennifer, 10, and Joe, five.
They said: "Abi – you were truly beautiful inside and out.
"You were happy, outgoing, clever, funny, silly at times and simply like no other. You will certainly be remembered for your dazzling smile which could light up even the darkest of rooms.
"Although it is so very hard for us to accept that you're gone, even now, we are comforted knowing your life was so full of joy and achievement.
"You made us so proud and we will never forget what a wonderful person you were.
"Your memory will live on in our hearts every single day.
"Night night cheeky chops. One day we can all be together again."
Mourners at the service heard how Abi had already mapped out plans for the future, with hopes of becoming an architect or a teacher one day.
She was said to have achieved a lot in her short life – with a particular talent for art, dancing and kung-fu, in which she had gained a black belt.
In another tribute, Abi's grandparents said it was her caring nature which set her apart.
"We all miss you so much," they said.
"You had 12 years packed with energy and determination and of course a beautiful smile.
"You were full of fun and an absolute joy to be with.
"With all your gifts, the greatest of all was your tenderness and caring for others.
"We all have our memories and every one of us will treasure them forever.
"Your body has died but your spirit lives on."
The service was led by the Reverend Malc Allen, supported by family friend the Reverend John Mead, who came out of retirement to add words of consolation.
Poems were also read out, including one composed by Abi's cousin Jemima. She said: "You had so much to look forward to and so much left to do. But God needed somebody in heaven who is as special as you."
The coffin was carried from the church to the strains of Wings by Little Mix – one of Abi's favourite groups.
Outside the church young mourners, including many of her friends from Cleeve School, were given pink, blue and purple balloons which they released into the sky in unison. They stood and watched the colourful spectacle, lost in their own memories for a moment as the balloons floated away.
More than £9,000 has been raised via an online appeal in Abi's memory, with money going to Bristol Children's Hospital, where she died. To make a donation go to www.justgiving.com/kelly-owen