WHEN Flynn Byrne cuddles his favourite toy polar bear he feels closer to the father he lost so suddenly.
The brave five-year-old placed the cuddly toy on dad Jeph Byrne’s coffin during a funeral which paid tribute to his father’s love for wildlife.
The 47-year-old’s final wish was to donate money to the World Wide Fund for Nature so his son could share his passion and adopt a real-life polar bear – but he passed away before his dream could come true.
So his daughter Hannah, 24, of South Parade, Southsea, asked all the guests at his funeral to give what they could towards a donation.
The collection managed to raise more than £300 – enough for Flynn to sponsor a polar bear until he is 13.
Flynn said: ‘I miss daddy but I know he loves me all of the time.
‘The money people gave will pay to sponsor a polar bear until I’m 13 – that’s amazing!
‘Thank you very much to everybody who helped us.’
His sister Hannah said the generosity of his family and friends had done her father proud.
‘It was overwhelming to see how much they cared about him,’ she said. ‘My dad was an incredible person, he was my best friend, and the support of all the people who came is helping us get through this.
‘When he died I found a box of memories he had left for me and Flynn, and one of the things in it was his membership to the WWF.
‘Animals and the environment meant a great deal to him, and he passed that passion on to me, now I want to let Flynn feel it too.
‘And it helps him remember his wonderful dad.’
Jeph, of St David’s Road, Somers Town, had been suffering from a long illness when he was admitted to Queen Alexandra Hospital, in Cosham, suffering from internal bleeding on January 15.
Doctors told him he would be lucky to last 24 hours, but he hung on for three weeks and was able to say goodbye to many of the people who cared about him.
Flynn’s mum, Heidi Wicks, of Haslemere Road, Southsea, said they put a piggy bank in Portchester Crematorium for people to leave donations, and almost all of the 100 guests contributed.
She said: ‘I was amazed that so many people were so generous, most of them didn’t even leave their names.
‘Hannah put together a lovely service for him, with his favourite songs and a Spike Milligan poem read aloud – it was exactly what he would have wanted. I’m happy that something positive could come out of all this.’
Hannah added that her little brother was coping with the tragedy incredibly well.
‘I know he watched The Lion King with his mum,’ she said. ‘He understands what has happened.’