It was fantastic to see so many Dovorians turn out on Friday for the funeral of Kelly Turner. This may have been a moment of mourning – yet St Mary's Church was so full of life. As Kelly's parents Martin and Linda requested, people wore bright colours to the ceremony. As well as multi-coloured outfits, there were several luminous hairstyles lighting up the aisles.
We waited in our seats while the organ played, some of us in deep thought, others taking the chance to catch up with old friends. Then we heard the revving of engines and the beeping of horns. "She's here," people whispered. Twenty or so bikes and mopeds were stationed outside to welcome Kelly and her family. Kelly's brilliantly colourful coffin was carried down the aisle by the pall bearers. Among them were Richard Esdale and John Ashman, tireless campaigners for Kelly's cause. On the back of the coffin was a photo of Kelly doing a "peace" hand gesture. I think it really hit home for many of us when we saw this picture and her beautiful smile as the coffin moved towards the altar.
The ceremony itself was a fitting tribute to an incredible girl. Kelly changed the lives of so many. She was an inspiration to us all – showing us that no matter what the odds, the most important thing of all is to take up the fight.
She inspired thousands of people to raise money to fight her rare form of cancer. More than half a million pounds was raised in two years – a stunning effort which we should all be so proud of. And we should all support Martin and Linda carry on of this funding through her legacy, the Kelly Turner Foundation.
But it's not just the money raised which inspires. It's the way Kelly brought people together. The way she made us ask questions of ourselves. "What have you done today to make you feel proud?" So asks Kelly's fundraising song, which was played at the start of the service.
We felt like we could never do enough to match Kelly's own superhuman efforts. Yet Dover did rise to the challenge – the way our town always does when struck by tragedy. Dover and its people have a unique spirit which draws them together at times like this. No matter what changes in the town, this spirit never dies. It is what keeps the town together through the toughest times.
No one epitomises this spirit greater than the Turner family. The strength Martin and Linda showed to stand in front of hundreds of people in church and talk about their beautiful daughter – their "little star" – who they lost less than two weeks ago was incredible. It was heart-breaking to hear Linda tell of how Kelly said she wasn't scared of going to heaven, but would much rather stay here with her mum and dad.
Many tears were shed during the ceremony. Yet everyone who stood up to speak showed great courage. They all talked about what Kelly meant to them. And whether in poem, song or psalm, the same words kept coming up. Angel. Light. Love. Star.
When we so cruelly lose someone like Kelly – a beautiful, kind and bright 17-year-old girl – the world in that moment feels like a dark place. Yet what the words spoken of Kelly on Friday tell us is that she leads the way in times like these. Her bright star guides us through the darkness. And when we open our eyes and look about us, we see a church full of people and full of love. We hear a spontaneous eruption of applause as Kelly is carried out of the church. We see people lining the high street and clapping as Kelly leaves Dover for the last time.
We see that we were all part of Kelly's battle. That while she may now be gone, her spirit still inspires us all. That Kelly's bright star will always shine on Dover – and always lead the way.
Here you can read about local news matters and what I've been up to. You can make comments too. I'd welcome your feedback, so please do feel free to comment!