‘I couldn’t say bye’: Teen farewells family from hospital
Teenage White Island Volcano survivor Jesse Langford watched a live stream of the funeral of his father, mother and sister from the burns unit at The Royal North Shore Hospital.
The 19-year-old survived the 9th December eruption that claimed the lives of his father Anthony, 51, mother Kristine, 46, and sister Winona, 17.
A eulogy from Jesse was read to the more than 700 tearful mourners including Premier Gladys Berejiklian in the Marist College North Shore Auditorium in North Sydney.
Jesse, who is being supported by his girlfriend at his bedside, said he wanted his family to be remembered for their loving values rather than as "the people who died on the volcano".
He said he could not imagine life without one member of his family, let alone all three, but that he was determined to persevere through the pain and recover with the support and love of his extended family.
The Langford family were among 47 people on the White Island volcano in New Zealand's Bay of Plenty when it erupted killing 17 people and severely burning many more. Winona Langford is one of two people whose bodies have never been recovered.
Her cousin Charlotte Milbourn told the mourners that although Winona's body was still missing she believed she was flying free with the angels now.
There were only two coffins at the front of the service, for Anthony and Kristine, with Winona instead represented by wreaths of flowers.
Before they were carried out Kristine's father Peter requested everyone stand and wave to the camera that was live streaming to Jesse in hospital. The mourners then broke into spontaneous applause for the brave teenager.
The Langford family had been celebrating Sydney Water worker Anthony's birthday on a cruise on The Ovation of the Seas when they made the ill fated decision to join the volcano tour.
Mandy Fischer, who officiated the service said: "The suddenness and tragic circumstances of the death of Anthony and Kristine and Winona has left everyone in shock and disbelief that they have passed away.
"We cannot even imagine the unspeakable pain that Jesse and the family are experiencing right now."
She read Jesse's eulogy to his family in which he said the last few weeks "have taught me that when times are tough you have to find that inner strength that pushes you to persevere through the emotional and physical pain.
"As even when it seems like everything is just too much to handle, everyone has to remember that you always have a bit more in you to keep pushing forward."
He said it was OK to reflect and "adjust to find a new way forward".
"For myself I have found comfort in talking to loved ones about the pain I have experienced and by recounting what has happened to my family and I.
"Physically I am in constant pain, however I am making daily improvements and I am determined to make a full recovery. I appreciate everyone's love and support it has given me the confidence and the will to persevere through this tragic time."
Jesse paid tribute to each member of his family individually recalling mum Kristine as "a woman who will always stand as an inspirational role model to me with her strong will and core values. "Everyone who was touched by my mother will know the positive impact she would have on your day to day life with her smiles and joy that radiated the room.
"My mum has been one of my rocks through all my ups and downs that I have encountered in my life and I will miss her more than words can ever describe."
Next he said he wanted to "commemorate the life of my old man whose impact on my life will last forever through the values he upholds and the lessons he has taught me along the way.
"Likewise to my mum, my dad has also been my other rock to lean on with his empathy, no judgment policy and fresh perspective on situations. He had my back no matter what and did anything for me as his son, giving me the strength to stay strong no matter how dire the situation," he said.
"My dad and I were like best mates, he was always my go-to person when I needed someone to talk to about anything going on in my life.
"I am going to find it so hard now that I have lost him, as I have lost my right hand man and will miss him every day."
And Jesse said he aspired to retain his family's qualities "in hopes of one day passing them down to my own children."
Finally he paid tribute to his younger sister.
"Losing Winona hurts most of all as she was like a best friend I have had by my side my whole life. It makes it so much harder that I could not properly say goodbye to her due to her still being missing," he said.
"As a protective older sibling, I would have done anything and everything for Winona and it breaks my heart that I can no longer do that.
"Having a sibling that is like a best friend is so rare, which will mean losing her so much harder to deal with as it is one less person I have to talk to."
He closed with the heartbreaking words: "I love you Mum Dad and Winona I will hold you close to my heart for the rest of my life."