Tears and joy: the legacy of Amy Louise Usher (21 September 1992 -19 March 2015)

Funeral of Steelers fan and cancer victim Amy Usher at St Margarets Church in Swinton'The cortege arrives at the church.'''Picture by Dean Atkins.
Funeral of Steelers fan and cancer victim Amy Usher at St Margarets Church in Swinton'The cortege arrives at the church.'''Picture by Dean Atkins.

In life, she had the remarkable ability to make you want to laugh or cry. Frequently at the same time.

In death, well, nothing has changed. Today’s funeral of Amy Usher, the inspiring, chatty, beautiful, 22-year-old cancer victim, managed to evoke precisely those same emotions.

Amy Usher with Mike O'Connor from Sheffield Steelers

Amy Usher with Mike O'Connor from Sheffield Steelers

Around 400 people who were privileged to have been inside St Margarets’ Church in Swinton, South Yorkshire, shed tears.

And then laughed. And then shed some more.

Amy, of Willow Road Wath Upon Dearne, died on March 19, after a one-sided battle against incurable and rare form of throat cancer.

Yet during her illness, few people heard her complain.

In fact, most of her conversations had an exalting effect on those she spoke with.

That was summed up this afternoon by her sister Beth, who delivered an emotion-charged speech to the packed congregation.

Beth talked about the lighter moments of two sisters growing up. They were best friends who shared everything.

Then Beth revealed that in the weeks before Amy’s death, in Sheffield’s Weston Park Teenage Cancer Unit, Amy had specifically tried to prepare her big sister to go on and flourish in life, despite her own terminal illness.

“We did everything together, she was my best friend. It was horrific what she had gone through but I barely heard her say a negative word” declared Beth.

“When I cried she comforted me. She was amazingly dignified and tried to help me with my fear of being without her. She made me promised I’d talk about her every day.”

Shona Tutin, from Weston Park Hospital, also struggled to hold back the tears as she recalled how Amy had given her instructions about her funeral: “Rule Number One: there is not to be a dry eye in the room” she’d said.

Shona described how the fun-loving former Wath Comp head girl loved “having her nails done, a spray tan, buying clothes. She loved Slimming World - but she loved cake more.”

She said that an ill Amy’s life had changed for the better when she started watching Sheffield Steelers ice hockey team - a club that took her to their hearts and elected her their “adopted mascot.”

She said Amy and a friend who also lost his cancer battle at their unit “Now had the best seats in the House.”

For the club, senior official David Simms said Amy had left an unforgettable legacy at the club and that she had improved everybody she’d met, simply by casting her loving spell over them.

Sometimes she travelled on the team bus with and she would go in to the dressing rooms and social events to talk to the players.

Effectively, she and Beth were soon to become members of their close-knit team.

That was reflected by the fact that six members of the Arena roster were chosen to carry Amy’s coffin into church.

Father Chris Barley referred to the ice hockey community’s world wide backing of Amy - a flood of goodwill and positive messages mainly through different teams’ fans and players over social media.

Amy became known “locally and globally for enriching lives with kindness and an unwillingness to give up. She was always a fighter.”

Now the fight is over.

And the clergyman accepted: “Cancer has no regard for age or who you are.”

He concluded: “That is why we have to keep on working to find a total cure.

“It is so hard to make sense of what she has gone through these last two years, we may never know.”