LOS ANGELES (AP) — A grieving father who sang the Beatles' ballad "Blackbird" as his infant son clung to life told mourners that he was overwhelmed by the outpouring of prayers and support after a video of the tender moment gained widespread Internet attention.
Chris Picco said Saturday at a memorial service for his wife, Ashley, and their son, Lennon, that he didn't have enough words to express his gratitude to those who reached out to him, including strangers apparently touched by his story.
They died this past week after Ashley became ill while pregnant and Lennon was delivered prematurely.
"I could never articulate how much your support and your strength, and your prayers, and your emails and your Facebook messages and your text messages ... I don't even know how any of you got my number but there's been a lot of 'thank you,'" he said in an emotional address that drew laughter and tears.
"There have been so many people that have reached out and shared their pain: excruciating pain, tremendous loss. And my heart just goes out," he added.
The service in the Los Angeles suburb of Loma Linda was webcast live — a fitting continuation to a week where the song and other images Picco posted of himself with his wife and their son drew an outpouring of grief and prayers to his Facebook page, YouTube and other sites.
Picco and his 30-year-old wife were anticipating their son's birth in February when she suddenly became ill. Picco said doctors delivered Lennon by emergency C-section after Ashley died in her sleep Saturday.
The boy was born 16 weeks premature. He died Wednesday.
The couple, married in 2007, met in New York when both were volunteers helping firefighters after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
After his wife's death, Picco sat with his son almost constantly, playing guitar, singing and crying. A friend captured the video of him doing "Blackbird." In it, he softly urges Lennon to "take these broken wings and learn to fly." The boy's beating heart can be heard in the background.
Picco said the story of how he and his wife met shows that something good came out of a tragic event.
"So from this unspeakable tragedy ... I want good to come out of this," he said.
Friends and family members said Ashley, a preschool teacher turned pediatric nurse, was a nurturing soul who would have been a good mother. They noted that Lennon touched many lives during his very short life.
"If you measure a life by the power of connection, Lennon lived more than most of us have," said Tim Gillespie, a speaker at the service.