Jade Goody’s widower Jack Tweed has led the tributes to his late wife at her funeral in Essex.

The 21-year-old fought back tears as he read out a poem dedicated to the former Big Brother star at the service, held at St John The Baptist Church in Buckhurst Hill.

“My life will never be the same without you by my side, grief almost too much to bear, pain difficult to hide – but when we look into the sky for the brightest star above, Bobby, me and Freddie will send you all our love,” he told mourners as he read the poem, entitled If Only, which spoke of their life together with Jade’s sons Bobby and Freddie.

Although Jade’s sons did not attend the funeral they sent special ‘messages in a bottle’ from Australia, where they are currently on holiday with their dad Jeff Brazier.

The boys also wrote a letter to Jade in which they said, “you are always in our thoughts and in our hearts mum”.

Thousands of wellwishers gathered outside the church to watch the service, which began at noon and was transmitted on giant screens outside.

Jade’s coffin began its journey to the church from the funeral directors FA Albin and Son in Bermondsey at 0830 on Saturday morning.

The funeral procession travelled through Bermondsey, passing places where Jade lived and which featured in her life, before passing over Tower Bridge, up Loughton High Street, to her home in Upshire and finally to St John’s, arriving just after noon.

A gospel choir sang the hymn Amazing Grace as six pallbearers, including Jack, carried the white coffin into the church.

The emotional crowd outside broke into applause as the service began.

After Jack’s poem, the Beatles’ classic She Loves You played over a montage of images from Jade’s life. The footage ended with a clip of Jade saying, “That’s it from me, see you maybe, goodbye.”

Her spokesman Max Clifford also paid tribute to the reality star, saying she had shown tremendous courage after being diagnosed with cervical cancer and describing her as a “very special” person of whom her family and friends could be proud.

The publicist added, “When we left the house it was cloudy and overcast. As we moved forwards the sun started to come through and that is what in many ways Jade’s life was like.

“It was difficult to start with but as she got older she took more and more control … and people came to appreciate that.”

Clifford said that Jade was “a girl who was ordinary and extraordinary at the same time”.

Among the 300 or so guests attending the service in the church were TV hosts Richard and Judy, Big Brother presenter Davina McCall, former Blue singer Antony Costa, pop trio Sugababes and singer Jamelia.

Earlier there had been emotional scenes outside Jade’s home in Upshire, Essex, as her mother Jackiey Budden prepared to leave for the funeral.

The 51-year-old was reported to be so distraught that she had to be helped into the mourners’ car at the front of the cortege. Onlookers called to her, “Be strong Jackiey, she’s looking down on you.”

Hundreds of people turned out to watch the funeral procession despite the rain, with many of them throwing flowers on to the hearse as it passed.

After the service, the coffin continued on to Epping Forest Burial Ground for a private burial.

Clifford said on Saturday that Jade, who planned her funeral before her death, would have been very happy with the ceremony.

“It is very much the way she wanted it,” Clifford said.

“She will have a big smile on her face when she sees what is going on today.”