After the final words were said at his son’s memorial service, John Travolta fought back tears as he spoke one by one to guests at his Ocala, Fla., home Jan. 8. “When he was walking around, he was holding a wallet-size photo of Jett and kept staring at the picture,” says a family friend. “He was saying, ‘Cherish every moment with your children.'”
Surrounded by family members and close friends, Travolta, 54, and his wife, Kelly Preston, 46, bid a sad farewell to their son Jett, who died at age 16 of a seizure disorder on Jan. 2 during a family vacation in the Bahamas. At the private outdoor memorial held in the backyard, where Jett often played in the pool with his sister Ella Bleu, 8, mourners gathered beneath a tent, where, at the front, a large portrait of Jett was placed on a pedestal. A main theme of the Scientology service was the religion’s belief that the human spirit is immortal and will live again. “Kelly and John were holding hands the entire time, trying to cope,” says the friend. But by the end, “they were crying. Kelly is in pain. John is doing the best he can.” Adds longtime Travolta pal Lisa Marie Presley, who attended the service: “They are two parents who are absolutely, utterly devastated.”
Still, their grief hasn’t clouded their gratitude for the outpouring of support from loved ones and fans. In an open letter to the citizens of Ocala, where Jett developed his love for golf-cart rides and planes, Travolta, Preston and Ella expressed their appreciation for the cards, flowers and kindness they received from neighbors who “made an impossibly painful situation a little less painful,” they wrote. “For all of the people who have kept Jett in their prayers, know that those prayers have given us inspiration and strength.”
Following the funeral, Kelly hugged and thanked guests (who also included Garth Brooks, Forest Whitaker, Cal Ripken Jr. and James Gandolfini) in the family’s living room, which overlooked the plane that John had named after his firstborn child. John—who canceled his appearance as a presenter at the Jan. 11 Golden Globes—spoke “about how [Jett] was always happy,” says the friend. “He didn’t want to cry. He was doing his best to stay positive … but he was exhausted.” The couple also went to great lengths to “make sure [Ella] had friends with her” to lean on, says the guest.
Now the trio simply need time to heal. “They were a foursome. Everything was done as a family unit, and now the unit is no longer,” says the friend. “They are having a difficult time—but they are trying to make their way back to the world.”