In the Anglican St. Mary Magdalen Church graveyard in the southern English village of Ripley, pink cherry blossoms offered a reminder of the fragile promise of spring as Eric Clapton's son, Conor, was buried last week. The 4-year-old died March 20 after he fell 49 stories from the New York City apartment of his mother, Italian actress Lori Del Santo, 32 (PEOPLE, April 1). As Rev. Christopher Elson reminded the nearly 100 mourners of the boy's "spirit, intelligence and courage," Clapton broke down in tears.

With Conor, Clapton, 46, had hoped to become the sort of father he himself had never known. Rock's most celebrated guitarist was raised in Ripley by his grandmother after he was abandoned first by his father, a Canadian soldier stationed in England during World War II. and then by his mother. Though he parted from Del Santo shortly after Conor's birth, his frequent, happy visits with his son helped Clapton overcome his anger toward his own broken family. "We are very close now," said Eric's mother, Patricia, 62, who attended the funeral. "Conor brought us so much joy."