Through his grief, a father summoned his strength and made a pledge to his dead children, promising: “I will look after your mammy.”
Jamie McGinn was grieving for two, his beloved wife Biddy lying gravely ill in hospital, still unaware that their little boy and girl had died in the Clondalkin apartment fire that left her fighting for her life.
The ashen-faced young father struggled to breathe as he held on to the coffins of Jordan, 4, and Holly, 3, on their arrival at St Anne’s Church in Shankill, Co Dublin.
“Biddy is with us in spirit,” his parish priest, Fr John O’Connor, told the hundreds of mourners. “Biddy is a very strong and intelligent person but she now needs the love and support of all of us as never before and I know that you won’t let her down.”
The previous evening as he prepared to say his final farewells to his children, Jamie had told Fr O’Connor, who had officiated at his wedding to Biddy were married, that he drew strength from the belief that his children were together in heaven.
He vowed to use that strength to pull their mother through. The priest relayed the pledge: “He wants his children to know that he will look after their mammy and that they will be happy together.”
Across the aisle, another father stood, head bent low, as more coffins arrived.
Sean Patel watched quietly as the remains of his partner, Annemarie O’Brien, their girl, Paris, 2, and their unborn baby son, AJ, were carried in and arranged side by side.
Annemarie, 27, and Biddy, 30, were cousins but were so close growing up that they always felt like sisters. That trait passed on to their children who were cousins, playmates and pals.
All but Biddy died last Wednesday when fire broke out at the apartment used by the Sonas women’s refuge in Clondalkin where Annemarie and Paris had been staying and where Biddy and her children had come for an overnight visit.
They were brought together in tragedy before, many being related by blood or marriage to the ten adults and children who died in the Carrickmines halting site fire in October 2015, a tragedy that also claimed the life of an unborn baby.
Yesterday, on a bright spring day, they assembled as they had in the darkness of 2015, at Springfield Cemetery in nearby Bray, to once more lay coffins big and small in the earth.
Investigations into the exact cause of last Wednesday’s fire, which was accidental, are continuing.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved