Little Clarissa McCarthy was laid to rest in a single coffin in the arms of her devoted father who had carried the 3-year-old into the pitch-black waters of West Cork earlier in the week.
A cuddly toy — a white lamb — represented Clarissa’s short life on this Earth, accompanied to an altar by a bronze statuette of a man and his dog, recalling the farm life associated with her father, Martin.
Both bodies were brought to St Mary’s Church in Schull yesterday where hundreds of mourners paid their last respects.
The drowned 50-year-old father and his only child were recovered early on Wednesday from the waters in Audley Cove near Ballydehob.
A floral tribute from a toddlers’ group captured the community’s love for the girl. The Schull Parent and Toddler Group sent a wreath with a message: “To Clarissa, you brightened up our lives, we will miss your smiles.”
A second, enormous tribute was created with pink and white flowers. Many of the wreaths were in the shape of angels.
Hundreds of mourners, led by mother Rebecca, walked behind the oak coffin through the tourist village to the Colla Road cemetery.
Clarissa’s mother’s colourful wreath of roses, carnations, dahlias, sunflowers, and daffodils carried the words: “You are in my heart always, mommy Rebecca.”
Twice, during a prayer recital and immediately afterwards at the requiem Mass, Rebecca became very emotional. During the responsorial psalm, The Lord is My Shepherd, her soft American accent quivered, bringing tears to many mourners.
On behalf of the family, Billy O’Brien, married to Martin’s sister Hester, said: “Having gathered here at this very sad time, no words or thoughts can begin to comprehend the tragedy we have experienced the last few days. On behalf of Hester and the whole family we want to thank the people that helped us in so many ways.”
He added: “Even though this is such a sad occasion, can I ask you to remember Martin as a kind, compassionate, helpful neighbour and remember Clarissa as a bright happy child who brought so much joy and happiness to her parents.”
Chief celebrant Fr Tony O’Mahony told the large congregation: “If we knew what was going on in the minds of people, we may not be here today.”
He said that Clarissa had “brought great joy, great happiness not just to Martin and Rebecca’s life but to the lives of all the people who met her”.
Both were laid to rest in the McCarthy family plot where Martin’s parents were already interred.
Fr O’Mahony urged everyone who had supported the people in this past week to continue their good work.
He told the grieving families: “We may not be able to do a lot for you in the time ahead but hopefully you will get some consolation by the fact that at least we are there for you.”
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