‘A brief but beautiful life that touched so many’

A heartbroken mother was brought to church in a wheelchair to say a final farewell to her only child who died in a road crash.

Zoe Scannell, 8, died instantly in a two-car collision at Owenahincha Cross, in West Cork on June 26, a crash that left her mother Alisha with serious injuries. The funeral had been delayed in the hope her mother would be well enough to attend.

Alisha, who was allowed home from Cork University Hospital on Monday, yesterday led hundreds of mourners who gathered for Zoe’s Mass of the Angels in the Church of the Assumption, Abbeyfeale, Co Limerick.

Alisha, clutching Zoe’s penguin soft toy, was wheeled into the church behind her child’s white coffin.

Alisha and her partner Eddie Murphy were on holidays in West Cork when the accident happened.

Zoe, a gifted traditional Irish dancer and musician, had made her First Holy Communion on May 17 last. Her coffin yesterday rested where she had knelt with the 43 other girls and boys on that day.

Gifts to the altar included her fiddle, tin whistle, dancing shoes, a hurley, leads for her pet dogs and a Liverpool jersey.

During the Mass, some of Zoe’s friends paid a poignant tribute performing an Irish dance in front of the altar.

Abbeyfeale curate, Fr Joe Foley, who had given Zoe her First Holy Communion only a few weeks ago, said Abbeyfeale had seen sad and tragic funerals over the years but few would have been “as profoundly sad and sorrowful as the funeral that gathers us here today”.

“The death of a child, in any circumstances, is an occasion of great sorrow. We are gathered here this morning to remember Zoe, to say our goodbyes to one who lived a brief, but beautiful life, a life which if today’s attendance tells us anything, touched many.”

Fr Foley said for many the death of a child in such circumstances is almost unspeakable, but urged people to speak of their sorrow and grief.

“If we shy away from such things, and remain in silence, then we do a great disservice to Zoe, to her memory and the impact she had on so many people around her. So speak about death, about loss and about the person that Zoe was.

“She was certainly a special little girl, a lively engaging child with a zest for life and a talent for many things as symbolised by the symbols brought up at the start of Mass.

“She was of course, a popular and lively pupil at Scoil Mathair De, in Mrs Gleeson’s class, and I am sure that all those young Communion classmates will be missing her. So many memories, so much life and light brought into the Scannell family by this special, unique little girl. These are all qualities which are unmeasured by the clock, and I am sure you all have your own memories of Zoe. I am sure that this will ensure that her memory is treasured forever.”

Many openly wept as Zoe’s aunt, Anna O’Sullivan, paid a heart-rending tribute to her little niece.

She said they had thousands of amazing memories of Zoe which they will hold onto for the rest of their lives.

Zoe was laid to rest at the local Reilig Ide Naofa, alongside the grave of her grandfather, Luke Scannell who died 14 years ago.


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