Smiles and warm memories no match for grief and heartache

FOR the briefest moments amid their heartache, the families of Mark McLaughlin and PJ McLaughlin allowed themselves smile as anecdotes of their loved ones were shared with those who mourned them.

PJ was a bit of a showman, they heard, a snappy dresser who always wanted to be in style. He had once dispatched his girlfriend across a crowded disco floor to ascertain the source of a pair of boots he spied on another dancer.

But he wasn’t too preoccupied with appearance to ignore a damsel in distress and had once walked the last leg of his journey home from a night out in his socks after giving his boots to the young lady accompanying him who was crippled in her high heels.

Car crazy and football mad, his Illes Celtic Football Club shirt was brought to the altar as an offering along with a framed photograph of his pride and joy, a gleaming white 1991 BMW.

His friends and fellow car enthusiasts had given him a trophy moulded in the shape of shooting stars. It declared him Driver of the Year 2010. It too was carried to the altar, a symbol of a life lived in the spirit of fun.

He loved his job, working with his dad in his garage, but although assiduous during office hours, he knew how to leave work behind when clocking off time came.

“That didn’t apply to his friends, though,” Fr McGoldrick said. “If they needed him, he was there 24/7. He would have gone the length of Ireland to assist them.”

It was with great poignancy that his family had told the priest of PJ’s desire to be famous for something.

“When you think that his face appeared on the front page of probably every newspaper in this country, he was famous but not for the right reason.”

Mark McLaughlin was a quieter chap but with a quick humour and an equally strong appetite for work.

“He was a highly respected young man who liked his work and worked very hard. He never missed a day, dependable, able to take the initiative. He would do any job he was asked to do, small or big, and would have gone out early morning till late at night no bother if he was asked,” Fr McGoldrick said.

“But while he was never late, he wasn’t always easy to get up in the mornings. His mum Roma told me he’d take two or three calls to get him up — a typical young man knowing that when your mother calls you, there is plenty of time yet.”

The priest told of a prank his friends planned to play on Mark for his 21st birthday recently but Mark got wise to it. “Cute boy that he was, he went to bed and wasn’t seen for two days.”

His funeral Mass ended with a poem written and read by Peggy Doherty on behalf of Mark’s colleagues at McDaid’s Quarry where he worked.

It recalled how he arrived there as a shy young lad of 15 who only wanted to drive trucks and had to put up with years of being told “You’re far too wee”. But when he was old enough, he got an 8-wheeler and was never happier, proving himself a deft driver and a firm favourite with the customers.

Peggy broke down as she read it and struggled to finish. Smiles and warm memories, strong as they were, were no match for grief.


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