‘There are no words we can use to help you’

Community in mourning as a father and daughter are laid to rest, says Eddie Cassidy in Schull

THE courage of a heartbroken young woman was demonstrated yesterday during an emotional funeral Mass for her only child and husband.

Rebecca McCarthy became numb with grief as she answered the responsorial psalm at St Mary’s Church in Schull in West Cork.

Her own mum, Linda Jean Bailey, stood beside her as she recalled Psalm 23, The Lord Is My Shepherd. Rebecca had bravely maintained her composure for most of the reading but then went silent and cried.

Many women, young and old, shed tears. Rebecca, her mum, and her aunt emotionally embraced each other before returning to their seats.

She also reached out to touch the photo on the coffin of her little girl, Clarissa.

Rebecca, a 25-year-old American, had arrived in West Cork in her late teens and after an almost fairytale meeting with a then confirmed bachelor, Martin McCarthy, who was in his 40s, settled down at the McCarthy family farm at Audley Cove in Ballydehob.

Their only daughter Clarissa arrived just three months after Martin’s mother Elizabeth had been laid to rest.

Clarissa, 3, was buried in the same plot as her grandmother yesterday. She was placed in a single coffin with her father, who friends had said was devoted to the child, and lowered into the family plot in the cemetery in Colla Rd, Schull.

In a panoramic setting of sea and mountains, the sun glistened beneath a pale blue sky on Schull harbour, overlooked by the parish cemetery.

Rebecca, born in Los Angeles, had raised the alarm late on Tuesday and, with gardaí and other emergency services in attendance, watched as both drowned bodies were found within an hour of each other in the early hours of Wednesday.

Fr Martin Keohane, based in nearby Skibbereen where the deceased man’s sister Hester lived with her own family, received both bodies at the church in Schull. He was joined by several other priests for a concelebrated funeral, at which Fr Anthony O’Mahony, from Bantry, was the chief celebrant.

The gifts which symbolised aspects of both lives were brought to the altar at the start of the Mass, including an ornament depicting a farmer with a dog, a teddy bear and framed family photographs.

In his homily, Fr O’Mahony said: “If we knew what was going on in the minds of people we might not be here today.

“Martin lived all his life in Foilnamuck and I suppose he only ever really left it to come to Mass, go dancing, play cards, to go to work, and go to America, once.

“He was farming all his life. It was a big part of his life apart from Clarissa and Rebecca and some of the gifts we brought at the start of Mass represent that.

“Clarissa spent all of her short life at Foilnamuck, and in her three-and-a-half years on this Earth brought great joy, great happiness, not just to Martin and Rebecca’s life but to the lives of all the people who met her.” He went on to say: “God takes care of us on this Earth. He does that through each one of us, in ways that we reach out and support each other and when we do that, we are doing God’s work.

“An awful lot of God’s work has been going on since Tuesday night and the early hours of Wednesday morning when people first went searching for Clarissa and Martin, and all the ways people have been there for you and the family over the past few days.”

Speaking to the chief mourners, Rebecca and Hester, he said: “There are no set of words and no set of actions that we can use to help you understand or come to terms or get around this terrible tragedy which has unfolded in your lives.

“There is nothing we can say or do which will comfort you or console you in any meaningful way, but I do hope at least you can be consoled by the fact that the people of Foilnamuck, Ballydehob, the parish of Schull, and the wider community have been there for you over the last few days.

“And I suppose for all of you who have been there, doing God’s work for the past few days, that work cannot stop today, it is a work which has to continue.”

A family member paid tribute to everyone who offered assistance and support in recent days. Tributes were also paid to the fire brigade, gardaí, Baltimore Lifeboat, Golden Coast Guard, Schull inshore rescue, Southdoc, ambulance crews, and an advanced paramedic. “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,” said the family member.

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