The words of Fr Joe O’Keeffe summed up the mood of his parishioners in north Cork yesterday afternoon as hundreds gathered for the funeral of Mourneabbey nurse Karen Buckley.
A specially erected marquee could not contain the hundreds of mourners who attended the requiem Mass at the small Church of Saint Michael the Archangel in Analeentha, south of Mallow.
“To us Karen was a young woman, a friend. To her family she was a cousin, a niece, a sister-in-law, a sister, a daughter, a child,” Fr O’Keeffe said.
“It is most difficult then for them, but in particular for Karen’s parents, John and Marian, to associate the cradle to the coffin. One represents the beginning of life and the other represents the end. And it is doubly sad when the two are so closely linked. We are deeply, deeply saddened when the life of someone so young is cut short, and in Karen’s case, so tragically and horrifically so, by the curtain of death.
“There are many things in life that become so much a part of a home that their absence leaves a void. It may be a picture that hangs on the wall, a familiar footstep, a stray kitten whom Karen named ‘Boots’, or whatever, but nothing becomes so indispensable as a child,” he said.
Fr O’Keeffe urged those struggling to make sense of Ms Buckley’s death to turn to their faith. “Others before us have faced this same tragedy and have opted in favour of faith. When David, King of Israel, lost his baby boy, he somehow pulled himself together and went on with the business of living. People wondered why and how, and he answered, ‘I cannot bring him back, but I can go to be with him’.
“Through travelling extensively Karen reached many a destination. Shortly, we will travel with her mortal remains on her last earthly journey. We pray Karen has already reached her final destination and that she has touched the hem of Jesus’s gown and is with God in heaven,” Fr O’Keeffe said.
Ahead of the service, Ms Buckley’s brothers Brendan, Kieran and Damien presented to the altar a picture of her first day at school, her nurse’s uniform and her favourite dress, respectively. Her cousins and friends delivered readings and prayers of the faithful, while her cousin Siobhan Leahy read a poem about the popular nurse.
“A nurse with plans, A woman full of dreams, An adventurer who travelled, And in fun and laughter revelled,” Ms Leahy said.
Hymns were led by the combined Mourneabbey parish choirs of Analeentha and Burnfort churches.
Ms Buckley’s classmates from the University of Limerick formed a guard of honour as her hearse left the church and made its way to Burnfort graveyard for burial.
The Taoiseach was represented in the congregation by Commandant Kieran Carey and Minister of State Dara Murphy. Mayor of County Cork Alan Coleman and Lord Mayor of Cork City Mary Shields also attended the service.
Representatives also attended on behalf of Police Scotland and Glasgow Caledonian University, where Ms Buckley was studying a Masters in Occupational Therapy at the time of her death.
Fr O’Keeffe was joined on the altar by 19 concelebrants while Canon Eithne Lynch represented the Church of Ireland.
Ms Buckley’s body was found on a farm north of Glasgow on Wednesday, April 15. She had been last seen leaving Sanctuary nightclub at 1am on the previous Sunday morning.
Courier firm director Alexander Pacteau, 21, has since appeared in Glasgow court charged with her murder and with attempting to defeat the ends of justice.