Storm Ophelia victim: ‘Kind, gentle, generous’ cancer nurse recalled

‘Mam left as she lived, she was one of a kind’, Clare O’Neill’s daughter tells mourners

Cancer care nurse and mother of one Clare O’Neill was killed when a tree hit her car near her home at Aglish in west Waterford last Monday

Cancer care nurse and mother of one Clare O’Neill was killed when a tree hit her car near her home at Aglish in west Waterford last Monday

 

The sea was calm and clouds were clearing to the east as mourners gathered at the Island Crematorium at Ringaskiddy to remember Clare O’Neill, who lost her life in Storm Ophelia.

The 58-year-old cancer care nurse and mother of one was killed when a tree hit her car near her home at Aglish in west Waterford last Monday. Leading the mourners at her funeral on Monday were her daughter Rosie (22) and her siblings Libhín, Mary, Lucy, Jane, John, Bill and Paul.

Ms O’Neill’s elderly mother, Vena, who was a front seat passenger in the car, remains in hospital. She was remembered in prayers by mourners who packed the intimate crematorium space.

Youghal curate Fr Patrick Winkle led the mourners in prayer as they also remembered other victims of Storm Ophelia, Richard Pyke (31) from Co Tipperary and Fintan Goss (33) in Co Louth.

Specialist nurse

The late Ms O’Neill was a specialist cancer nurse with Cork Arc cancer services. Her colleague Avril Coleman recalled her as “a kind, gentle, empathetic, generous, intuitive, sincere colleague” .

“Clare was a good person and was the kindest we knew, unlimited in her giving and her commitment, not only to her work but also to us as her colleagues and friends. She lived by a code of deep respect and that code shone through in everything she did and everyone she met.”

The late Ms O’Neill was recalled by her siblings as someone who lived and loved life to the full whether it was singing in a choir, open sea swimming at Ballyquinn, hillwalking, marathon running, secretly playing the trumpet, practising reflexology or even bricklaying.

‘Left as she lived’

But it fell to her daughter, Rosie, to pay the most poignant of tributes as she bravely went to the podium. She recalled: “Mam left as she lived , she was one of a kind so, when she had to go, it was in her own kind of way – no pain, no growing old, just one last dramatic exit.”

“I’m sure that now that she sees how many of us are here and how heartbroken we are that she isn’t. She might just realise how much she means. I cannot say enough about her and I will spend the rest of my life telling anyone who will listen how proud I am to be her daughter,” she added.

Revealing that words seemed inadequate to express her loss, Rosie said she would use the words of a song to try and capture her love for her mother. She chose a song that her mother loved to sing and frequently used when comforting others. The crematorium was in silence for an instant before the late Ms O’Neill’s cousin, Sinéad Nic Gabhann, pierced it with her soaring soprano voice as she sang the opening lines of The Beatles’ Let it Be, “When I find myself in times of trouble...”

Time seemed to stand still as the O’Neill family bade their final farewell to their mother and sister to the haunting echo of Lennon and McCartney’s lyrics: “For though they may be parted, there is still a chance that they will see, there will be an answer, let it be.”