Athy crash victims: Emotions unchecked as friends laid to rest
Bereft family and friends pay moving tribute to loved ones cut down in prime of life
The funeral of Chermaine Carroll at St Mary’s Church Bennekerry, Co Carlow, who was killed in a collision along with her three friends. Photograph Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times
The remains of Gemma Nolan, who was also killed in the same collision along with her three friends, arrives at The Holy Family Church Askea, Co Carlow. Photograph Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times
In the end, it was the words and music of Ed Sheeran that caused the emotions to flow unchecked.
Chermaine’s family and friends, her boyfriend Thos, her former classmates, her pals and work colleagues gathered around the open grave, her coffin now lowered to its resting place in the pretty country graveyard of St Mary’s Church in Bennekerry, Co Carlow.
One by one, they tossed in long stem roses – red and white and yellow and pink blush orange – and then stood in silence in the breeze, as if numbed by the circumstances more than by the biting January cold.
And then from a loudspeaker, set up a few graves away, came the familiar refrain of Thinking Out Loud and Ed Sheeran’s voice:
. . . Take me into your lovin’ arms
Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars
Place your head on my beating heart
I’m thinking out loud
Maybe we found love right where we are . . .
Chermaine’s mother Michelle sank to her knees, weeping in the mud and the wet and the wind, a strong male arm trying its best to comfort her. Chermaine’s friends, young adults like her and many still in their teens, hugged and cried and clung to each other.
After her funeral yesterday morning, most of the same people gathered in the Holy Family Church, a few kilometres away in Carlow, for the afternoon funeral of her friend Gemma Nolan, aged 19.
And today many will gather again, for the funerals of Aisling Middleton and Niamh Doyle, also both aged 19.
Dayna Kearney, the driver of the Polo car in which they were all travelling when it slammed, without obvious cause or explanation, into an oncoming transit van, is recovering in hospital and was uppermost at the funerals in everyone’s thoughts and prayers.
A single bell tolled as Chermaine’s hearse led hundreds up the shallow incline to St Mary’s in rural Bennekerry.
“Chermaine, may you be in the ranks of the best” in heaven, said Fr Tom Little after her coffin was set before the chancel, a single, 19th-century stained glass lancet window looking down at the 200-strong packed congregation.
A choir from the girls’ old school, St Leo’s, sang You Are Mine, and On Eagle’s Wings. Flawless music – flute (Aisling Byrne), violin (Aoife Kavanagh) and organ (Ollie Hennessy) – brought a degree of harmony to an inherently discordant situation.
Two friends, Jasmine and Annie, spoke tributes.
“She really was one in a million,” said Jasmine. “She lived every day so full of love and happiness and I am so grateful that I had the pleasure of having a friend like her . . . these are memories that I will cherish forever.”
Annie, fighting back tears and losing the battle, spoke of her best friend – a threesome that included Dayna.
“There was three of us in it,” as she put it.
“She was so creative. Anything at all to do with art – she was brilliant . . . Chermaine loved life, every minute of it. She was the most bubbly person I know. She had a beautiful soul, full of generosity and kindness. She would be so happy to see all of ye here today.”
Chermaine’s coffin was given a guard of honour by children from the adjoining Bennekerry National School, forming a corridor along which her coffin was carried to its final resting place.
Young people swarmed across the graves as she was lowered down. If they did not know it already, they learned this day that one of youth’s many gifts is not immortality.
A poem, Dreams, written by Aisling Middleton for the class of 2013 year book, was read.
“What is a dream?” it asked. “Could it be described as a wish? A goal? An escape? It is quite impossible to define such an important part of ourselves. A dream is like a garment: we sow it together carefully with thought, hoping for the best. . .”
The dreams of four families were torn asunder on Tuesday.
The mourners filed out of the church, solemn, grieving, and made for St Mary’s graveyard under a darkening sky with the wind and rain whipping up.