Family and friends of Donegal woman Danielle McLaughlin celebrated her bright and beautiful character at her funeral today.
Instead of traditional dark clothing, many mourners at St Mary’s Chapel in Cockhill on the outskirts of Buncrana town, wore bright colours in memory of the 28-year-old murdered in India two weeks ago.
Yellows, pinks, bright blues, oranges and lilacs all shouted out loudly across the sombre setting.
Her life may have been taken, but her friends wanted to ensure that nobody would steal the passion and love she brought to so many people.
Many of the mourners came from as far away as New Zealand, Australia, Scotland and England for the final farewell while others wore flowers in their hair and around their necks.
Just before 11am, Danielle’s remains were given a Garda escort from her home in Marian Park as a guard of honour from her former secondary school, Scoil Mhuire, lined the gentle incline to the church.
Her hearse was laiden with floral tributes including the words ‘daughter’ and ‘sister’ and her wicker coffin had hundreds of flowers attached.
Father Francis Bradley, Parish Priest of Buncrana, was chief celebrant of the Mass and Father John R Walsh concelebrated the Mass.
Before the Mass, family and friends presented Fr Bradley with four symbols of Danielle’s life.
These included a holy bracelet from Mother Teresa care home in India, which was presented by friend Christy Duffy, a family photo which was presented by sister Joleen, Danielle’s diary which was presented by friend Louise McMenamin and Danielle guitar which was presented by friend Ben Taggart.
In his homily to a packed St Mary’s Church, Fr Bradley said Danielle’s was long one journey which she had still not completed.
“For her, life was a journey, many journeys in fact. Travel for her was genetic. And her death too, must be seen, not as the end, but instead, the beginning of yet another stage – the most exciting perhaps of them all – as we pray she journeys now into eternal life.
“She may, for a time appear to be beyond the reach of our touch, but she will remain forever within reach of our prayers. And just as Danielle’s mother and sisters and friends accompanied her every step on social media no matter where she went, and just in the same way as her friends, Nicole Farren and Sherridan Smith made their way to Goa to accompany her on her journey home, so too, we now accompany Danielle with our love and our prayers as we bid her ‘safe home’.”
He added that so many had gathered at the church as a heart-broken people to honour with Christian burial a beautiful daughter, a cherished grand-daughter, a thoughtful sister, a loyal friend, a free-spirit, a remarkable classmate, a gentle neighbour; the little girl who became the lovely woman who was Danielle McLaughlin.
“We try to get our heads around her loss. Her death so young; the suddenness of it; its callous nature would leave us speechless were it not for the fact that we gather here too as a people of faith, hope and great love, determined that in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, we, as his followers, can never allow death to have the final word. Danielle herself, with her kindly heart and searching mind, would never countenance such a thing!” he said.
He said she may have been born in Scotland in February, 1989 but it was in Buncrana where she found a home and a community.
“She has been mourned by people of all ages who have been touched by her life and challenged by her death. Although intensely private, Danielle has made a huge impression on people’s lives. She was disarmingly kind and forgiving; her warm nature and open heart drew people into her ever-widening, extensive and international circle of friends.
“A brief glance at the vast array of tender messages for Danielle’s mother Andrea, her family and friends, shows the immense esteem in which she was held. She had a gentle but powerful way with her – for it seems that just one encounter with her was enough to change someone’s life.”
During her funeral mass, Danielle was described as a gifted student in dance and drama, who became a colourful character, like a gem which caught the light and reflected it in all its beauty around her.
“Even the Indian Festival of Holi which she liked to attend and celebrate, is all about colour and celebration, for it marks the end of winter, the arrival of spring and gives thanks for the blessings of the harvest.
“It would appear that Danielle wished to leave a very light carbon footprint in her wake. Her love of things natural is well documented. Like Ezekiel, in today’s first reading, Danielle learned not merely to seek God in the huge, cataclysmic events of life – but rather in the refreshing stillness of a gentle breeze.
“And I’m sure, from what I’ve learned of her life, that God would have spoken to Danielle in the gentleness of her heart, a heart made holy in baptism, a heart made wholesome in kindness, a heart so forgiving that it healed the hurts of those around her. And today, in the spirit of Saint Paul’s words to the Philippians, her legacy should be that of joy and thanksgiving and peace. We cannot allow the brevity of Danielle’s life, or the malice which cut it short, to spoil her memory or impair her beauty.”
Fr Bradley told mourners that death always brings a sense of powerlessness – never more so than when it happens someone so young, so kind and loving, and somewhere so very far away.
But he added “Danielle did not leave this world alone. Today’s Gospel tells us of what happened when Jesus sent his own disciples on ahead of him, across the lake while He remained alone on the land, praying in the hills.
“This time, there was no gentle breeze; instead a head-wind which meant that the poor disciples were making nothing of it for all their effort, for all their rowing. But they are not alone – for He comes to them across the waters. He reveals Himself to them with those powerful words, ‘Courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.’ And as He climbs into the boat with them, the wind drops and calm is restored
“Just over two weeks ago, Danielle faced a head-wind. But she didn’t face it alone. By the prayers of her mother home here in Buncrana, by the prayers of her grandparents at home in heaven, Christ, I believe, would have come to her with those same powerful words, ‘Courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.’ And I pray that, amid Danielle’s struggle, peace and calm came her way too.”
Gifts of bread and wine were brought to the altar by friends Raymond Bryden and Stephanie Porter, the readings were conducted by friends Nicole Farren and Conall Campbell while haunting music was played by Maria Doherty and Hugh P.
Following her funeral mass, Danielle’s remains were carried in her wicker coffin to the adjoining cemetery to be buried alongside her late grandparents.