The border town of Lifford in Co Donegal came to a standstill today as the community said a final goodbye to hit-and-run victim Laura Connolly.
The 34-year-old mother-of-one was killed in the early hours of Sunday morning last as she returned from a night out with friends.
Just hours earlier, she had been shopping for her wedding dress as she prepared to wed long-term partner Joe McCullagh next year.
Hundreds of people gathered outside Ms Connolly’s home at Croaghan Heights and walked with the funeral cortege to St Patrick’s Church in Murlog.
Several floral tributes, including one which simply said ‘Mammy’, were placed inside the funeral hearse.
Due to be married
A guard of honour of men wearing white shirts and black ties accompanied the hearse along the distance of around one mile to the church.
A piper led the funeral cortege to the doors of St Patrick’s as the community stood outside the church Ms Connolly was due to be married in, maintaining current Covid-19 guidelines.
Among the mourners was Ms Connolly’s fiancee Mr McCullagh and the couple’s teenage son Jamie.
Her mother and father, Rosemary and Jimmy, as well as brother James, grandmother Theresa Connolly and aunts and uncles also said a final goodbye to the young woman.
Inside the church, Fr Colm O’Doherty recalled the “terrible tragedy” that had happened last Sunday around dawn.
‘Sense of bewilderment’
He said: “The news brought disbelief, shock, despair, anger, awful grief, terrible sadness and a real sense of bewilderment not just throughout the community at large but especially to her loving family for whom these past few days must have seemed like an unreal nightmare.”
Fr O’Doherty said the question he has been asked most in recent days is how people are going to cope with Ms Connolly’s loss, someone who was loved so much. He added that he has also been constantly asked what people should say at a time like this.
He said at a time like this there are no spoken words which can properly ease the hearts and minds of those who are grieving.
“Tremendous solidarity and kindness have been shown by so many good neighbours and friends who have brought the grace of the community spirit of this parish to the sad homes of Laura’s family,” he said.
“Your presence alone has been so important in so many ways,” he said.
‘Zest for life’
He said there had been many lighter moments in the dark recent days, as friends and family told stories of the fun-loving and bubbly girl that Ms Connolly was and her “zest for life.”
He remembered how next year was going to be her and her fiancee’s big day.
“Next year was going to be the year. The date is in the diary here in the church. Laura and Joe would become Mr and Mrs. The wedding dress was even being looked for that day she was to die,” he said.
“These are lovely memories to have, to share and to keep sharing in the future.”
The date is in the diary here in the church. Laura and Joe would become Mr and Mrs
He added: “We pray in particular that the gifts of joy, of goodness, kindness and especially the gift of love that Laura brought to your lives will help you never to forget such a special person and always be thankful for the gift of life she gave.”
Prayers of intercession were then said for Ms Connolly by friends and family. One such prayer asked for comfort for her friends who were with her on her final night and for the emergency services who attended the scene.
Before leading Ms Connolly to her final resting place in the adjoining cemetery, Fr O’Doherty said her favourite song ‘Butterfly Kisses’ would be sung.