Berkeley tragedy: Soulmate Eoghan has been taken from me, girlfriend tells church
Published 24/06/2015 | 02:30
They wept together. For the future they should have shared, for the Christmases forfeited, for the birthdays that will never be celebrated.
They wept for Best Man speeches never uttered, for the petty brotherly disputes he can no longer chair.
For small pleasures that used to be savoured - like popcorn and movies, sunset walks and Sunday roast dinners. And for the house will seem forever silent without his comical bellow of "Hello papa!" at his father and greeting his mother with a big kiss.
One by one, friends and family recalled what they would miss most about Eoghan Culligan. They also wept for the way in which he had died and the long journey it had taken to bring him home at last.
Under a hot sun that seemed to mercilessly echo the carefree heat of California, more than 1,000 mourners gathered to bid a sorrowful farewell to the 21-year-old, who was better known by those who loved him as the "weird and wonderful Cullie".
The J1 student who had been working in Berkeley for the summer had been studying logistics and supply chain management at DIT.
A touchingly solemn guard of honour was formed outside the Church of the Annunciation in Rathfarnham by pupils from St Mary's in Rathmines, Eoghan's old school and members from his GAA club, Ballyboden St Enda's.
His grieving parents Marie and Gerry and brothers Andy and Stephen and girlfriend Sarah McCarthy walked silently as they accompanied the coffin the short distance from the family home.
The family of Niccolai Schuster, who also died in the balcony collapse was there, along with students who were at the fateful party in Berkeley.
The stone church was unable to accommodate all who came and so they spilled out under the tall cypress trees.
Perhaps the most poignant among numerous deeply affecting moments was when chief celebrant Fr Richard Olin, of St Mary's College, told how the family had gathered around the body earlier in the day and were struck by how someone once so active could now be so still.
The music at the service was a nod to Cullie's hipster vibe - with Green Day and Alphaville's Forever Young.
The President was represented by his aide-de-camp Lieutenant Colonel Kiernan, while Taoiseach Enda Kenny was represented by his aide-de-camp Commandant Michael Foley.
American Ambassador Kevin O'Malley and Communications Minister Alex White also attended.
Symbols of Eoghan's life brought to the altar by his friends from school, college and fellow football team mates, with a commentary read by his uncle Henry, included an Ireland rugby jersey to symbolise his great love of the game, fostered by St Mary's; a signed GAA jersey to reflect his love of Gaelic and his time at Ballyboden St Enda's.
Also brought up was his grandfather's old watch - which Eoghan had fixed up and worn proudly and his favourite 'Obey' hat, which had been a gift from girlfriend Sarah.
A wooden staff from a production of his beloved Lord of the Rings was brought up as his uncle Henry quoted JRR Tolkien: "The journey doesn't end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take."
Prayers were said for the recovery of the injured students who still remain in hospitals in California.
Eoghan's father Gerry told mourners: "We are all heartbroken," while his mother Marie wept as she said: "Our hearts are broken but our love will remain intact until the day we die."
There was emotional applause in the church after girlfriend Sarah read a poem she had written.
"I'll miss hearing you tell me how amazing we were and how we were put on this earth to be with each other," she said.
"My soulmate was taken from me but I know you will live on in my heart every day and that you will guide me every step of the way."
A heavy silence hung in the church as Andy said he had thought he would be up there in the church some day for his brother's wedding.
Though younger, Eoghan was also "bigger and wiser," his brother Stephen claimed," saying he had been the peacemaker of the family.
A spontaneous outburst of prolonged and emotional applause came as a final tribute as the coffin was lifted into the hearse and taken on one last journey to Mount Jerome cemetery.