Thursday 29 September 2016

Filled with love: Lorcán's final poignant postcard

Published 26/06/2015 | 02:30

Lorcán Miller’s parents Sinéad and Ken at their son’s funeral Mass at Rathmichael Church in Shankill, Dublin, yesterday
Lorcán Miller’s parents Sinéad and Ken at their son’s funeral Mass at Rathmichael Church in Shankill, Dublin, yesterday
Mourners attend the funeral of Lorcán Miller in Dublin yesterday
Mourners at the funeral mass of Lorcan Miller at Rathmichael parish Church for his funeral mass this morning
Members of the UCD hockey team formed a guard of honour
A photo of Lorcan Miller on the Mass booklet

On June 7, Lorcán Miller sat down and wrote a postcard to his little brother and two sisters, all much younger than him, all still in single-digit years.

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In his last conversation from San Francisco with his parents, Sinéad and Ken, he had confided that he missed his siblings, so he got a postcard from his new job, a cheerful themed restaurant called Bubba Gumps with a view over the Golden Gate Bridge, and, like loving big brothers do, he opened a window onto his brand new world to the small people back home, Jamie and Lucy and Poppy.

And he was on top of that world. Just two months past his 21st birthday. The UCD medical student was regarded by teachers and peers as exceptional, both academically gifted and an excellent sportsman.

According to those who knew him, he radiated positivity, he made friends easily and then kept those friends close to him.

And now here he was in the land of endless possibility, on a J1 with a bunch of his pals, the summer stretching before him. Maybe he wrote the postcard while on a break from work, sitting on the dock of the bay in the sparkling sunshine. Or perhaps it was penned during a few minutes of peace and quiet in the cheerfully chaotic apartment he shared with his friends.

The postcard was formally addressed to 'Mr Jamie Miller, Ms Lucy Miller and Ms Poppy Miller', and inside Lorcán had drawn a matchstick doodle of himself in his work uniform, from hat to non-slip shoes.

But in the end, Lorcán arrived back to Ireland before his postcard did. By the time it dropped onto the mat of the Miller home on Tuesday, his heartbroken mum and dad had already brought him home for his funeral.

And it was during his funeral mass in the tiny, pretty Rathmichael Parish Church, that his father shared the contents of the postcard with all gathered to mourn for his son.

"Hi guys, just wanted to send you a postcard to show you where I'm working this summer. Bubba Gumps is a restaurant based on the film 'Forrest Gump'. You should watch it with mum and dad. All the food and drinks have really funny names based on the characters of the film. Best of all, there are lots of prawns (though Americans call them shrimp). As part of my job I have to talk to customers and I always tell them about my amazing brothers and sisters and how much I miss them. I hope you're having lots of fun like me and being good. I'll see you soon.

"Lots and lots and lots of love as always, Lorcán."

And then big brother signed off with 12 kisses. As Ken Miller finished reading, all that could be heard was the sound of sobbing, as hundreds of hearts broke over the almost unbearable tenderness and playfulness which had flowed from every line. In the church, on the altar, in the overflow room screening the mass, outside in the grounds where a large crowd congregated around speakers, a torrent of tears was unleashed by this unveiling of a private display of love.

Lorcán was the last of the six students who perished in Berkeley to be buried, but the numbers of mourners hadn't diminished, nor had the level of grief.

The small, picturesque Anglican church was filled with those with close links to the family, as well as the new, sorrowful clan which has formed in recent days - members of the families of Ashley Donohoe, Olivia Burke, Eimear Walsh, Eoin Culligan and Niccolai Schuster were in attendance.

Chief celebrant Canon David Moynan spoke at the start of the service of "the continuing sense of shock and loss, not just for ourselves, but also for the families of others who died so tragically in Berkeley and to those injured, and their families".

In an adjoining room, a large crowd of Lorcán's friends were following the service on a screen affixed to the wall behind a simple altar.

There were no seats, so they simply sat down cross-legged on the floor with the ease of the kids they so recently were.

It was a simple ceremony, with some of Lorcán's favourite songs - Adele's 'To Make You Feel My Love' and 'Fix You' by Coldplay.

But old and young cried side-by-side as Ken paid tribute to his eldest child.

He described him as an extrovert who loved life and as a natural leader.

He listed some of the things Lorcán had relished: "Stupid hats; his giraffe onesie; his low-rider trike; the subtle signs posted on his bedroom door; and his love of everything Harry Potter; his ability to take advice, make it his own, and excel; his pouting selfies; the miracle of him not getting repetitive thumb strain from using his mobile; his creativity, he made personal cards for people all the time."

As the service drew to a close, Ken, Sinéad, Jamie, Lucy and Poppy gathered around the coffin, upon which had been placed a bouquet of sunflowers and a framed photo of Lorcán, hand on chin, gel in hair, gazing quizzically into the camera.

Little Poppy, too young to understand yet the depth of her loss, was cradled in her dad's arms.

A short while earlier while concluding his moving eulogy, Ken's profound grief had surfaced. "Myself and Sinéad went over to the US to bring home our baby, and we brought back our giant."

Some day, and for many days to come, Jamie and Lucy and Poppy will hear all the wonderful stories of Lorcán the Giant, and how his big heart loved them, right to the very end.

Irish Independent

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