IT SHOULD have been a joyous Christmas Day Mass, but instead mourners filled St Brigid's Church.
The family of a mother who was killed in a house fire in Hacketstown, Co Carlow choked back tears as they led the prayers of the faithful.
Parish priest Rev James McCormack described how "saying goodbye to your mother on Christmas morning" was "one of the hardest things to do".
"Every life is precious," he told the congregation in the church where the Christmas crib and the coffin lay side by side.
Christmas Day will forever be tinged with sadness for the six children who buried Margaret Doyle (50).
The beloved mother and grandmother died after flames had engulfed her home in Mountain View in Hacketstown in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Her son, James Doyle (20), who had returned home from a night out, heroically pulled his mother from the fire and tried to save her life.
Sadly, she was later pronounced dead. Ms Doyle was remembered yesterday as the "life and soul" of the party.
Poignantly, her own mother, Marie McDonald, had to bid farewell to her daughter at Christmas Mass.
Margaret's daughters, Jackie, Lisa and Amanda and sons James, Michael and Bob were joined by friends and relatives as they mourned their mother.
"No matter how much pain and suffering we go through, there is nothing more important than human life," said Rev McCormack.
He described the sacrifices Ms Doyle had made to "give life" to her six children.
"We say our farewell to Margaret this Christmas morning, help us through this day," he said.
Later, mourners watched as the popular woman's remains were lowered into the ground in Hacketstown cemetery.
Afterwards, they fondly spoke of how Margaret had celebrated her 50th birthday in Boland's Bar in Hacketstown earlier this year.
She was well known in the small town because of her work on FAS schemes in the local day-care centre.
Gardai are continuing to investigate the fire in the early hours of December 23, which they believe was started accidentally.