THE well-known restaurateur Sallyanne Clarke told how she would willingly trade places with her teenage son tragically killed in an accident at home.
The voice of the devastated mother, who runs the acclaimed l'Ecrivain restaurant with her husband Derry, quivered as she read a poignant poem to mark the death of her 16-year-old son Andrew Clarke before the hundreds of mourners gathered for his removal service.
The transition year student's classmates formed a guard of honour at the entrance to the Boys' Chapel at Clongowes Wood College in Co Kildare - a place the promising racing car driver called his "second home".
Many well-known faces from the business and television worlds - including lawyer Gerald Kean, television presenters Grainne and Sile Seoige and Lorraine Keane - joined the mourners in the packed pews as the teenager's classmates carried the coffin bearing his 6ft 2in frame into the chapel.
His mother, Sallyanne, paid a heartfelt tribute as she read a poem to her only son from the altar, describing how she had been left with a "picture" now frozen in time.
Echoing the words of the poem, she told how she had been left with an ache "deep down" inside following the loss of the son and "baby boy" she loved so much.
"If only they had asked me if I would take your place I would have done so willingly, leaving you this world to grace," she said. "You should have had so many years to watch your life unfold, and in the midst of this watch me, your devastated Mom, grow old.
"I hope you are watching from above at the daily tasks I do and that there be no doubt at all I really do and always will love you."
Fr Michael Sheil told mourners Andrew lived on in a "very special way" as his parents and sister Sarah May (22) had given permission for his heart, lung, liver and kidney to be donated to help others live. He asked mourners to shake hands with those in front so the family, including his beloved nana Sadie, could feel the waves of love and support read them at the front of the packed Boys' Chapel.
The 16-year-old lost his battle for life on Monday, following an accident on Thursday of last week, when a car he was fixing at the family home in Saggart, Co Dublin, collapsed on him.
His mother found him and alerted emergency services. The Clongowes student was mad about cars and had finished in the top three of the Ginetta junior racing championship this year - a tournament for 14 to 17-year-olds.
Fr Sheil described Andrew as a person who was "liked, respected, loved and had a special place in the hearts" of many. The priest said that when a young person dies people often speak of what might have been, and he asked mourners to be thankful for what Andrew "already was". He told how the family had asked for donations, if desired, instead of flowers to Strangeboat.org which aids organs transplantation.
The teenager will be buried at Mount Jerome cemetery tomorrow following a funeral Mass conducted by his principal Fr Leonard Moloney at Clongowes.