'Goodbye to our wonderful mother. Love always . . . You are my hero'
Published 16/09/2016 | 02:30
The Coast Guard helicopter hung in the sky over the grave for a moment before heading out again across the sea, the ultimate beacon of the hope and selfless sacrifice which Caitriona Lucas had made the bedrock of her short life.
In a heartfelt message at her funeral, her husband Bernard urged mourners not to put things off in life.
"Don't put things off - do them now," he said. "Life is short and time is very precious."
If Caitriona had lived, then she had already made plans for yesterday and the weekend ahead.
The 41-year-old mother of two had arranged to go kayaking up the river to Ennistymon with her husband and some friends, just as they had done together last week.
This weekend was also already laid out - with a Roald Dahl extravaganza for the children at the library where she worked.
Caitriona, a talented artist, had painted the windows with characters from classics like 'The Witches' and 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory'.
But she was a bright light snuffed out too soon in the course of selfless duty to her community - the first volunteer coast guard to die in the course of a rescue and recovery operation.
Mourners heard she was buried with a shell in her hand - the age-old sign of the pilgrim, having walked the Camino way in Northern Spain with Bernard.
For the second day in a row, thousands of people from all walks of life flocked to St Brigid's, the parish church in Liscannor, Co Clare, to pay their respects.
Chief mourners were Caitriona's husband Bernard and children Ben (20) and Emma (18).
The President Michael D Higgins was represented by his ADC, Lt Cdr Patricia Burke Butler, and the Taoiseach Enda Kenny by his ADC, Lt Col Kieran Carey.
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross was also in attendance.
Gifts brought to the altar by her husband and children included her climbing helmet - with Chief Celebrant Fr Denis Crosby noting that as a child, Caitriona was terrified of heights but conquered that fear. A sample of her artwork, a model lifeboat, was also brought up.
A map of Oregon in the US represented the numerous destinations to which the couple had travelled.
Fr Crosby said Caitriona had set an example to all through her selfless dedication to her community and in the way she had lived her life to the full.
"She confronted her fears and triumphed. I confess in my life I have succumbed and given in to fear," Fr Crosby admitted. He said she had been a light in a world which can sometimes be "dark and careless".
"To give your life doesn't mean just to die - she gave her life, all her life, and she knew living means giving," said Fr Crosby.
A short reading by Emma aptly stated: "There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends."
In an emotional address, Caitriona's son Ben bade his beloved mother farewell, saying: "Goodbye to our wonderful mother. Love always. You are my hero."
He described Caitriona as "an exceptional person in every way" and said she had given "100pc".
"She was inspirational," said Ben, saying he could still picture her smile and her laugh.
Caitriona's husband, Bernard gave a short word of thanks for the support the family have received, saying: "We're all family amongst the services."
He read aloud a poem he was given, written for Caitriona .
"Caitriona, the call was made and you set out, in wind and wave and rain," it began..
"Your quest, to search and search, to ease a family's pain.
"You never hesitated once. That bleeper sounded loud."
Draped in the tricolour, the coffin left the church for burial, as members of the Irish Coast Guard, Garda Sub Aqua Unit and hundreds of volunteers stood proudly and sorrowfully to attention in a sombre guard of honour for a fearless fallen colleague.
Singing a verse of song, the priest asked: "When I needed a neighbour were you there?"
"Yes, she was there," he said.