THE devastated sister of slain vet Catherine Gowing has given a powerful eulogy at her funeral, telling mourners that it is not until evil enters our lives directly that we realise "just how awful it is", but that "goodness always triumphs in the end".
Catherine Gowing (37) from Kinnity, Co Offaly, was murdered in North Wales last October. Her remains were recovered along a river bank after a lengthy search operation and a 46-year-old Welshman has been charged in connection with her death.
Around 500 mourners, including representatives from the North Wales police force and former colleagues from her veterinary practice in Mold, North Wales, attended the funeral in the beautiful ancient stone church in Kinnity.
A great number stood outside in the bright sunshine of a spring-like day, with the cawing of rooks, the song of small birds, the bark of dogs and even the humming of an unseasonal honey bee creating a fittingly sympathetic symphony for the vet who had "loved all creatures great and small".
The chief mourners were Catherine's parents, John and Maureen, her sister Emma and husband Shay. The requiem Mass was celebrated by parish priest Michael O'Mara, together with Bishop of Killaloe Ciaran O'Reilly and former Bishop Willie Walsh, along with eight other priests from neighbouring parishes.
Gifts brought to the altar representing Catherine's life included a globe representing her love of travel and a copy of the DVD 'Into the Wild' – which she had loved.
In a stirring eulogy delivered with unfaltering strength, Emma told the congregation that their hearts were "broken".
"We miss her, we love her," she said.
Her "beautiful sister" had never said goodbye. "She hated goodbyes and there is no goodbye, there is only love. We're not meant to understand this but we are meant to deal with it," she said.
"There is evil in this world, we see it every day, but when it enters our lives directly we realise just how awful it is."
However she pointed out that there is also good, as witnessed through "every act of kindness, be it a hug, a handshake, a thought, a prayer, a kind word, from family, from friends, from the police, and from the community here in Kinnity, and Flintshire, north Wales."
"That goodness gives strength, it steadies us and shows us how to face the challenges that life throws at us," she said. "
That goodness will give us strength over the coming months. For goodness will always triumph in the end."
She described Catherine as the closest person to perfection that she had the privilege to know, as a sister and friend, and was also her parents' "gift from God".
She loved animals, and being a vet was a dream come true. And while she also loved to travel, she loved home.
Catherine had sought out the good in everyone she met and "lived her life with love, compassion, fun, adventure and joy".
"She was beautiful in beauty's truest form, a soul filled with goodness," Emma said.
Emma then read out a poem in memory of her sister.
"It won't be forever, the day will come and then, My loving arms will hug you when we meet again. Time for us to part now, we won't say goodbye, Look for me in rainbows shining in the sky.
"Every waking moment, and all your whole life through, Just look for me and love me as you know I loved you. Just wish me to be near you, I'll be right there next to you," it ended.
Fr O'Mara told the congregation that it had been a "long wait" for the family for the funeral, revealing that a candle had been lit on the altar of the church in October 19 as a symbol of hope and it had not gone out.
He said it would be a "disservice" not to concentrate on the beauty of Catherine's life, describing her as a "beautiful, loving, vibrant lady".
After the funeral, the remains were taken for burial at St Flannan's Cemetery, Kinnity.