Mother's tears for Michaela
IT was a perfect Indian summer day, the sky an unbroken arc of blue, the fields and streets bathed in warm yellow-tinted kisses from a dazzling sun.
It was the sort of day that usually prompts newly returned school-kids to gaze out through their classroom windows and wish they were anywhere else instead.
But not yesterday. None of the hundreds of young pupils who lined the church grounds, who were part of the choir in the balcony, and who squeezed into small spaces along packed pews, wanted to be there.
There was nothing right about waiting in a sunlit church to say goodbye to one of their own, 12-year-old Michaela Davis who was strangled last Saturday.
Ever since the body of the schoolgirl from Porterstown in west Dublin, was discovered in dense undergrowth near her home after she had been beaten, sexually assaulted and strangled, one particular photograph of Michaela has appeared time and again.
It was taken days before she was killed, and shows her posing in her brand new school uniform -- red jumper, black-and-white kilt, pink back-pack (pink was her favourite colour). She had just started first year at Luttrellstown Community College, but her sleek hair, meticulously applied make-up and coolly confident stare gave the impression of a teenager in full blossom.
But the image of a semi-grown-up girl created by this photograph dissolved as soon as her family arrived at St Mochta's Church for her funeral just after noon yesterday. As the grief-stricken chief mourners, her mother Deirdre and her father Brendan and her 16-year-old brother Brendan walked with the white coffin into the church grounds, tears rolled down the young faces of Michaela's classmates who had formed a guard of honour.
And in a stark reminder of just how heartbreakingly young she was, the family members carrying Michaela's coffin paused at the baptismal font in the aisle, where she had been christened 12 years ago. It was only four years since Michaela dressed in white walked down the same aisle for her First Communion, and less than four months ago she was in white again as she made her confirmation in the church.
And now she was in white once more. Before the Mass began, Michaela's mum and dad, her granny and one of her uncles carefully draped a while pall over her coffin and her brother gently placed a framed photo of the new school picture of his little sister beside her. In his homily a short while later, parish priest Fr John Daly spoke of a collage of photos in the Davis' home which showed Michaela at her christening, her communion and her confirmation. "I know her mum and dad hoped that the next time Michaela came to this church dressed in white it would be for another celebration. But today, too soon, again they have to bring her to church, again dressed in white for a new beginning with God," he said.
There were more poignant reminders of how far Michaela was from adulthood; her aunts placed symbols of things she had loved beside her coffin -- an angel, a cuddly toy, a bar of chocolate and a toy cat.
Michaela loved chocolate and animals. "Michaela was 12, she was only a child," Fr Daly said.
The parish priest talked about her, describing her as "full of fun".
"She was very kind and generous, particularly to the stray, she had a great thing for stray animals, be it bird, cat, dog.
"She would always take them home and try and sneak them into the house."
He recounted that four years ago when Michaela was making her First Communion, the theme for the day was sunflowers -- a bloom he movingly compared to the dead schoolgirl in an oblique reference to her horrific death.
"Michaela was eager to grow up -- too eager at times. She pushed the boundaries in many ways. She wanted to grow up so much and so quickly," he said.
"And like a sunflower that's driven to reach as high as it possibly can to get the light. But all of us know that there's also dangers to that as well, because a sunflower in growing too quickly becomes vulnerable to external forces, to the winds that can push it from side to side."
Fr Daly tapped into the deep wells of dread which bubble inside all parents of teenage children who are heedless of any hostile winds beyond the boundaries. "Our children today are pushed and forced to grow up much quicker than we ever had to, to contend with things at a much earlier age than we ever did. And more than ever we need to protect the child, more than ever we need to provide the right environment to help them flourish and to fulfil their dreams," he told the packed church. Also among the mourners were local TDs Finance Minister Brian Lenihan and Labour's Joan Burton and also former Dublin Lord Mayor Eibhlin Byrne.
Michaela's coffin was carried from the church to her final resting place in Clonsilla cemetery to the sound of 'Heal the Heartbreak' from her favourite band, JLS.
It's a cheery upbeat track, the sort of song it would be easy to imagine Michaela dancing to, shiny hair flying, boys and fun on her mind. But it couldn't dispel the deep dark shadow which hung over that perfect Indian summer day.