Thursday 29 September 2016

'You are my hero' - son of coast guard volunteer Caitriona Lucas tells mourners as thousands gather to pay tribute

Published 15/09/2016 | 12:57

Mourners carry the coffin of Catriona Lucas, inset
Mourners carry the coffin of Catriona Lucas, inset
The funeral procession of heroic Caitriona Lucas (Photo: Mark Condren)

The son of heroic coast guard volunteer Caitriona Lucas has bade her an emotional farewell at her funeral, saying: “Goodbye to our wonderful mother. Love always. You are my hero.”

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Ben Lucas (20) describing Caitriona as “an exceptional person in every way” and said she had given “one hundred percent.”

She had loved being a coast guard, he said.

The first volunteer coast guard to die in the course of duty, the 41-year-old mother of two lost her life on Monday when the rescue boat capsized. An experienced maritime rescuer, she was  coxswain in the rigid inflatable as it set out in search for missing teacher David McMahon off the coast of nearby Kilkee.

Caitriona’s husband, Bernard gave a short address of thanks for all the support the family have received in the wake of his beloved wife’s death, saying: “We’re all family amongst the services.”

In a moving reflection at the end of the mass for Caitriona Lucas, Bernard read a poem he had been given the night before as thousands first paid respects.

Caitriona Lucas (41) who died tragically in a rescue mission in Kilkee
Caitriona Lucas (41) who died tragically in a rescue mission in Kilkee

Mr Lucas urged people to mimic his wife's attitude and seize opportunities to live life to the full.

"Caitriona, the call was made and you set out, in wind and wave and rain," he said.

"Your quest, to search and search, to ease a family's pain.

"You never hesitated once. That bleeper sounded loud.

Catriona Lucas
Catriona Lucas

"Where others mattered more, Caitriona we're so proud.

"We're proud because we can all say we share this land and sea with you, our hero.

"We salute your immensity.

"We are very sad you have gone, we think we understand the parting. It's you we always loved.

"Your sacrifice will never be lost on us, your loyal crew.

"Anchors away, you beauty queen. You are in our hearts and souls.

"From your friends and lonesome crew, for now it's slan go foill (bye for now)."

And he 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.”

Thousands of mourners again flocked to St Brigids, the parish church in Liscannor, Co Clare for the second day in a row, to pay their respects to the dedicated volunteer.

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.

Caitriona’s coffin was draped in the tricolour as it left the church for burial, amid a guard of honour given by the Irish Coastguard and volunteers from maritime units across the country.

Gifts brought to the altar representing her life included her climbing helmet – with Chief Celebrant Fr Denis Crosby noting that as a child, Caitriona had been terrified of heights but had conquered that fear through her indomitable spirit.

A sample of her artwork, together with a model lifeboat made by Caitriona was also brought up. Caitrionia had been a talented artist and had painted what she loved, said Fr Crosby – which was animals, cats and dogs, the rescue helicopter and the Doolin lifeboat.

A map of Oregon in the US was also brought up – which had been amongst the numerous destinations the couple had travelled to across the globe.

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 Caitriona had ‘mirrored the Kingdom’ with her compassion, her generosity, her childlike spirit and for the way she loved the world.

He said she had been a light in the world, a life in a world which can sometimes be dark and careless.

Singing a verse of song, the priest asked “When I needed a neighbour were you there?”

“Yes, she was there,” he said.

“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.

Ben Lucas said that words were not enough to describe his mother but added: “I’m going to try anyway.”

She was an exceptional person in every way, he said, describing her as “honest and kind and above all, dedicated.”

“She was inspirational,” said Ben, saying he could still picture her smile and her laugh.

“Goodbye to our wonderful mother. Love always. You are my hero,” he said.

Prayers were said for the children whose life Caitriona had touched and also for the safety of the rescue services.

A poem written by Caitriona was then read aloud by Bernard, which began; “The call was made and you set out in wind and rain to ease a family’s pain…you never hesitated once, that bleeper sounded loud.”

Then, in a fitting tribute, as the maritime rescue services stood to attention as the remains left the church for burial.

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