NEAR the Christmas crib at the church in CIll na Martra last Saturday lay another child in her coffin as hundreds came to say a final and fond farewell.
Instead of Christmas presents, five year old Megan Malone's favourite things were laid out lovingly between two beautiful photos of her at the entrance to the church - a pink dress, her pink cycling helmet, a gown and her doll Susan.
Megan passed away in New York just before Christmas, having bravely battled cancer against all the odds since October 2010.
"Hi Mommy, Hi Daddy, I love you Mom, I love you Dad," were the last words Megan uttered to her mother and father before she began to drift off.
And rather than thinking of herself, the caring and loving person that was Megan, told parents John and Sheila to "mind the lads," referring to her big sister Chloe, her big brother Dylan, and her little sister, Tristan who was just born when Megan became ill in 2010.
Megan never went to school or did all those things parents wish for their children, but, as mum Sheila told the congregation, her story should be an education for all. IT seemed to be a contradiction at the funeral Mass in Cill na Martra last Sunday morning as a child lay in a coffin near the Christmas crib.
The parish priest, Fr Richard Browne, tried to make sense of it all in his sermon to the huge congregation packed into Séipéal Lachtaín Naofa.
Five-year-old Megan Malone passed away in New York this Christmas, having bravely won her battle against all the odds since October 2010 for an extended, worthwhile and precious life with the determined dedication of her loving parents, Sheila and John Malone.
Megan's favourite things were laid out lovingly between two beautiful photos of her at the entrance to the church - a pink dress, the pink helmet she wore cycling her Dora bike, a gown and her doll Susan.
This was her life, her story since she was diagnosed two years ago with brain and spinal cancer.
Rather than face treatment that could then have rendered their three-year-old daughter mentally retarded in this country, John and Sheila embarked on a campaign two years ago to seek specialised treatments in America, with the aid of their family, friends, several supporters and donors.
"Hi Mommy, Hi Daddy, I love you Mom, I love you Dad," were the last words Megan uttered to her mother and father before she began to drift off towards heavenly pastures in the days leading to Christmas.
And rather than thinking of herself, the caring and loving person that was Megan, told John and Sheila to "mind the lads," referring to her big sister Chloe, her big brother Dylan, and her little sister Tristan who was just born when Megan became ill in 2010.
John and Sheila Malone said it all about their beautiful, witty daughter in two heartbreaking but inspirational eulogies they gave during Megan's Mass. She admired her big sister Chloe very much; Megan maintained Dylan was more handsome than the Go Diego Go cartoon character she was going to marry, and she told everyone in America that baby Tristan was ' this' small, making that funny sign with thumb and forefinger.
John Malone's voice cooled as he referred to his disappointment at Megan's treatment by the medical system here in Ireland after she was brought home from America last June.
For reasons that should come to light in the New Year, the circumstances resulted in John and Sheila having to travel immediately by ferry to Britain for a life-saving blood product transfusion for Megan, seeking by car the nearest hospital in Wales. They went from there straight back to the States, where they remained until last week.
The Malone family had originally returned to Ireland from the US in September 2011, when Megan had successfully completed a course of treatments in hospitals in New York and Boston.
When the cancerous tumours subsequently returned, Megan was brought back to New York in February of this year for further treatment. They were told in June that no more could be done.
That Megan lived another six months of precious life is testimony to her courage and to that of her parents.
Their experience and Megan's inspiration is now helping other families in Ireland with little children in the same predicament, as John Malone told the congregation.
Yes, as Sheila Malone also told them movingly, Megan never went to school or did all those things parents wish for their children, but her story should be an education for all.
The Cór Chill na Martra choir reflected a great sense of community surrounding Megan and her family during the funeral Mass, and many people who were present will never forget the recorded rendition of Sarah McLachlan's song in which one could see Megan 'In the Arms of the Angel.'
Ar dheis Dé atá a hanam crógach.