Listening, my shoulders dropped. I was sitting in the tiny St Ailbe's Church in Ballybricken in Co Limerick on January 23, 2018, for Dolores O'Riordan's memorial service, which ended with a recording of Dolores singing When You're Gone by The Cranberries.
Rendered hymn-like, it was ethereal, and beautiful, not least because Dolores, who grew up down the road from the church, was finally released from the pain of this world into the other world that she believed in.
Even now, sometimes it is hard to finally believe that she is, as the song says, gone. She was a great woman and a great friend, and I loved her then as I love her now. Ireland is a lesser place without her creativity, without her empathy, without her. There are very few like her.
There are wounds that never show on the body; deeper and more painful than anything you can see. Dolores's wounds weren't visible. Unless you looked at her some days and saw how sad she was, with her secret sorrows. Her singing, her gift to a privileged world, was a response to inner pain, and had its origins in trauma and isolation.
In the summer of 2013, Dolores asked me to come to her house in Abington, Malahide, Co Dublin. Up in her bedroom, after a long silence, with her knees drawn up to her chest and her head hung low, she said the words: "I was raped, abused, as a child. I was only a child. For years. I was only a little girl. For four years, when I was a little girl, I was sexually abused."
Those words still haunt. As they should.
It seemed somehow prescient that Dolores's mother Eileen named her daughter in honour of Our Lady of the Seven Dolours, or Sorrows. Eileen once told me the story of a music business executive coming to the O'Riordan family home in 1995 to see her daughter, by then a rock star. "She was very sick. He told Dolores that she would lose everything and that she couldn't break her contract. She came home to me and she was in the little box room. He was telling her: 'You just have to do this tour'," Eileen told me in April 2014 over lunch in the small village of Bruff, Co Limerick, with Dolores by her side.
"So I got so angry and I said: 'I have fed her all my life and I can feed her now! She has her own little room. That's all she wants'. I got really mad. I was going to hit him. I said to him, 'If anything happens to her, I will kill you'. I looked in his eyes. And I meant every word of it."
"They just saw me as a commodity, as a cash cow," Dolores said then. "I was very, very lonely."
Then Eileen said that she remembered her own mother telling Dolores one morning: "You'd have been better off if you'd kept your little job in Cassidy's in Limerick." Dolores didn't deny that her grandmother might have been right. "I worked there part-time when I was in fifth and sixth year," she said.
Part of me wishes now that Dolores had stayed working in Cassidy's in Limerick (although I would surely never have met her in that case); that she had never entered the music business; that she had remained a girl who you knew could sing like no other, but who kept her talent to herself.
Instead, Dolores was a global superstar, although barely an adult when she started out in the music business. Once she entered it - the industry for which she made millions upon millions of dollars - she was changed beyond all recognition.
The poetry was still in her soul, but the iron had entered her heart. You wish she could have vanished for a few years, like Sinead O'Connor did from music, or Winona Ryder did from Hollywood. Maybe it just wasn't possible for Dolores. She wanted to run and keep running, but her legs wouldn't carry her away.
"I was only a human being and I was expected to be perfect," Dolores told me in 2002.
"And life is never like that. It is really weird, because you see a lot of other young entertainers now having problems with fame - but they're only kids, like I was. It was with our first album that we became huge in America. We didn't warm up into it with the second or third album," she added. "It was just huge fame from the beginning. I was 18 and from the countryside outside Limerick. It wasn't even like I grew up in Dublin and I was used to people and crowds and the Big Smoke. I grew up in the fields, with cows. It's such a dramatic leap if you grew up with that, and you're dead naive. I had a cool childhood playing with insects and talking to cows in fields, and then... suddenly, Los Angeles! On every TV and every newspaper and magazine!"
Dolores O'Riordan had a sublimely beautiful singing voice, yet she seemed lost - "to the person in the bell jar, the world itself is a bad dream," as Sylvia Plath put it in her novel, The Bell Jar.
"I'm happy in Limerick now," she emailed me the week before she was found dead at the Hilton Hotel in Park Lane, London. "I have to stay positive and healthy. I'm going to go for a swim in Limerick," she wrote.
I recently found an old text she sent me when my mother died in 2009: "Your mother is looking over you now more than you would ever believe. Don't worry, because when you acknowledge her presence in your life now, you will relax and be the kind angel boy she created!! Talk to your Mom as she is listening to her boy!!! Don't thank me, thank your Mom, I hear her trying to talk to you tonight! Okie dokie. She's in another dimension and she is loving you, I swear!!"
I have so many memories of Dolores, not all of them particularly happy, but all worth remembering because they give us some idea of the person she was, maybe.
The other day, I found an old magazine from the early 1990s in which Dolores talked about her schooldays, and how "the principal of the school cancelled her class and stood me on her desk for the 12-year-olds to listen to - it must have been good". And listen they did. "If I started to sing, then all the others in the room would stop and listen."
And she was indeed a magnificently talented singer and performer. But the emotional baggage she brought with her was sometimes enormous. Still, as quickly as she would lose her temper, she could calm down again, and be the funniest, coolest girl you'd ever met.
Dolores just wasn't like other stars you'd see on television. She had a lovely way about her that drew you in. Dolores would charm you. Because she was so very charming. And witty. And different. I remember visiting her at her home in Kilmallock in Co Limerick in 2001. She made me sandwiches and coffee and brought me for a walk in the fields.
It was in the fields of Kilmallock that she told me that she remembered one day, when she was a little girl, her father found eggs buried in the back garden. He came into the house the colour of a sheet. "'Some fecker is cursing me!' he said to my mother. 'Somebody's put a curse on me'.
"The potatoes failed that year," Dolores said then. "They got a blight. So I believe that in Ireland there is still a lot of old stuff, but it is actually very interesting. My dad is really into pishogues [superstitions]," Dolores said of her father Terence, who had cancer for seven years and died in 2011, at home in Ballybricken.
Then, without skipping a beat, she recalled her time at school in Laurel Hill on O'Connell Avenue in Limerick, where she used to play camogie. She and another girl were the only two in a class of 35 who played camogie. The other 33 girls played hockey. Dolores hated hockey. Hockey was for "posh sissies. You had to wear culottes. I wanted to wear shorts and socks and push and shoulder and shove like the boys".
Amanda Petrusich must have picked up on this when she wrote in The New Yorker just after Dolores died that, "I suspect every young woman eventually finds a figure (or, more likely, a series of figures) who helps disabuse her of certain stifling notions about femininity, of all the outmoded binaries - the things a woman is supposed to choose between as she comes into her own. It feels almost quaint to point out now, in a cultural moment in which we're rethinking the whole of gender dynamics, but, in the early 90s, O'Riordan helped further the then-iffy-seeming idea that a woman could be both beautiful and ferocious. She appeared accountable only to some internal voice - which meant we could be, too."
In his review of The Cranberries' No Need to Argue album in the November 1994 issue of Spin magazine, Jonathan Bernstein wrote that it wasn't so long ago that "we had a mini-Prozac Nation full of these ethereal gals who submerged their little whispery odes to eating disorders under waterfalls of astringent guitars…[But] once Dolores O'Riordan's tones lured you… toward Linger and Dreams, it became apparent that again, unlike its sub-genre contemporaries, the group could take its atmospherics and make songs out of them".
And yet there was a dinner in April, 2007, at Dolores's house in Howth, when after all the children had gone to bed, she told me about the year following that Spin magazine piece - 1995 - when she was so unhappy that her weight fell to under seven stone. (The Telegraph magazine in 1994 wrote that Dolores went to America on tour with the Cranberries "a retiring young girl and came back a "maniac".)
"It wasn't anorexia. It was beyond anorexia," she said to me. "I was having a nervous breakdown. I was losing lots of weight. I couldn't eat. I had a lot of anxiety attacks. I wasn't functioning properly. I couldn't control my motor skills. I was very unhappy, obviously."
Another night, three weeks before Christmas 2013, in a bar on Piazza Navona in Rome, where, over beer, Dolores told me: "It was amazing to have the burden lifted off my shoulders; it is almost like going into therapy and confessing it, except you do it the other way around, because when you are famous, you just open up and that is it. It does feel good to have that off the shoulders. I feel a definite sense of a relief. I don't have to explain it to people. It happened. And you know, I think it makes people understand who you are and how you are, a little bit better."
We were sitting at an outside table in Rome that night. Dolores suddenly spotted some paparazzi taking pictures of her from the bushes nearby. She stared at their cameras as if looking into oncoming headlights speeding at 100 miles an hour on a dark, lonely road. She was worried about why they were taking her picture. If paranoia didn't exist, Dolores would have invented it, but then, she had lived her whole adult life in the media's often unforgiving and uncaring glare.
She added later, near the Vatican (she would sing for the Pope the next day): "I believe in God... and life after death. I believe in other dimensions. When people die, they go to another dimension and we can communicate with them. When my father comes to me in a dream, I say a prayer to him and I talk to him. I miss him terribly but I learned to let go - not just for myself, but for him also. I am looking forward more than backwards."
I really wasn't so sure she was. She was drinking very heavily.
The next time, I saw Dolores was in late November 2014, at 5pm in a rented house on the grounds of Adare Manor. She had rung me and invited me to come down. A week earlier, she had been involved in an incident on an Aer Lingus plane at Shannon Airport. It was well covered at the time, and I don't want to go back over the troubling details, so let's just leave it at that.
Inside that house in Adare was a young woman who was clearly unwell. She placed a dozen of bottles of essential oils in a line and said: "My life has no control. So I line them up to have control".
The aftermath of that plane incident, where the whole world set out to judge and damn Dolores, affected her in a way that I believe it would not have affected, say, Bono or Hozier or Damien Dempsey. I have always felt Dolores was judged differently because she was a woman. She had long faced discrimination, even misogyny.
"The only thing about being a girl and the lead singer and main writer is that you're the one who the guy tries to fool to get into your pants," she told Rolling Stone in 1995. "And that's happened to me countless amounts of times. There is a lot of chauvinism in the music industry. I'm glad to be married - and that's one of the reasons - so that I don't feel exposed any more that way."
The next time I saw her was the week before Christmas, 2014, in a mental health facility in Dublin. She rang me and invited me to come visit her. She was sitting on the bed in her tiny room when I arrived. I asked her where she was going to spend Christmas. "I honestly don't know," she replied. "I don't know where I'm going to spend Christmas. I miss my children more than words can say right now," she said referring to Taylor, Molly and Dakota, who were almost 4,000 miles away in Canada with their beloved dad, Don, who was always Dolores's rock in life.
Then Dolores, who had permission to leave hospital, and two members of her new band, D.A.R.K. - Andy Rourke (ex of The Smiths) and Ole Koretsky (Dolores's boyfriend) - went out to my house in Portobello.
I put on music and Dolores danced to John Lennon around the Christmas tree with Ole, then with me. It was one of the best nights my old home by the canal ever saw - full of fun and laughter, dance and Dolores. We then all went for dinner at Locks, where we drank wine and Dolores fell off her chair laughing at Andy's fart jokes. When she got up, she paid the bill, which was enormous.
We met up the next day in the Phoenix Park. She was delighted to see the deer in the park. That was the last time I saw her alive.
I got emails from her a few days before she died, which appeared to show there was a lot of hope for her in her life. It is desperately sad that she is not with us any more, not here to celebrate with her beloved bandmates in The Cranberries that the video for their song Zombie now has a billion plays on YouTube. She'd have had something funny to say about that.
I remember something Eileen O'Riordan told me at that lunch in the little village of Bruff all those years ago. She recalled how when things got really bad for her daughter in the mid-1990s, she paid her a visit at a house Dolores was renting in Kerry. Dolores answered the door to her mother in tears. "She said, 'Will you help me, Mammy?' I said, 'What's wrong with you?' Dolores said nothing, then said: 'Nobody can help me now'."
I'd like to think that Eileen's beautiful daughter is in a happy place now, standing on a desk in heaven, singing Linger with all the angels stopping to listen.