Ashley Donohoe and Olivia Burke, cousins and best friends, came together for one final time this morning in the Church of St Joseph’s in the town of Catati, Sonoma County in California.
week ago they were students enjoying their vacation and working enough to earn enough to fund the summer months before Olivia would return to Dublin and Ashley would resume her studies at college in Sonoma .
They had the world at their feet.
Young, talented, full of life , and enjoying their time together there was not a cloud on their horizon.
And then Tuesday happened .
The cousins were taken from this life in that terrible accident at the Liberty Gardens apartment complex in Berkeley
A lone piper playing the haunting “She Moved Through The Fair” and "Tully's Lament" led the coffins and the grieving families into the packed church for a Celebration Of Life service.
Appropriately, an Irish man conducted their funeral service.
Monsignor Dan Whelton from Cork city, the Vicar General of Santa Rosa Parish welcomed the grieving families, George and Jackie Donohoe and Ashley’s sister Amanda and Paul and Paula Burke and their son Gavin.
Minister for the Disapora Jimmy Deenihan and Anne Anderson, the Irish Ambassador to Washington, represented the Government, and Kevin Byrne, Vice Consul for the Western US also attended the service.
Monsignor Whelton was joined in con-celebrating the Mass by a number of priests including Fr Brendan McBride of the Irish Immigration Pastoral Centre , Fr Aidan McAleenan from Oaklands.
Both priests have been counselling and supporting the injured and their families throughout this terrible week.
Fr John McNerney, the Chaplain of UCD was also on the altar as representative not only of his own college but all the universities and colleges at which the dead and injured had been studying.
Monsignor Whelton spoke of the intense relationship and friendship enjoyed by Ashley and Olivia.
He quoted friends of Ashley as saying he was a “ray of sunshine.”
He told how Ashley worked two jobs to support herself and she was a talented soccer player who also coached young people in the game.
He said Olivia’s brother Gavin told him that his sister was a “kind, caring person, fun loving with a great smile.”
He said she was person who thought more about the other person than herself, and that she was diligent, but enjoyed the craic.
Monsignor Whelton said that Olivia and Ashley were not twins but acted as such with each other.
“They were very close to each other and their families were very close too,” he said.
When they were very much younger they used to dress alike and try to fool their friends that they were twins.
He indicated the depth of their friendship when he said that on Olivia’s 18th birthday Ashley showed up at the door of the Burke family home unannounced , having travelled all the way from California to surprise her beloved cousin in celebrating that landmark coming of age.
Monsignor Whelton said: “ Did death come too early? Absolutely, and out of the natural order and nature of things. But it has happened ,” he said.
He said that Ashley’s mother Jackie said after she received the tragic news about the death of the two young adults she went to Berkeley. When she got to see the bodies the two girls were holding each other “They were together in life and they were together in death too,” she had told the priest.
Their final separation came after the service when Olivia’s body was returned to Berkeley for repatriation to her native Dublin tomorrow.