No God should allow this to happen, says grieving dad
A week in the life of a child is an eternity of the best kind, offering infinite possibilities for discovery and delight.
A week in the loss of a child is an eternity of the worst kind, bringing unquantifiable anguish and despair enough to darken many lifetimes.
In the week since his children were taken from him, Andrew McGinley had suffered three eternities of hell.
His suffering shook people the length and breadth of Ireland.
In the midst of the mourning, Mr McGinley stood still and straight, with more composure than seemed humanly possible.
In measured tones he told the congregation how it felt to be left “forever heartbroken”.
And he added: “Conor, Darragh and Carla, I love you, I love you, I love you.”
Even as we intruded upon Andrew McGinley's grief, he invited us into his life and the lives of his three treasures.
He brought us into their playroom where nine-year-old Conor and seven-year-old Darragh were masters of a universe full of Lego characters exploring worlds of wonderful and wacky brick creations.
He showed us into their sitting-room where they gathered on movie nights riveted to the adventures of their adored superheroes - Ironman, Thor, Captain Marvel and three-year-old Carla's favourite, the Hulk.
He allowed us to look out on their garden where their trampoline was a never-ending source of hijinks and hilarity.
He let us eavesdrop on their whispered wishes.
Carla wanted to build a snowman just like Olaf from the 'Frozen' movies and her dad desperately wanted to make that wish come true.
"Carla, my love, I had really hoped that we would be finally building that snowman this year. I'm so sorry," he said.
He welcomed us to sit in on storytime, to follow Carla on the trail of the snail on a whale and try to resist the infectious laughter of Conor and Darragh engrossed in the escapades of Captain Underpants and Dog Man.
And then, having granted us the privilege to share in the exuberance of his children's imaginations and touch the fragile threads of their precious dreams, he said thank you.
A man who lost his three children thanked everyone who had brought them joy and made magical memories for him in turn.
Famous authors, musicians and Hollywood stars; the management of Happy Feet Crèche, the teachers of Scoil Chrónáin, the coaches of Rathcoole Boys Football Club - all were equally important in the lives of his children and in their father's list of tributes.
And then there were the people he never expected to have to thank - emergency personnel, gardaí, a State pathologist, a mortuary assistant.
He warned when he began his eulogy that he would struggle to get through it and he apologised in advance for the tears that would interrupt his delivery.
In truth, it was the mourners who struggled and it was their tears that were most audible.
Inside the small metal-roofed Church of the Holy Family in Rathcoole village, hundreds sat in hushed disbelief.
Outside, hundreds more stood waiting and wordless, exchanging silent hugs and nodding their acknowledgement of each other's incomprehension.
A wave of resolve rippled through the guard of honour as the hearse pulled into the church grounds.
On one side, the mums and dads from football, in their club colours of green and white, instinctively wrapped their arms around one another's shoulders.
Across from them, the teachers from Conor and Darragh's school checked the red and white roses each had pinned to their coats and squeezed closer together for support.
Just one hearse was needed to carry the three small white coffins, Carla's tiny casket in the middle with her brothers' either side of her.
Three wreaths of white blossoms speckled with gentle splashes of colour were brought into the church and then one by one the coffins were lifted out.
Andrew McGinley raised his face briefly to the sky, the only space in this terrible new world he now occupied that was not soaked in grief.
Then he turned and placed his hand on each casket as it passed.
He followed them inside, clutching belongings special to each child to place on the altar where carefully arranged photographs showed the siblings with smiling faces and shining eyes.
In his wake, adults fussed over the few youngsters among the mourners as if subliminally acting on his plea from earlier in the week for parents to hug their children every chance they got.
"Cuddle your children whenever you get a chance, tell them how much you love them as often as you can, spend every spare minute with them reading, playing and enjoying their wonderfulness," he had said.
Now, mums bent down to check coats were buttoned and hoods pulled up against the damp and wind.
Dads drew their young charges closer and held them tight.
Some eight priests - from the locality, from Andrew's home county of Donegal, from neighbouring parishes, from several rungs of the hierarchy and from two distinct faiths - had all come together for the service.
Mr McGinley thanked them too, though he said: "Although we are in a house of God, no God should allow this to happen."
He was grateful that no man of the cloth tried to convince him that this was part of God's great plan, but talked to him instead about love and compassion.
"So for me, we are not just in a house of God, we are in a house of love and friendship.
"And it will only be with your love, support, understanding and friendship that we, as a family, McGinley and Morley, will get through this," he said.
Twice he mentioned the name Morley, the family name of his wife who has been charged with their children's murders. It was as much a reference to her that he could manage or that anyone could expect.
It was remarkable to hear a man so savagely assailed by grief talk about finding a way through it, but Mr McGinley wanted to set out his future.
"I have promises that I have to keep and this will drive me on," he said.
"Conor announced at Christmas that he wanted to set up a YouTube channel.
"Containing what, he never quite committed to, but I promised to help him and I will do that for him.
"I promised Darragh that I would coach at Rathcoole Boys so, apologies to the club, you may never get me out of there from now on.
"And I promised Carla a snowman. The place will be filled with snowmen every time it snows."
He continued: "I will finish with this. We often misuse words.
"When Ireland would lose a match, I used to say I was heartbroken. I now know what that really means.
"We, as a family, are heartbroken.
"It will only be with your help, support and friendship that we will be able to patch our hearts together in some way but we will still be forever heartbroken.
"Conor, Darragh and Carla, I love you, I love you, I love you."
An eternity of heartbreak was already behind him and there is much more to come.
But he was telling his children, with all his strength, that a dad's love can outlast all.