Wednesday 25 April 2018

'Facebook friends are artificial - what you need are real people around you' - priest's plea to young people at tragic Elisha's funeral

  • 'A searing sadness and grief' - tragic Elisha's heartbroken parents carry coffin for final goodbye
  • Elisha's funeral cortege paused at Dillon Bridge in poignant tribute on her final journey
  • Priest has powerful words for the young people at Elisha's funeral
  • Priest issues plea for youngsters to find true, real life friends and to take care of their mental health
Elisha Gault’s parents Grainne (left of coffin) and Cameron (back left) at her funeral mass at the Church of the Assumption in Piltown Co Kilkenny. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Elisha Gault’s parents Grainne (left of coffin) and Cameron (back left) at her funeral mass at the Church of the Assumption in Piltown Co Kilkenny. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Flowers left at the Dillon Bridge on the River Suir as Elisha Gault was buried. Pic Steve Humphreys
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

YOUNG people at the funeral of tragic Tipperary teen Elisha Gault (14) were urged to take time away from their smart phones and social media pages - and to concentrate on "real-life friends" and their mental health.

Fr Paschal Moore issued the plea for youngsters to find true, real life friends as he urged them to take care of their mental health - and to form vital support networks amongst themselves.

Elisha Gault’s remains cross the Dillon Bridge where her parents threw flowers into the Suir River before her funeral mass at the Church of the Assumption in Piltown Co Kilkenny.
Picture: Steve Humphreys
Elisha Gault’s remains cross the Dillon Bridge where her parents threw flowers into the Suir River before her funeral mass at the Church of the Assumption in Piltown Co Kilkenny. Picture: Steve Humphreys

His plea came as hundreds of white roses and carnations were tossed into the River Suir in a moving tribute to Elisha.

Elisha's heartbroken parents, Grainne and Cameron, and her sisters, Chloe, Bhrianna and Saoirse, joined with hundreds of mourners in the emotional funeral tribute to the teen at the very spot on Dillon Bridge in Carrick-on-Suir where she was last seen alive on St Patrick's Day.

Mourners at Elisha Gault’s funeral mass at the Church of the Assumption in Piltown Co Kilkenny. Picture: Steve Humphreys
Mourners at Elisha Gault’s funeral mass at the Church of the Assumption in Piltown Co Kilkenny. Picture: Steve Humphreys

Elisha was recovered from the River Suir at Killowen, some 8km downstream of the Tipperary town, at 7pm last Sunday night.

Elisha's funeral cortege paused at Dillon Bridge en route from her New Street home in Carrick-on-Suir to the Church of the Assumption in Piltown, Co Kilkenny where her Requiem Mass was celebrated at 11am today.

Carrick-on-Suir River Rescue and Civil Defence volunteers formed a special guard of honour on the bridge for the floral ceremony which was staged at the specific request of Elisha's mother, Grainne.

Every parapet on the bridge was also topped by a special candle in a glass holder in recognition of the incredible work done by Pieta House.

Flowers left at the Dillon Bridge on the River Suir as Elisha Gault was buried. Pic Steve Humphreys
Flowers left at the Dillon Bridge on the River Suir as Elisha Gault was buried. Pic Steve Humphreys

Grainne and Cameron helped shoulder Elisha's coffin into the Church of the Assumption - and later from the church and across the road for her burial in the adjacent Piltown Cemetery.

A special floral bouquet entitled "Egg" after Elisha's nickname was carried behind the coffin.

Elisha was a ‘genuine soul’, said mum Grainne
Elisha was a ‘genuine soul’, said mum Grainne

Poignantly, as the funeral service was being staged, the Waterford-based Irish Coast Guard helicopter, Rescue 117, flew overhead on a call-out - the same helicopter which had helped recover Elisha's remains.

Piltown Parish Priest, Fr Moore, said the tragic loss of Elisha had left "searing grief" across the tightknit Carrick-on-Suir and Piltown communities.

Loved to laugh: Elisha Gault
Loved to laugh: Elisha Gault

"Today, boys and girls, I would encourage you to form a support network around yourselves," he said.

"I would encourage you also to turn off your iPhone every now and again.

"Facebook is wonderful at times - and people boast about how many friends they have on Facebook.

"But your friends on Facebook are artificial friends - what you need are real people around you. Real, genuine, loving and caring people and I would encourage every single one of you to find a real good support network for yourselves.

"Your mind does matter - your mind is so important."

He said Elisha's tragic loss had touched everyone within the community and many beyond.

"This morning we want to extend our deepest sympathy to Elisha's dad and mam - to Grainne and Cameron and her sisters, Chloe, Brianne and Saoirse," Fr Moore said.

"Every funeral is a sad occasion, every funeral is a goodbye. It brings many, many sorrows - but no funeral can compare to the one we are having this morning.

"The family this morning are experiencing searing sadness and grief. Elisha's death has given rise to many emotions - emotions the family and community have experienced over the past few days (including) disbelief, shock, anger, guilt even abandonment.

"Elisha's death has raised many questions - but hasn't given many answers.

"This morning, we want to really and truly empathise with this family, the Gault-Moore family, because they have been robbed of the company of their loving daughter.

"They have been robbed of her youthful enthusiasm and her joy and her smile.

"They have been deprived of her gentle presence and her good humour.

"There is an emptiness and a void that no one can  fill for them this morning.

"As a community we do feel helpless and all we can do is be present for you this morning and we invite you to lean on us - yes, we want (as a community) to be the shoulder you can lean on."

Fr Moore said many people had opinions on Elisha's tragic death and her passing had impacted on a huge number of people.

"(But) your opinion does not matter - neither does mine. What matters is God.

"The God who knows the full picture of Elisha's short life.

"Elisha's outward appearance and behaviour were masked by a cloud of hopelessness within.

"She felt trapped - she was a prisoner of her feelings and her thoughts which weighed heavily on her.

"She was in turmoil - a turmoil we will never appreciate or understand.

"Elisha, she took the only route she felt she could take. Not the right route, not the right choice - but it was the only route that she felt she could take.

"Her actions have left her family, her community, her school friends devastated and completely, utterly upset and confused.

"We commend beautiful Elisha to God's loving embrace - we pray that she is at peace today."

Fr Moore also appealed to all the young people in the congregation to take a special leaflet as they left the church entitled "My Support Network".

It aims to help youngsters create a support community for themselves within their own ranks.

Fr Moore also warned that it was vitally important for young people to "mind their minds" and support mental health initiatives.

"To her schoolmates and her friends, we all have our worries, stresses and anxieties - stress can be good for us but the problem arises when anxiety takes over every moment of our lives.

"We all need support - from the oldest to the youngest of us. We need people who will listen, people who will talk to us and people who will be a shoulder to lean on."

Elisha had vanished on St Patrick's Day and was the focus of a massive eight day search operation.

Gráinne insisted that she wanted the service today to be a celebration of her daughter's life.

"My gorgeous, beautiful Elisha had a genuine soul but she was a troubled girl for reasons I won't discuss at this moment in time," she said.

"She had a very loving family, friends and Edge Youth Club who (had) done their utmost to heal and support her but unfortunately we were not successful."

"I have a hole in my heart that will never be filled - she (Elisha) was her own person and I just wish we had the answer that could have gave her inner strength."

Gráinne vowed to make Elisha's funeral very special.

"We will carry our baby girl - I carried her into the world and I will carry her out again," she promised.

"We want you all to celebrate her laugh - we want laughter and music because she so loved her tunes.

"(Elisha) always wanted to make everyone happy with her messing so I want to end the day in that spirit - I want the presence of Elisha, our wee Egg, to be felt in the most positive way possible."

Following Elisha's burial, a special celebration of her life was held at the Swan Club in Carrick-on-Suir.

Gráinne also paid an emotional tribute to the search volunteers who helped locate the remains of Elisha after a massive eight day operation.

She said her entire family will be "eternally grateful" for those who defied frost, sleet and rain to search for Elisha between March 18 and 25.

Elisha's body was recovered from the River Suir by the Waterford-based Irish Coast Guard helicopter, Rescue Rescue 117, around 7pm on Sunday evening.

The teen was found some 8km downstream of Carrick-on-Suir at a stretch of river known as Killowen and which divides Waterford and Kilkenny between Fiddown and Mooncoin.

Gardaí stressed that Elisha's death is being treated as a tragedy.

If you have been affected by any issues raised in this article, please contact The Samaritans free helpline on 116 123 or by  email to jo@samaritans.ie

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