Saturday 16 December 2017

Family watch from afar as quake victim is laid to rest

Nicola Anderson

Above: relatives carry the coffin of dad-of-two Owen McKenna, inset, to its final resting place in Carrickroe, Co Monaghan. Left: pictures drawn by his children adorn the side of the coffin. Ciara Wilkinson

THEY may have been separated by a gulf stretching half way around the globe -- but the wife and children of the Irishman who died in the New Zealand earthquake were in the hearts of mourners at his funeral, thanks to the power of technology.

A laptop and broadband signal provided the fragile link relaying the funeral of Owen McKenna (41) from the church in Carrickroe, Co Monaghan, back to Christchurch yesterday, where his wife Sarah and children, Grace (6) and Tadhg (4), were watching with family and friends, listening as he was remembered as a caring man with a "tremendous capacity for friendship and outreach".

The journey had been too difficult for the young family to make following the traumatic circumstances of his death. The psychiatric nurse was out shopping when his car was crushed by falling debris in the earthquake that shook Christchurch on February 22 last.

On his last visit home in June 2009, Mr McKenna expressed the desire that his body be returned to his native soil for burial in the event of his death.

And so his mother Teresa McKenna and siblings Bernie, Maria, Angela, Catherine, Enda, Kieran and Brendan led mourners at his funeral in the church where he and his wife married 10 years ago.


Poignantly, two drawings of teddy-bears coloured in by his children adorned the sides of his coffin, which was draped in the flag of his local GAA club, Gael Truagh.

The New Zealand government was represented by the honorary consul in Ireland, Alan McCarthy. Many friends who had known Owen from the days when he worked in Saudi Arabia also attended.

Tokens representing his life were laid at the altar: a recent happy family snapshot; a Gaels football jersey; a mug from St Guy's Hospital in London where he had worked; and a book on the McKenna family heritage.

Parish priest Fr Sean Nolan said the family appreciated the support they received from President Mary McAleese, the Department of Foreign Affairs, New Zealand agencies and the Irish community.

While recalling the New Zealand tragedy, he said he was "very conscious" of the enormities of the disaster in Japan.

In the homily, Fr John Skinnader, a family friend, remembered Owen as being "full of life and ready for any mischief". He finished with a recitation of Patrick Kavanagh's poem 'In Memory of My Mother'.

A slide show of family photos compiled by Sarah to the soundtrack of Oasis's song, 'Don't Look Back in Anger' brought tears to the eyes of mourners as the coffin was taken for burial in the old graveyard.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News