In each other's arms forever: Kate and Grace laid to rest in one coffin
JUST four years ago, John and Michelle Gilmore had come together at this church filled with the joy and hope of their wedding day.
But as the familiar nursery air of 'Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star' rang out at the tragic funeral of their two tiny daughters, mourners were overcome by the enormity of the family's grief.
Little Kate (2) and Grace (12 weeks) were laid to rest in a single coffin with their arms wrapped around each other, accompanied by a mass of pink flowers brought by well-wishers.
Over 1,000 people -- many wearing baby pink ribbons in their lapels -- gathered in grief in the Galway village of Belclare, just outside Tuam, to attend the joint funeral of the little sisters.
They lost their lives when they were struck by a car last Sunday while out for an afternoon stroll with their father.
There were more people standing outside in the bitter cold than fitted inside the tiny stone church.
People held up protective umbrellas to shield the view of the grieving couple and the remains of their daughters as they arrived in blacked-out cars and again when they left for the cemetery.
They were ushered through a side entrance of the Church of the Sacred Heart for the special Mass of the Angels.
Together with John and Michelle Gilmore were the two sets of grandparents -- John Francis and Ann Gilmore and Michael and Margaret Newell and the extended Gilmore and Newell families, including the four cousins of Kate and Grace.
At the front door, a small teddy bear lay nestled at the heart of a large bouquet of flowers.
Chief celebrant Canon Michael Gleeson said the entire community had been shattered by the loss of the two girls.
John and Michelle had "two children to put to bed on Saturday night and were left with two corpses on Sunday -- that's the sad reality," he said.
Canon Gleeson said they celebrated the love that had brought the two children into the world, pointing to the close bond of friendship and love that exists between children and their parents. "We realise how courageous Michelle and John are in carrying the heavy loss they've had to carry," he said.
The Pope had recently added seven new saints to the holy calendar, he said, adding: "He could've named Kate and Grace as well."
Prayers of the faithful were read for Kate and Grace as well as all those who mourned them. A prayer was also read for the "two princesses whom we loved so much that they might continue to inspire us with renewed love for one another".
At one point during the Mass, five beautiful swans passed overhead in the Autumnal sky.
Canon Gleeson thanked the congregation and everyone who had helped in the past few days, saying John and Michelle had said: "Everyone has been amazing."
Concelebrant, Archbishop of Tuam Michael Neary, expressed his own grief at the deaths, saying it was at times like this that we realise the "poverty of human language to express our emotions".
After the Mass, the congregation lined up in their hordes to express their sympathies with the family in the church before the remains were taken for burial at the picturesque Killower Cemetery.