Heartbreak at final goodbye: A single red rose in tribute to tragic Karen Buckley
IT was the gorgeous yellow dress that Karen Buckley (24) chose for her brother Brendan's wedding.
The striking gown was the student's favourite and she proudly posted photos of herself wearing it on her social media pages.
It was also the dress that Karen was photographed wearing in the images used as part of the massive missing person hunt for her in Scotland two weeks ago.
Yesterday, the heartbroken Buckley family fought back tears as the gown, intended for such happy occasions by a girl who had "a smile to lift a thousand frowns", instead formed part of the offertory gifts at her Requiem Mass.
Karen's parents, John (62) and Marian (61), visibly shook with emotion as their son Damien (27) carefully placed his sister's favourite dress gently before the altar.
Outside the packed north Cork church, Karen's nursing classmates from the University of Limerick shivered in the cold.
Each wore their best hospital whites - and each carried a single red rose in tribute to their lost classmate.
Mourneabbey and Analeentha, tiny farming communities, ground to a halt as more than 600 people attended the Requiem Mass for the Cork student whose body was found on an isolated Scottish farm following a massive three-day search by Glasgow police.
Courier operator Alexander Pacteau (21) is now charged with Karen's murder in Glasgow.
The crowd attending the Church of St Michael the Archangel in Analeentha, which only has a capacity of 300, was so large a marquee had to be erected for the overflow.
Mourners openly wept as Karen's cousin, Siobhan Leahy, read out a poem entitled 'Karen' written in her memory.
"Small and gentle, honest and true, our sister Karen, how much we will miss you."
"A nurse with plans, a woman full of dreams, an adventurer who travelled and in fun and laughter revelled."
"A smile to lift a thousand frowns, brown eyes shining - big and round, a country girl - big hopes, big plans, big heart, big smile and caring hands."
Mourneabbey parish priest Fr Joe O'Keeffe, assisted by 20 other clerics, said he was reminded of time, tears and faith.
"We are deeply, deeply saddened when the life of someone so young is cut short, and in Karen's case, so tragically and horrifically so, by the curtain of death," he said.
"Karen's death seems so utterly inappropriate. It violates our sense of order. In our view of life, death and childhood are poles apart, and 24 years simply does not seem the right time to die - it does not seem to add up.
"Nothing becomes so indispensable as a child."
The offertory gifts were brought to the altar by Karen's parents, John and Marian.
Gifts to symbolise her life were offered by her brothers, Brendan (32), Kieran (28) and Damien.
Her cousin Padraig Hurley explained that the gifts reflected Karen's achievement-filled life.
"(They) represent her personality, achievements and her love for life," he said.
"Brendan is bringing up a picture of Karen's first day in Analeentha national school where she developed a love for learning.
"Kieran is bringing up Karen's nursing uniform. She was known for being a kind and caring nurse whose smile would light up the ward."
Scottish police were represented by Detective Inspector Allan Burton, while Glasgow Caledonian University, where Karen was studying, was represented by vice-chancellor Prof Karen Stanton.