Thousands of mourners attending the funeral mass of little Zoe Scannell - who last month tragically died in a horrific road crash near Clonakilty, West Cork - heard today how her life was "brief, but beautiful".
The Mass of the Angels at the Church of the Assumption, in her native Abbeyfeale, West Limerick, was thronged and heard emotional and heartfelt tributes to the eight-year old girl, who Chief Celebrant, Fr Joe Foley CC, described as, "a special, lively engaging, child", who had "brought life and light" into her now heartbroken family.
Zoe's aunt, Anna O'Sullivan, thanked the emergency service personnel who attended the fatal accident at Owenachincha Cross, Rosscarbery, at around 3pm on Thursday, June 26.
Zoe's mother, Alisha - who was seriously injured in the two-car collision and spent the past 12 days in Cork University Hospital - was discharged on Monday allowing her to attend the funeral of her only child.
Ms O'Sullivan said: "Zoe's family would like to thank the following people, the fire fighters and medical personnel, priests and passers-by who assisted at the accident, especially the man who held and comforted Zoe."
In her deeply emotional personal tribute to "Zo Zo", who celebrated her First Holy Communion last May, also told mourners: "We often joked we pitied the girls on either side of her in the choir because she was tone deaf but sang as loud as the best of them regardless."
Ms O'Sullivan broke down as she recounted, how Zoe loved to celebrate surprise family birthday parties: "These surprise parties were held for each of us every year, and Zoe -- in her innocence -- always believed she had surprised us. All in all we were blessed to have had Zoe in our lives for eight and a half years."
She added: "The level of grief and intense pain we are experiencing is all because of the pure love that we had for Zoe. We have thousands and thousands of wonderful, funny and amazing memories off 'Zo Zo'," she added to rapturous applause from the congregation.
Symbols of Zoe's busy life, including a fiddle, a Liverpool soccer jersey & scarf, Irish dancing shoes, a camogie stick, dog leads for her dogs Penny and Bounty, and soccer boots, were all brought up to the altar and laid beside her small white coffin. Zoe played camogie for Tournafulla, soccer for Abbeyfeale, and played the fiddle with Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann.
Her fellow pupils from Scoil Mathair Dia, Abbeyfeale national school, performed a lively Irish dancing slip jig in front of her coffin, while the school choir - of which she was a member - sang hymns.
Fr Foley said the local rural community had "seen many sad and tragic funerals", but, added, "few can have been as profoundly sad and sorrowful as the funeral that gathers us here today."
In his homily, he added: "Moments like this teach us to value life, to hold a little tighter those whom we love - our children, our spouses, our parents, and our friends, because in so many ways, we just don't know...We don't know how long we will be with them."
The little girl who captured the heart of her entire community was laid to rest alongside her grandfather Luke Scannell in Reilig Íde Naofa cemetery, Abbeyfeale.
A marble plaque of a girl playing hurling, specially crafted in Zoe's memory, was left at her grave as a tribute from Tournafulla Camogie Club, where Zoe had been "one of the main players".