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Saturday 25 November 2017

Our hearts are breaking: Despair as Jolanta and Enrika laid to rest

Marius, Enrika's father and husband of Jolanta Lubiene, holds his daughter's toy
Marius, Enrika's father and husband of Jolanta Lubiene, holds his daughter's toy

THE last to leave was Ramute Santiene, weeping softly as she made some adjustments to the mass of flowers covering the grave of her daughter and granddaughter.

Two simple wooden crosses marked their names and the all-too-short span of their years: Jolanta Lubiene 1985-2013 and Enrika Lubyte 2005-2013.

Ramute looked bent and worn as she finally wrenched herself away. It was her very last farewell.

The traditional Lithuanian funeral had been unbearably poignant, with music and Gregorian chant at the heart of it, as family and friends mourned "mama and dukra" – mother and daughter. From an hour beforehand, mourners had begun to gather at the gates of the beautiful old church in the village of Gadunavas, 10km away from the family home.

Janis Lubys, a half-brother of Marius – Enrika's father and Jolanta's husband – waited at the gates for the coffins to arrive, a sheaf of fragrant white lilies in his hand, as a woodpecker tapped sharply in the trees above.

"I don't know what to say to Marius," he said. "What can you say after something like this happens? Nothing."

Shortly before midday, the church bell began to toll solemnly as the funeral procession wound up the road. The two black vans, each carrying a white coffin, displayed on their separate windscreens a lovely photograph – Jolanta, radiant on her wedding day; and Enrika, with a mischievous smile in the royal blue uniform of Scoil Mhuire NS in Killorglin, Co Kerry.

She had been due to start at a new school in Telsai, the nearest big town to Gedrimai, in September. Enrika and her mother were ready to come home. But instead they both returned in coffins, the victims of a vicious stabbing three weeks ago in their adopted Co Kerry home.

To the sombre sound of a traditional Lithuanian brass band, the coffins were lifted gently into the church and placed on a raised platform before the carved wooden altar, with a pink rosebud heart at the foot of each place.

Enormous floral tributes of white flowers decorated the church. "Our hearts are breaking," read one bouquet, in Lithuanian.

The family were valiantly maintaining their composure but the grief on their faces was unmistakable

This last step in bidding farewell to their loved ones was proving near impossible.

All clutched a white rose which they did not put down throughout the entire Catholic Mass, which was deeply moving and conducted mostly in song and beautiful Gregorian chant, sung by retired bishop Juozas Siurys and answered by the choir.

Marius Lubys gently caressed his daughter's favourite toy dog and his face was wistful with painful memories. Jolanta's father, Rimantas – who is seriously ill – was overcome with grief at one point in the Mass, wiping his eyes.

During the final blessing, Bishop Siurys shook a small straw broom over the coffins, sprinkling them with holy water and then the pallbearers lifted the coffins from the church, through a floral guard of honour formed by mourners holding wreaths of white flowers.

The sorrowful procession followed as they walked the short distance to the graveyard, to the sad note of the brass band playing a traditional Lithuanian funeral march.

Weeping, they watched as first Jolanta's coffin was placed into the pale sandy earth, followed by Enrika's.

Three handfuls of soil were thrown into the grave by the priest, in accordance with tradition, before each member of the family put in the single white rose they had been holding throughout the Mass.

"Mama and dukra," whispered an elderly woman as she wiped tears from her eyes with a trembling hand.

Stepping forward, Marius kissed the toy dog he had been holding and laid it tenderly in his daughter's grave (left).

Then, following local tradition, an old woman from Gedrimai stood at the graveside and spoke emotionally about the dead mother and daughter, saying the village was shocked by what had happened and the cruelty of their deaths.

"You are still alive in our hearts," she said. "You will come to us in our dreams. Rest in peace."

Irish Independent

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