At the campaigner's funeral today, the smallest butterfly sat beside her heart-broken father, writes Catherine Fegan
RUTH Morrissey signed off every text message with two little butterflies.
The smallest one represented her daughter, Libby, and the bigger one, the mother butterfly, symbolised her. Mother and daughter, always side by side.
Today, in a small church in Monaleen, Co. Limerick, the smallest butterfly sat beside her heart-broken father, clutching a single yellow rose.
Libby Morrissey, the beloved only child of Ruth and Paul Morrissey, had come for the final sign-off with her mum.
Mourners, limited in number by Covid-19 restrictions, had trickled into Mary Magdalene Church, shortly before 11am.
Outside under a gentle rain, members of the 221 + Cervical Check support group, including Vicky Phelan and Lorraine Walsh, formed a guard of honour as the wicker coffin was led in.
Ruth Morrissey’s family, huddled tightly around Libby as she walked up the aisle, took their seats in a pew near the altar.
On the opposite side of the church, the first three pews were empty, except for the two uniformed figures representing the State. The President’s aide-de-camp Colonel Stephen Howard and the Taoiseach’s aide-de-camp Comdt Caroline Burke had been sent to offer their condolences.
But in the noticeable gulf between them and Ruth’s family and friends, there was an uncomfortable truth. The State let Ruth Morrissey down, consuming the precious time she had left with her loved ones with a gruelling quest for justice.
There was no way of getting that time back.
Paul Morrissey spoke of the immense resilience and bravery Ruth showed every day “whether going through treatment, going through the court case, or dealing with the pain.”
He said it is no secret that Ruth was “the boss” in their relationship.
“I don’t know how I got so lucky when she agreed to become my wife.”
Their only child Libby came into the world in 2011, he added, glancing down at his tear-filled daughter.
“Libby made Ruth so happy. Spending time together was most important thing to Ruth. Libby has inherited so many special qualities. Libby made a card for her Mam on Saturday and signed it mini Ruth. It says it all,” Paul said.
Fighting back tears, he told the congregation that himself and Libby are “heartbroken and devastated”.
“I don’t think we will ever recover from losing Ruth,” he said, “Ruth was my girlfriend, but also my best friend. We did everything together.”
Among the many gifts brought to the altar was a framed family photo, “because Ruth’s biggest achievement in life was her family”.
There was also a butterfly, referencing her familiar sign-off and a sign of “endurance, hope and resurrection.”
A tub of luxury face cream Crème de la Mer and a packet of jellies, two favoured treats, were also carried to the altar.
In a moving and heartfelt eulogy, family friend Father Noel Kirwan drew parallels between Ruth and Mary Magdelene, the namesake of the church where the funeral took place.
He said Ruth Morrissey had great strength of character, but also a great sense of justice that drove her to make great sacrifices.
“She reached out to her fellow sufferers,” he said.
During her 39 years, Ruth had challenged people to “live your truth,” he added.
The parting song, aptly chosen, was ‘Roar’ by Katy Perry.
The lyrics, sang by a soloist in the church balcony, echoed all around: “You held me down, but I got up. Get ready ‘cause I had enough.”
As the pallbearers guided the coffin outside and the sun broke though the clouds, a little butterfly followed behind.
Cocooned by the love of those holding tight to her, little Libby Morrissey went to say her final goodbyes. Mother and daughter, always side by side.
TAOISEACH Micheál Martin has apologised to the late Ruth Morrissey, her family and other women affected by the cervical screening scandal for the "litany of failures that took place".