'We grieve not just for the loss of life but for what might have been'
NICOLA Furlong's simple but unfulfilled dreams were spelled out by her heartbroken younger sister yesterday.
Holding back her sobs, Andrea Furlong (18) told mourners how Nicola (21) had mapped out their lives together.
The bubbly DCU student was going to set up home with her long-term boyfriend, Wexford Youth soccer star Danny Furlong.
He was going to be a famous footballer and she was going to excel at being a glamorous 'WAG' on his arm.
And Andrea was going to grow old alongside her sister.
"She was just one in a million," she said, adding that the memories of her bubbly sister, "a ditzy blonde", still brought a smile to her face.
"We had our lives planned out. Danny was going to be a famous footballer and Nicola took her WAG role very, very seriously," she said to some laughter from mourners.
"They were going to dedicate an entire floor in their mansion for me to live in so we wouldn't be apart.
"We imagined ourselves at 70 going to the stores with our walking frame and, of course, all the young lads would still try and chat her up."
But it is not to be after the 21-year-old was killed in a Tokyo hotel last month in circumstances that remain unclear.
Yesterday, over 1,000 mourners packed into the small seaside church in Curracloe, hugging the Wexford coastline, to offer support to the devastated Furlong family.
Her long-time boyfriend Danny had earlier stepped up to the head of the petite, pink-hued coffin to carry his girlfriend from her family home to the hearse.
The hearse brought her just a couple of hundred yards along the road to St Margaret's Church and graveyard.
Danny had requested that people wear pink ribbons in her honour -- which was also the colour of the Wexford Youths -- and pink ribbons were everywhere.
After her coffin was carried in the door of the church, her father, Andrew, took a moment to pause and use a tissue to tenderly wipe the raindrops from the coffin. A framed snapshot of his beautiful young daughter stared back up at him.
Just 40 minutes later, her mother Angie's composure finally cracked as she let out a distraught wail outside the church.
She reached both arms around the coffin -- to cling on to her daughter one last time.
She had stood comfortingly by the side of Nicola's youngest sister, Hannah (12), as she performed the first reading of the Mass for her big sister.
After the lyrics of 'Daddy's Little Girl' from the Garth Brooks song echoed around the church, parish priest Fr Jim Fitzpatrick described her as a warm, generous, sunny person -- using the words of the family.
"She will always be the centre of your lives, where she stood for everything that was good. I can find no better words than those," the parish priest said.
"We are unable to say goodbye in this case as we were particularly saddened and perturbed by the manner in which Nicola was taken from us," Fr Fitzpatrick said, echoing the feelings of distraught mourners.
"This life has been more tragically and violently cut short -- 21 years of life ended in the blink of an eye and we are left holding the pieces," he said.
"The Nicola you all knew and loved had so much ability, so much energy, so much charisma, so much to offer in this life. So we grieve also not just for the loss of life but for what might have been."
Mourners gave her sister Andrea a round of applause after she painted that picture of a life growing up with Nicola by her side.
"Nic, I was blessed to have you in my life -- three words -- sister, best friend, my rock," she said.
"Eighteen years is just not long enough. Nicola made my heart whole. No one will ever be able to replace the piece of my heart that they took," she said. "My jigsaw will never be finished -- Nic you will always hold the last piece."
Her friends, who had entered the church hand-in-hand carrying delicate, long-stemmed pink roses, told how they had often been terrified as her hill starts had proved difficult as she learnt to drive.
"It is safe to say we were all happy when she went to Japan, she invested in a bike. This went well for a couple of weeks until she was pulled over by the police for running a red light," her friends said, adding they couldn't have asked for a better friend.
As her small, pink coffin bearing a Shelmaliers GAA jersey and her camogie stick was carried on her final journey, the mourners' were left with Nicola's words "It is not goodbye, it is see you later" echoing in their ears.
Two American men are still being held by police in Tokyo, Japan and are being questioned about events in the lead-up to Nicola's death.