Victims of Westmeath car blaze laid to rest in white coffin following funeral service in Longford cathedral
Carried to the altar were two small fishing rods, never used. The sight conjured up images of two little children in their wellies who “loved to run and laugh” down at the water’s edge.
That was how it was supposed to be – one rod clutched clumsily in a chunky baby’s fist, the other in the hand of his older sister, more dexterous, winding the reel under careful instruction.
A first fishing trip on the tranquil lakes of Westmeath on a golden autumn day, both ordinary and infinitely precious, filled with laughter and wonder.
It was an idyllic day they never got to spend together.
Mourners arrived in their hundreds at St Mel’s Cathedral in Longford to say farewell to two-year-old Mikey and five-year-old Thelma Dennany, who were laid to rest together in the same white coffin.
They died this day last week when the car in which they were travelling with their mother, Lynn Egar, was found in flames by a passing motorist.
The floral displays of familiar childhood favourites – Scoop, the yellow digger from the Bob the Builder cartoon for Mikey, and a unicorn for Thelma – were deeply poignant.
Fr Sean Casey, the parish priest of Killoe, Co Longford, who had baptised the children, was the chief celebrant for their funeral mass, with Bishop Pat Storey, the Church of Ireland Bishop of Meath and Kildare; and Fr Tom Healy, diocesan administrator of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise, con-celebrating with several other clerics.
Fr Casey prayed for the children’s grieving parents, Michael and Lynn, their siblings Eddie and Katelyn, grandparents Mary and Herbert and all their friends and extended family.
He said the congregation had come to try to “help and comfort the family”.
Chief mourners were the children’s father, their teenage brother and sister, grandparents and wider family.
Also present were children and teachers from Waddlers and Toddlers pre-school in Rathowen, Co Westmeath, that Mikey had attended; and from St Cremin’s National School in Multyfarnham, where Thelma had been in senior infants.
Also in attendance were pupils from Wilson’s Hospital Secondary School, where Eddie and Katelyn are enrolled.
Among the gifts brought to the altar was a colourful drawing created by Mikey at pre-school, along with a small photo of him, presented by his teacher, Niamh Anderson.
Thelma’s teacher, Joan Hickson, brought a gift of a collage made up of Thelma’s colourings, including a hedgehog and a squirrel.
A few short lines written by the little girl in blue pencil before the summer holidays read: “I am Thelma. I am five. I got a teddy. I feel happy.”
The two fishing rods, not yet tested, were also placed at the altar.
The children had been “excited and looking forward to trying them out on the lakes and rivers of Co Westmeath”, Fr Casey said.
“They loved the water. They loved the sea,” he added, saying they had recently enjoyed a family holiday.
The children’s lives had been “tragically cut short in the full bloom and promise of childhood”, Fr Casey said.
“We don’t know how these tragedies occurred or what happened on that lonely road on Friday.
“We only know that they were deeply, and are deeply, loved by their parents, by their aunts and uncles, relatives and friends.”
He said they had their “last sleepover” at their grandmother’s home on Tuesday of last week before being brought the next day to their family home in Rathowen, “where they had such wonderful happy times with their mum and dad and brother and sister”.
They had loved to scribble and paint and were very talented and vibrant.
“In the words of their dad, Michael, the only thing that separated them was school
as they went their separate ways each morning,” Fr Casey said.
“Thelma attended dance classes and football training and Mikey always came to watch her training from the sideline.
“On Saturday week last, he ventured on to the pitch for the first time to join her in the sport she loved.
“They loved to run and laugh and feel the wind in their hair and to pick wild flowers. They looked forward to trying out their fishing rods.
“They are together now, exploring the highways and byways of heaven.”
He said the children would remain “forever young” in the hearts of their parents, brother and sister.
“Today, we who remain trudge through the valley of darkness. At some future time we hope to trip lightly through pastures fresh and green,” Fr Casey said.
Then Fr Healy, on behalf of the Diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise, extended “heartfelt sympathies” to the families.
“We are deeply saddened at the death of these two young beautiful children,” he said.
“The photographs of their smiling faces speak to us of two bundles of joy who were loved and cherished and who no doubt filled the lives of their families and friends with vibrancy and joy.”
Addressing the family, he added: “We know that your loss is very deep.”
A brief message from the families was read out, expressing sincere gratitude to those who had supported them through “this time of heartbreak”.
“We’d like to thank everyone for helping us to say farewell to Thelma and Mikey,” they said.
“We use ‘farewell’ because with the memories they left us through their short lives and their infectious smiles they will be with us for ever.
“Your heartfelt sympathy and offers of help have touched us deeply at this very difficult time. Once again, we thank you all.”
Before the end of the service, mourners formed a long line to sympathise with the heartbroken family, embracing them and whispering words of condolence and comfort, many weeping as they
It was almost an hour later that the remains of Thelma and Mikey were taken from the cathedral for burial the family plot in Cullyfad Cemetery while soloist Eimear Reynolds sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow.