A HERO who taught others the meaning of life – this was how Donal Walsh (16) was remembered at his Requiem Mass.
In one of the biggest funerals witnessed in his native Tralee, Co Kerry, thousands of people lined the streets and packed into St John's Church to bid farewell to the inspirational teen, who was buried just one month shy of his 17th birthday.
Figures from the world of GAA and rugby – the two sports adored by Donal – joined his heartbroken parents, Fionnbar and Elma, his sister Jema (18), grandmother Mary, uncles and closest friends who all played a role in a celebration of his life.
Donal lost his battle with lung cancer at the family home in Blennerville on Sunday.
His passing occurred just several weeks after he had come to the attention of the nation when he appealed to young people to cherish life and to seek help if they were feeling suicidal.
Munster and Ireland rugby international Paul O'Connell called to the Walsh home on Sunday, visiting his friend just hours before he died.
Yesterday Mr O'Connell, who's training for the Lions tour, was represented by 26 members of the Munster squad, including Ronan O'Gara, Damian Varley, Donnchadh O'Callaghan and Simon Zebo.
They carried Donal's coffin and other teammates formed a guard of honour with the 610 students from CBS The Green.
President Michael D Higgins was represented by his aide de camp, Col Brendan McAndrew.
Kerry footballer Paul Galvin carried a pen and paper to the altar to represent Donal's love of writing. Students also took part in the guard of honour.
Chief celebrant Fr Francis Nolan urged young people to heed Donal's message.
"For all of us Donal is a hero, the 16-year-old who taught us the meaning of life and not to fear death," Fr Nolan said.
Donal wrote he had "grown fully in both body and mind by climbing God's mountains" and yesterday those words were recalled by friend Eoin Walsh.
"I've climbed God's mountains, faced many struggles for my life and dealt with so much loss. And as much as I'd love to go around to every fool on this planet and open their eyes to the mountains that surround them in life, I can't. But maybe if I shout from mine, they'll pay attention," Donal wrote.
Donal's mum Elma later made an impassioned speech to world leaders ahead of the G8 Summit to increase funding to find a cure for cancer.
She recalled her son's generous and kind spirit and said he hadn't made one enemy in his all-too-brief life, before adding: "To the young people here today, we say live every day to the full and carry on his spirit in your life, just as his spirit touched you in his brief time."