'Shane took Brandon everywhere with him. They are now in heaven together'
Last Friday, South Sligo basked in one of its finest summer days.
But around Banada, Tourlestrane and Tubbercurry, it was one of the saddest.
In St Attracta's Church in Tourlestrane, a packed, teary-eyed congregation bid a solemn, final farewell to Shane Michael and Brandon Skeffington.
The colour of the day was blue.
Gifts taken to the altar included a blue football belonging to Shane Michael.
There was Brandon's blue transformer toy. Some of the pall bearers wore blue shirts.
There was even blue cloth attached to the rails on the side of the coffins laid out in front of the altar.
Blue was the two brothers' favourite colour.
Their aunt, Mary O'Brien told The Sligo Champion: "They liked blue.
"They were very, very close. They went everywhere together. There was a strong bond between them.
"Shane took Brandon everywhere with him. They have now gone to heaven together."
At the front of the altar stood a large photo of the two boys together, with a soft toy nearby.
Blue, a very dark blue indeed, was also the mood of the occasion.
Parish Priest Fr John Glynn told those present: "We come together as neighbours and friends, and heartbroken people."
The remains of Shane Michael, 20, and Brandon, 9, were taken that morning in two hearses from their home in Banada.
It was there, less than a week earlier, where the awful tragedy occurred that would claim their lives.
Arriving at Tourlestrane church, the two coffins, one smaller than the other, were taken to the front of the altar.
A photograph and floral tribute was placed on top of each.
They were received by Fr Glynn and nine other priests.
The strains of 'Amazing Grace' by Tourlestrane Church Choir carried on the slight breeze.
Fr Glynn said: "We come together at a time of great sadness and shock.
"We have come together as a very large community."
He said they all prayed for Shane and Brandon, their parents Shane and Carmel, their brother and sister, Sharon and Callum.
They also prayed for the brothers' grandparents, Paddy and Sarah Healy and Mary and Ted Skeffington.
In the midst of such grief, Fr Glynn said there had also been "so much goodness."
"We saw it in the last few days," he said.
Throughout the congregation were Banada National School pupils in their green and wine-coloured uniforms.
Some cried, comforted by their parents. But even adults wept openly.
Readings and Prayers of the Faithful were read by family members.
Tracey O'Brien, a cousin of the boys, described Shane as "the best friend in the world."
In his homily, Fr Glynn said: "Our sympathy go out to the Skeffington family.
"That might seem like a bare statement to make but words are difficult for us all at this time."
He told the family: "It's hard to imagine how you feel. Our hearts go out to you."
But he also told them: "We are full of admiration for the way you are bearing your grief."
Fr Glynn continued: "What happened?
"What happened is that Brandon and Shane Michael died.
"Their family are all very sad. That's what happened. And really we don't know much more.
"We might speculate and wonder and read reports about what people think might have happened.
"But in the end, what it comes down to is their deaths and the sadness and how you live with your loss."
He said Brandon and Shane Michael were brothers and good friends.
"They would sometimes take journeys together in the car.
"The two lads were buddies.
"But they died, and death is part of life. Sadness is the price we pay for love."
Fr Glynn said Shane Michael loved cars.
He added: "I do not know how good a driver he was.
"When you see all the cars at the back of the house, I do not know how good a sign that is.
"But he had the Rosary on the mirror."
Fr Glynn said that on one of those journeys, Shane bought a football which they brought home and played with.
He added: "Brandon was full of life.
"One of his toys was the transformer, which changes shape in the hands of a little boy."
"But it's God who transforms us all."
He said a football is kicked, it rolls and bounces.
"We receive many kicks in life.
"Carmel, Shane, Sharon and Callum, you have been kicked by life in the past week.
"We pray that you can roll with the blows," he said.
Fr Glynn said Brandon was three years in Banada National School, where he made a big impression.
"He was full of the joys of life.
"His bright sparkling blue eyes and his big smile would get him out of awkward and tricky situations."
The priest told how Brandon was a big Simpsons fan.
He would avail of any opportunity to read his Simpsons comics.
"He was a lively, happy-go-lucky little boy and will be dearly missed by teachers, classmates and the entire school."
After Communion, those in the congregation heard how Shane Michael had a great interest in music.
Then, one of Shane's favourite pieces, Mr Prob's 'Wave after Wave' was played.
It was followed by a favourite of Brandon, 'Hide Away'.
At the end of Mass, the coffins bearing the remains of the two boys were hoisted shoulder high.
As they were carried down the aisle, the choir sang 'Nearer My God to Thee'.
Two hearses waited outside in the sunshine.
Leaving Tourlestrane, the funeral travelled through Tubbercurry, where the Skeffington family lived before moving to Banada.
Then it was on to the two brothers' final resting place in Rhue Cemetery.