Gracie Leigh Gordon (14) funeral: 'She had a hug for everyone'
GRACIE Leigh Gordon, who died after falling into a Co Antrim river last week, has been remembered at her funeral as "fiercely loyal, thoughtful and sensitive".
Schoolmates from St Killian's College lined the route yesterday as the 14-year-old's white coffin made its way in a funeral cortège to St MacNissi's Catholic Church in Larne.
Hundreds of mourners gathered for Requiem Mass at midday to say a final farewell.
Gracie Leigh fell into the River Inver last Tuesday evening while out walking with friends after slipping down a steep bank into the fast-flowing water. She was pulled from the river but died later in Antrim Area Hospital.
Fr Francis O'Brien told mourners that her parents Danielle and Alex and older sister Charlie Louise have drawn comfort from the many tributes to their "beautiful child... blessed with a bubbly, vibrant personality" and the "tremendous outpouring of compassion" from both neighbours and strangers.
"For Gracie Leigh what we should be focusing our attention upon is the intensity and the quality of life she was blessed with, has led and shared with those around her."
He told how the "smiley happy baby", developed a blood disorder at the age of five and "spent a considerable amount of time in hospital and wasn't permitted to engage with life and play like other children her own age".
"She was distraught at not being able to ride her bike unless she agreed to wearing her bicycle helmet at all times... (but) was so proud of how brave she had become in dealing with her condition and told everybody who would listen to her about how blood work and needles were `no problem'."
She was a "very energetic child who loved to practice her `gin nastics' as she would have pronounced it" had been "very much the tomboy".
"Then overnight she did a full 360 degree turn and was transformed into Gracie Leigh Glam Girl or Miss Sassy who always did her make-up and hair to perfection," the priest recalled.
"One of her teachers commented that: `She was so strikingly beautiful, that even if you didn't know her, you could not fail to notice her'."
The Year 13 pupil had grown into a "caring and fiercely loyal, thoughtful and sensitive" young woman, according to family and friends who had shared memories with the cleric following the tragedy.
"She had a hug for everyone, possessed a natural sense of fairness and was constantly sticking up for the underdog," Fr O'Brien said.
"Her mammy summed up Gracie Leigh perfectly. She was like a Galaxy minstrel, she had a hard-outer shell, but was soft in the middle.
"... Although Gracie Leigh's life has been cut short and she has died too soon, it has however allowed us to see what a remarkable impression she has make upon all those around her."
Fr O'Brien added that her friends could honour her memory and "legacy of good deeds" by "giving one another big hugs, to look out for one another and ensure that no-one who is sad, be it today, tomorrow, or next week, is left to cope on their own".