Creeslough: We do not have the words to explain the death of Jessica Gallagher, says priest
The first funeral service for a victim of Friday’s explosion at a service station in Donegal has ended.
Father John Joe Duffy welcomed mourners to St Michael’s Church in Creeslough for 24-year-old Jessica Gallagher’s funeral.
A number of emergency responders who took part in the recovery operation are in the church.
Ms Gallagher’s body was carried into the church in a wicker casket.
Symbols representing her life were taken to the front of the church.
A photograph of Ms Gallagher was placed on the casket.
At the outset of the funeral, Fr John Joe Duffy expressed “sincere and heartfelt sympathies” to Jessica Gallagher’s family.
“We would love to be able to put in our hands to your hearts and take away that grief and that pain that you are suffering this morning,” he said.
“But to even think of that would not be a sensible thing to do. Because in that void, in that grief, there you hold in your hearts Jessica.”
Father John Joe Duffy told mourners that Jessica’s grieving father Anthony had told him of his pride in how the community in Creeslough had responded to the tragedy.
“That sums up the type of community that we are and it is that community and our faith that will help us in the pathway of life ahead,” he said.
The cleric added: “We are heartened this morning in our sadness of that support, that rallying of support from the very first moment of this terrible accident, that help that came to us from right across this island of Ireland, that help that joined in so greatly between the services from Northern Ireland and our own services and our locals all working together hand in hand.”
Fr Duffy described Jessica as a “jewel” of her family.
“While we cannot take that pain away for you, we want to walk with you,” he said.
“We cannot feel your pain but we will walk with you in that pain because to even say that we feel that pain would not be right or not be fair to you, but we walk in that pain.
“The greater someone is loved, the greater that pain and that pain is so immense, and Jessica will forever remain in your heart, but she will also be with you, she will remain with you.”
President Michael D Higgins is represented at the funeral by his aide-de-camp. Local TD Joe McHugh and Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O’Neill are attending the funeral.
In his homily, Father John Joe Duffy said Jessica Gallagher “radiated a warm and positive feeling” to all who knew her well.
The priest said she left ripples of “love, affection, kindness and warmth” wherever she went.
“We are experiencing, you the family, are experiencing that most difficult challenge of all – the pain and hardship of having to say goodbye to Jessica today,” he said.
“That pain and hardship that other families are experiencing and I know that other families have been with you that have lost a loved one and those who have a loved one in hospital at this time.
“That pain has been felt in our parish and in our neighbouring parishes when the pathway in which Jessica and others were travelling through life was so abruptly ended by this tragic accident.
“I wish I as a priest could explain that more fully in a way that words could explain it, but we do not have words to explain it, for words would make no sense or couldn’t give it sense.
“I am part of you, part of this community, and it is together that we will make the journey and travel that journey going forward, supporting each other as so many people have been doing. Our entire community is hurting. Our hearts are heavy, but our spirits are strong.”
Sinn Fein Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill has arrived in Creeslough on a sad day as the first funeral takes place following the tragic service station explosion on Friday. pic.twitter.com/XhLcg7IOGp— Rebecca Black (@RBlackPA) October 11, 2022
Father John Joe Duffy said Jessica Gallagher was “bursting with energy and imagination”.
“Everyone who knew Jessica knew that radiant smile. That radiant smile that would light up a room with that infectious warmth that flowed from her,” he said.
“She always brought that sun whether things were happy or difficult.”
He said she was a practical joker in the family and been known to put seaweed in people’s beds.
The cleric said her success in life was based on “hard work and determination”.
“Jessica was of a slender stature, but very strong, very strong, in every way possible,” he said.
“Strong in her own opinions, strong in her own self belief, in her determination.
“Her confidence was unstoppable. Honest and direct, she would tell you what she was thinking. But she could also let you tell her of what you thought of an opinion or a situation or a reality.
“Whether you liked it or not, or whether she liked it or not, she took it as it was.”
He said Donegal was always “in her heart”, despite Jessica's stints studying in Paris and Shanghai.
“No matter how far she travelled or progressed, the place she was proud of was her beautiful family home – her touchstone, her rock and her pillar,” he said.
“She could talk for all Ireland. So, if you think the homily might be a little long this morning, she would probably go on longer than me.
“Someone said this week, she didn’t have a switch-off button. This, sadly, is the first time for us that we are experiencing a Jessica who is quiet, but Jessica who is not quiet before God, Jessica who is before God and with God, seeing God face to face, where God is holding her for you and where she is asking God to hold you Conor (her boyfriend) and to hold you her family in God’s arms.”
Concluding the homily, Father John Joe Duffy spoke of Jessica Gallagher’s love of the Co Donegal mountain of Muckish and how she used to paint it on Christmas cards that she gave to loved ones.
“There are days in this locality when we look out at the mountain of Muckish that inspired Jessica in life and there are days when we can clearly see Muckish as we can see it now,” he said.
“There are nights and we can clearly see Muckish in the moonlight, which she loved painting, and then there are days and there is a pall of mist or fog and we cannot see Muckish.
“There are nights when it is dark without moonlight and we cannot see Muckish.
“But the reality of Muckish is there, it is there in the fog or mist, it is there when the night is dark and our eyes cannot carry our sight that far to see.
“Dear friends, that is true of heaven also. You and I cannot see into heaven, we cannot see Jessica’s physical presence.
“But as real as Muckish is in the mist and in the dark night, heaven is there and is real.
“And God is with us in this dark moment. And Jessica is with you, her family. Her soul has not died. Her soul is as radiant and is as beautiful and has gone ahead of us into heaven.”
Bishop of Raphoe Alan McGuckian led the congregation in a prayer to end the service at St Michael’s Church in the village.
Ms Gallagher will be buried at Doe Cemetery.
Ms O’Neill said before the service: “Our thoughts and our prayers are very much with the people in Creeslough. “This has been devastating.
“It is random but so many people have been left bereaved, and so many have been left injured, so I think it is important to show solidarity and support to the people here at such a tragic time.”