Nuala McLaughlin: 'We will always love you, you were the essence of all that is good'
NUALA McLaughlin was just 43 years old when she succumbed to coronavirus after a courageous four-week battle at the South West Acute Hospital.
But as her big brother Fr Peter McAnenly told her funeral in Ballymacilroy, Co Tyrone on Christmas Eve, she managed to pack an incredible amount into those years and make a lasting impact on countless lives.
Nuala was the second youngest in a family of eight from Glencull and after her schooldays at St Ciaran's College in nearby Ballygawley, she studied social care in Omagh and Derry and completed a degree in social work in Hull.
Her first job was with the health trust in Monaghan before moving to the Western Trust in Omagh, where she worked in the family and childcare section for almost 20 years.
It was there that Nuala truly found her vocation. She loved her work and in recent years had been promoted to Principal Social Worker and seemed destined for even greater things.
An emotional tribute by her colleagues described her as a passionate and dedicated worker who took great pride in ensuring the best outcomes for children and families.
"Both as a practitioner and a manager, no task was too big or small and she always embraced a challenge and looked at practical and positive ways in how to provide a solution," they said.
"Nuala approached her role with great humility, never seeking praise and often downplayed the significance and importance of her role and how being the genuine and caring person she was often made a difference in so many ways.”
They added: "As colleagues we will treasure these special and memorable times we shared together including the laughs, the tears, phone calls and nights out. Anyone that knows Nuala on a work capacity would agree how her personality and presence lit up the room and became infectious."
Fr Peter also recalled how Nuala's determination to improve children's lives meant she never hesitated to work long hours or go the extra mile.
He said 'Noodles' was "someone who taught so many of us the real meaning of love"
"From a young age she was always the most caring of people and I can recall her many years ago working different summers in some of the nursing homes in Omagh and going off to work with the sick in Lourdes."
Nuala was also a devoted mother to her own children, Orla and Eoin.
Having danced herself in younger years, she travelled the country to Irish dancing competitions with Orla and had become involved with the Errigal Ciaran football club, preparing dancing teams for Scór.
"She just lived for both of you and would have done without in order to get Orla or Eoin the new dancing costume or the new runners or to treat you to a special outing," Fr Peter said.
"There’s no denying it, she was a wonderful mother."
Nuala also took great pride in her nephew Pascal's success in winning TG4's Glór Tíre singing competition, having been an energetic supporter of his campaign.
"No matter what was going, if it was good, Nuala just wanted to be part of it," Fr Peter said.
"She may be only 43 years of age but she packed so much into those years and we will always remember her as someone young and vibrant and someone who was usually smiling and full of fun."
He finished by saying: "Nuala, we love you and we will always love you, you were the essence of all that is good. You weren’t special but you were extra special - you will always be part of our lives and I will always be proud to say that you are my sister."
Nuala McLaughlin died on December 22 and was buried at St Malachy's Cemetery, Ballymacilroy.
Her month's memory will be celebrated in the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Ballygawley at 6pm on Sunday January 24 and streamed on its webcam.
Predeceased by her father Frank, she is survived by her children Orla and Eoin, mother Claire and siblings Cathal, Colette, Paul, Eamonn, Fr Peter, Catherine and Brian.