Rachel O’Reilly sister Ann Callaly laid to rest

RACHEL O’Reilly’s mother, Rose Callaly, said a touching farewell to her remaining daughter and ‘constant companion’ Ann yesterday.

The 31-year-old had refused to give up her fight against cancer but after two years, she died on Friday.

Parents Jim and Rose Callaly summoned up all their courage yesterday to pay tribute to their daughter at the Holy Child Church in Whitehall, on Dublin’s northside.

Addressing friends and family from the altar, Mrs Callaly said: ‘I just do not know what I am going to do.

‘She was the organiser in the family and it’s going to be very hard to carry on without her. Our home will never be the same again without her.

‘Ann’s been my constant companion for the past two and half years and I am numb with the thought of her not being here.’

Fr Michael Carey told mourners that the 31-year-old was ‘living in eternity’ after being reunited with her sister, Rachel, who was murdered by Joe O’Reilly in 2004.

Mr and Mrs Callaly were joined at the funeral by sons Paul, Declan and Tony, who helped carry their sister’s coffin into the church. As Miss Callaly’s coffin was led to the altar before 2,500 mourners, a guitarist played a lament on an electric blues guitar.

The hour-long service began at 10am with members of the family placing keepsakes around the coffin. Among them was a photograph of a beaming Ann, which was taken last year when she celebrated the end of her cancer treatment.

Mrs Callaly placed a Bible on the coffin beside a large bouquet of flowers. As she knelt down to bow before the altar on the way back to her seat, her stoic composure slipped and she appeared to stumble. Husband Jim rushed to her side as did one of her sons.

They paused for a while and Mrs Callaly, her head bowed and her face contorted with emotion, was led back to her seat. Then Paul brought over Ann’s teddy bear, something Fr Carey said ‘she loved and cherished very much’.

Her brother Tony then followed with Ann’s badminton racket. This was, Fr Carey said, ‘a symbol of one of her numerous sporting interests where she made many friends’.

The priest said that the family’s hearts had been broken yet again. He continued: ‘Our hearts go out to Rose, Jim, Tony, Declan, Paul, her nieces and nephews, her extended family and her good and close friends and her neighbours.’ Ann would now be in ‘the loving embrace of the Lord’.

While ‘her torment is over and she is at peace’, Fr Carey said her death was ‘a shattering experience’ that her family, friends and loved ones would never forget. Ann had ‘fought the true fight to the end’.

Fr Carey explained: ‘She prayed in this church, asking God to cure her and make sense of her suffering. I don’t know if those questions were ever answered.’ Prayers for the faithful were read by Ann’s friends.

One fought back tears as she read: ‘We remember especially Ann’s sister, Rachel, whom she loved and is also dearly missed. Grant them an everlasting home with your son.’

Thanks went to the staff of Dublin’s Mater Hospital and the St Francis Hospice, in Raheny, where Ann spent time before she died.

Before the service ended, Rose Callaly took to the altar where she spoke fondly of her daughter’s loyalty and her love of life, adding that ‘never for one minute’ did Ann give up her fight against cancer.

Mrs Callaly said: ‘It is very hard for us to know that she will never be with us again.’ The mother of five was still struggling to understand why her daughter ‘had to suffer so much and be taken so young’.

She said: ‘We will miss her so very much, our very special girl, who brought so much happiness. Ann, my darling, thank you so much.’

When Mrs Callaly finished her emotionally charged tribute, mourners in the packed church rose to their feet and applauded as she made her way back to her seat.

Guitarist Breda Hammond, who had been playing softly throughout the tribute, carried on while the church fell otherwise silent.

During the Prayers of Commendation, the grief-stricken mother stared over at her daughter’s coffin, her eyes ringed with tears.

Moments later, Fr Carey led the mourners out of the church. They then travelled to Fingal Cemetery where prayers were said at Ann’s graveside, led by Fr Carey.

All the while, Rose stood staring down at the coffin, with husband Jim by her side, almost bent double at times with grief. After burying her second daughter, Rose thrust a single red rose on top of the coffin.

The Callalys then went to Clontarf Castle for a reception where they were joined by family, friends and well-wishers.