SINCERE and spontaneous applause greeted the moving, light hearted and respectful tribute paid to Aoife Phelan by her crestfallen brother Darragh during last Saturday’s funeral mass that brought the tranquil village of Ballyroan to a standstill.
Darragh’s reflection began and ended, “Aoife Estelle Phelan – beautiful, radiant, joyful star.”
Aoife was born on March 19, 1982 and Darragh said the biggest smile she ever gave anybody was that day. “The smile you gave our parents that day will remain forever true.”
Darragh and his four brothers Trevor, Michael-Anthony, Bradley and Dave helped carry Aoife’s coffin during the heart-breaking funeral ceremony and her six sisters Donna, Leighanne, Nicole, Lavina, Shona and Shalane accompanied their parents Mick and Betty.
Darragh told mourners that Aoife lived her life with a smile and that’s how they wished to remember her. “Aoife’s bubby personality brought so much joy and happiness to our family and friends, near and far. Your smile was and will always be forever in our hearts and memories. When you were lost for words you kept us strong with stories and smiles of happier times.”
Darragh continued with his treasure trove of memories. “Dave and Bradley will always smile when they remember the slagging you gave them when Chelsea beat Manchester United.
“Nicole smiles when she remembered her art homework. Your willingness to help her always got her an A plus.
“Shalane smiles as she remembers your goodie bags – ‘a little sugar rush to get you through the day’. Lavina smiles each Christmas with memories of early morning rises, how the both of you would always be first up, carefully going over everyone’s presents, picking and choosing the best of all possible.
“Leighanne will always smile with the story of her buying a new fridge, with you believing it was so modern and advanced all you’d have to do is stand at the door and ask for what you want and it would pop out. Aoife goes over, smiles, looks at the fridge and says, ‘Three beers please’.
“A family tradition is our annual grand national sweep stake. Being so many of us, we always had the winner. Michael Anthony will never forget his first winner. West Tipp in 1986. He smiles when he remembers watching Aoife play with the prize the next day, crushing it with a lump hammer - not so funny at the time though!
“Donna thinks of your visits to Cork and your warm, friendly times with her. Your sketches and art work brought so many happy smiles to so many people. Trevor watches Lorna each time she paints, colours and draws – the hours you spent helping her to develop a passion you love so dear.
“Being a Spurs fan, we always had our ins and outs over soccer. As we watched the Champions League Final last year, biting my finger nails nervously, Tottenham sitting in 4th and Chelsea in the Champions League Final. Surely, surely they couldn’t win.
“That night I went home, frustrated and disappointed, the years of waiting for Tottenham to get into the Champions League only for Aoife to take it away from me with Chelsea. I walked into my room, Chelsea duvet, Chelsea pillow cover, Chelsea scarf, Chelsea clock. I thought I was at Chelsea’s home ground.”
As rapturous applause echoed around the church and freezing church yard, Fr Ahern reflected, “After the week that has been it is good to have a laugh. Its a tribute to Aoife’s family how united you are and the dignity you maintained.”