Heads bowed in respect, the communities of Creeslough and Derrybeg came together to line the roadside and honor the recent voyages of James O’Flaherty, Catherine O’Donnell and James Monaghan.
A gray sky hung over the hills surrounding the Donegal communities as mourners gave a painful farewell to three other victims of Friday’s blast.
Hundreds turned out on Wednesday to remember Mr O’Flaherty, 48, Ms O’Donnell, 39, and their 13-year-old son James.
Two funerals were held in villages about 20 miles apart, but people are now forever part of a tragedy that will make ripples for generations.
The family and friends of Mr O’Flaherty, Ms O’Donnell and James were joined by work colleagues, school friends and members of their local communities, who were united in their grief as they sent loved ones to their final resting place.
On Wednesday morning, in the Gaeltacht region of Derrybeg, locals gathered in hushed silence outside St Mary’s Church for Mr O’Flaherty’s funeral.
An honor guard was provided by the school where his 12-year-old son Hamish attended.
His wife Tracey sat in the hearse with Hamish on the way to and from the chapel. It was an opportunity for the family to share their last precious moments together before saying goodbye.
Hamish held onto a large cross while waiting for his father’s coffin to be removed from the hearse and carried it again as he walked behind his father’s coffin as he emerged from the church.
The family wrapped comforting arms around Mrs O’Flaherty as she kept an eye on her son.
In the chapel, the service was conducted by Mr O’Flaherty as Gaeilge (in Irish) and in English by the Rev. Brian O Fearraigh.
Mourners were told that Mr O’Flaherty, a native of Sydney, was learning Irish and had been a lover of the outdoors.
They also heard that Mr O’Flaherty lived with his wife, “the love of his life”, and their “brave, talented and kind” son on the outskirts of the village of Dunfanaghy, with their house overlooking New Lake, where the The Atlantic could be seen in the distance.
The funeral service heard that Mr O’Flaherty was a man of faith and that faith had been a source of comfort and a “safe anchor” for Tracey and Hamish and the extended family.
They got a glimpse of life between Mr O’Flaherty, his wife and son and how he showered them with kisses and hugs every day.
Hamish, flanked by his mother, then went to the altar, stood on a footstool and looked down at the hundreds of mourners before him.
In his short but poignant speech, he told the mourners to cherish life and family.
“I also want to share something I’ve learned over the past week or so,” he added.
“We should be grateful. For your families, cherish them, be grateful because they won’t be around forever.
“Use the time you have wisely. Be thankful for your life too, because that won’t last forever either.
“Be thankful because after your hard work you will be able to rest.”
His words were met with applause and standing ovations from the community.