Tributes have been paid to a County Derry father-of-three after his sudden death last week stunned his local community.
Mourners at the funeral of Kevin 'Toby' O'Kane heard how, under normal circumstances, the church would have been packed for the funeral of a 'joyful and vibrant person'.
Fr Mícheál McGavigan told the congregation that parents burying their children was 'not the right way of things'.
“The suddeness of Toby's passing leaves us compounded with grief,” he said.
“Whenever someone we love dies tragically, we often think that we too die a little. We know we can never be exactly the same again.
“A familiar voice. A laugh. A footstep. A shared memory. All of this has been taken from us and cannot ever be recreated.
“Parents burying their children is not the right way of things. Mixed in our sadness today, there may well be an anger that the balance of our lives has been so roughly upset.”
Known widely as 'Toby', Kevin had a keen interest in fishing and cars, as well as being a proud hurler and footballer, who had played for St Mary's GAC, Banagher.
“Those who have shared Toby's story over the past few days have spoken of a fun, kind man, who was always the life and soul of the party,” said Fr McGavigan.
“He loved his fishing, and would return home to tell his mother how many and how huge the fish were that he caught, although she rarely saw any of them.
“He was a proud hurler and footballer here in Banagher, his uncle Brendan teaching him and Eugene from a young age.
“Later, he and Eugene played the social hurling, where he was regarded as a skilful hurler and a great character.”
Kevin's children, though, were at the centre of his life, and mourners at his funeral heard how he cherished them more than anything else.
“I asked his parents and siblings what was most important to him in life, without hesitation, there was a resounding answer; his children,” said Fr McGavigan.
“Toby loved his three children, couldn't be more proud of them, and fought hard for them.”
Fr McGavigan concluded his homily by praying for Kevin's family.
“Your grief here today is palpable, and it may never heal. The distress of losing a child has been confronted by parents for centuries,” he said.
“But perhaps, in years to come, with God's help and grace, you will be able to see that Toby's short life was a gift from God.
“We must be hopeful death does not have the last word. Toby's life is hidden from our lives, but it continues under the gentle gaze of God.
“As Jesus walked again with his disciples, we too will be reunited with Toby.”
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