A Tragedy and A Community’s Response
By Archdeacon The Venerable Simon J Lumby, Rector of Killarney.
Just over a week ago, in the beautiful and tranquil setting of the Gap of Dunloe, a tragedy unfolded. So unexpected and so sudden was it that no words could adequately describe the pain and sorrow of those who witnessed the aftermath. Two tourists—holiday makers from North America in a Jaunting Car were accidentally and tragically thrown to their deaths in a moment of horror.
Roselyn (known as Joy) and her partner Norman were travelling ahead of her daughter’s family when the pony and trap overturned. For the family, and particularly for the two children, to see the couple dead among the rocks, is an experience that defies description. The Town’s heart went out to them.
When I took the private funeral for the family at Cork Crematorium last Thursday, I had a brief opportunity to offer them some sense peace, hope and comfort. The pain and deep, deep, sadness, written across their faces was mingled with the memories of joyful times and happy moments on their holiday together; three generations, about in Kerry. As is always our intent, we seek to ensure the family gain support and some sense of strength in the midst of their sorrow and grief. I hope we achieved that at the funeral; I think we did. This is why the Wake and the Community’s gathering around the bereaved is so important in Irish life. In some tangible way, I think the Town collectively managed this particularly well; even though it didn’t have the opportunity to Wake the deceased and attend the funeral.
The Community’s response to this tragedy has been overwhelming. The family asked that I convey their gratitude to all that have supported them and provided for them, in their time of great need. The family have drawn great strength and comfort from the many acts of kindness and care shown to them.
Firstly, the First Responders, the Gardai, Kerry Mountain Rescue and others quickly on the scene. For them it was a difficult task, handled with great tact and efficiency. Secondly, for the Jarvies or Pony-men who rallied round. The family expressed a great concern for the Jarvey whose Jaunting Car was involved, and said they felt for him deeply as he too struggles to come to terms with the tragedy. They wish him well for the future. The local Jarvies gathered near Kate Kearney’s Cottage with the Parish Priest on the day following, so say the Rosary and pray for the deceased. Knowing this gave great comfort to the family. Thirdly, O’Shea’s Funeral Home offered extensive care and consideration to the family; and it was appreciated. Fourthly, the Hotel where the family were staying spared no effort to support and provide for the family; and arranged for their accommodation at Cork Airport in preparation for their return to America. The Crematorium in Cork put very special care and attention to the needs of the family. The family acknowledged it was a beautiful setting for their final farewells to loved people who would not now travel home with them. Fifthly, we should recognise the great task of caring for them that the airline and cabin staff had on the flight back to the USA; it’s not in the least bit easy to return home with two painfully empty seats beside you. However, the most extensive and tender care and support was offered to the family by the Killarney Gardai Family Liaison Officer. The family were especially appreciative and grateful for the efforts she put into making sure everything was sorted and organised for them.
In my walking around the town in the days after the tragedy everyone expressed their concern for the family and their deep sadness at the horrible tragedy that befall such a lovely family in such a beautiful place. There will still be a sense of sorrow around the Town even a week later. Please think also of the Jarvey so tragically caught up is this tragedy. He needs our prayers so he can handle the raft of painful emotions he’s fighting.
All in all the Community, as a whole, represented by these groups, left the family feeling much supported and loved. I think Killarney should feel that what it has done collectively and individually for this bereaved young family has excelled what might reasonably be expected of it. This is what is it to be a part of Killarney’s community: loving and open and generous and caring, and above all, compassionate and gentle.
The family are now returned to their home in America. But they have said they would like to come back some time. Because, in the midst of tragedy they knew hope, and in the midst of horror they knew love. And, as it says in the Scripture: “faith, hope, and love abide,… and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Cor 13:13.