Heartbroken family and friends fought back tears as they heard how Odhrán Kelly had been due to start a new chapter as a health care assistant tomorrow but was “robbed of his short life by violence”.
Twenty-three-year-old Odhrán was described as the “light and love of his family”.
But their worlds were turned upside down and a community was left reeling in shock after it was confirmed Odhrán’s body had been found next to a burning car at Edward Street in Lurgan during the early hours of last Sunday morning.
Now, a week later, mourners heard how the popular young man was the third to have lost their life though violence in the County Armagh town in the past year.
Fr Colum Wright led the Requiem Mass at a packed St Peter’s Church in Lurgan this afternoon.
He told how they gathered with “broken hearts and in total disbelief”, to lay to rest Odhrán, a son of Jacqueline and the late Paul, and brother to Paul and the late Sinead, who had been cruelly stolen from his family and community.
“Odhrán is the third person in Lurgan to be robbed of their young and valued lives in the last 12 months,” said Fr Wright.
“A life is God’s gift to us, a precious gift to be respected and protected. Odhrán should be alive and should be planning for Christmas. Too many like him are in early graves, robbed of their lives through violence, unnecessary violence, which brings, not just the end of lives, but the beginning of endless loss and misery. Endless loss and misery for families, for friends and for communities.
“As Christians we believe Odhrán has a new life beyond this earth. We believe that the feelings of anger, overwhelming grief and sadness, that are so understandable, are also a sign that we do not accept violent deaths as normal and insist on working for a world where peace reigns, where respect reigns, lives and triumphs no matter what.
“To honour Odhrán and all those not with us this Christmas tide, because violence interrupted and ended their lives, on this very day, the day that we bury him, we gather to make of his life, the love of life and an unfair death. It is our opportunity to stand together as a community against violence and to stand together as a community that is for life.”
The celebrant, who has helped comfort the devastated family circle over these past days, looked back on a life which, on reflection, he said was only starting.
“Odhrán was a young man whose adulthood had really just begun,” added Fr Wright. “He had lost his daddy at a young age and he was the light and he was the love of his family.
“Just the other night, in his beautiful wee home, his mummy, brother and his two uncles shared many lovely stories about them as a family. About starting off from his going to school in Tannaghmore, the whole way through to taking up his new role as a healthcare assistant, which he was supposed to start tomorrow. A whole new chapter in his life, robbed.
“Odhrán was what we call the child of the house. He had his own peculiar ways with his family, many of them very, very funny. He was in their words charismatic. No-one knew him better than them.
“And in the midst of their sharing stories, and in the midst of the smiles in remembering his life and all the lovely things about his life, the beautiful things about his life, Jacquie stopped and paused. There was a silence and she said: ‘My son’s body is lying there in that coffin. My son, whom I carried and nurtured in my womb for nine months, is now lying in that coffin’.”
It was a fitting tribute for Odhrán and a beautiful Requiem Mass, with Fr Wright offering promises of ongoing love and support to all who knew him.
“All of us know that your hearts are broken,” he said. “And our love, our support and many prayers, please know will be with all of you forever.”
There was also a very emotional tribute from “a beautiful, beautiful loving friend” of Odhrán, as Fr Wright invited Jessica to share her own memories of a wonderful young person, who touched so many lives in his own all too brief time amongst us.
Speaking with great courage, Jessica’s own eulogy brought a spontaneous and deserved round of applause and had tears flowly freely as she spoke to her friend, her Odhrán, his life now ended.
“Our beautiful Odhrán,” she began. “It’s so hard to summarise someone as wonderful as Odhrán because there’s simply not enough words to describe what an amazing person he was. The presence of people here today shows the impact Odhrán had on people’s lives. He was loved immensely by his family and friends and we will forever keep on loving him.
“Odhrán was the most special kind of friend you could have – kind, caring and always checking up on you. The kind of friend that made you laugh until your ribs were sore. Odhrán had the most brilliant laugh and everyone here will know just the laugh I’m talking about.
“You always knew that he was close by because you would hear that laugh before you would see Odhrán and I know he’s up there now laughing at us all and saying, ‘Oh I’m scundered’.
“When you were with Odhrán there was never a dull moment or moment of silence. As we all know Odhrán could have talked the legs off the table.
“Odhrán brought nothing but joy to everyone around him; he had the most amazing presence, a presence that would light up any room he walked into. Odhrán’s best trait was his ability to put a smile on anyone’s face and it is these things which he will be remembered for.
“Odhrán, if you are listening, we want you to know that we will love you more than you will ever know. We want you to know that Milo is safe and is enjoying his new life with a new brother and sister.
“Know that we are taking care of your beautiful mum Jacqui and your brother Paul. Please share with us all the strength to get through this life without you. You were the most wonderful friend to have and forever would not have been long enough to have with you. Rest in peace Odhrán. We love you.”
After the Requiem Mass, mum Jacqui, tightly clutching a precious framed photograph of her son to her chest, led his coffin, her family, Odhrán’s friends, outside.
A short time later, Odhrán, who was also the cherished grandson of Bernie and Colin Kelly and the late Lila and John Murray, loving nephew of Peter and his partner Vanessa, Frank and his wife Maria, Damian, Gary and his partner Gerard, and the late Brian, Mark and Colleen, was laid to rest at St Colman’s Cemetery.
To his family, his friends, and everyone who had the pleasure and privilege of knowing Odhrán, we offer our heartfelt condolences at this time. Rest in peace young man.