Mourners at the funeral of a Portadown teenager who died suddenly last weekend heard how he was “a sensitive soul” who “felt the pain of life more keenly, perhaps, than others might feel it”.
Frank James McCaffrey, who passed away on Sunday, was laid to rest on Wednesday afternoon – on what would have been his 19th birthday.
Celebrant, Fr Peter Clarke, alluded to that fact and told the congregation at the Church of St John the Baptist Drumcree that this was “not the way to be celebrating a 19th birthday”.
“A young life full of promise nipped in the bud.”
Fr Clarke offered his condolences to Frank James’s mum and dad, Jean and Francis, and sisters, Haley and Rosa.
“Francis and Jean birthed him, nursed him, reared him and lavished on him the best years of their lives to have him snatched away,” he said.
“His sisters, Haley and Rosa, robbed of a loving brother who protected and adored them with a heart of gold. The girls tell me how much fun their brother was, always entertaining his family and friends with silly songs and dance.”
Frank James was described as a fine young man, “enthusiastic in his generosity”.
Fr Clarke said: “He was also a sensitive soul and perhaps too sensitive for his own good. In his sensitivity, he felt things deeply and that sensitivity, which gave him an empathy and a thoughtfulness for others, caused him to feel the pain of life more keenly, perhaps, than others might feel it.”
The parish priest recalled an occasion a few weeks prior when a young man approached him in the grounds of the church and asked him for a prayer.
“Now that’s not unusual around here,” said Fr Clarke. “It happens frequently enough. I didn’t know who the young man was but, what is remarkable, is that I recognised him on Sunday afternoon just past, as Frank James.”
He reflected on that with a momentary silence.
Said Fr Clarke: “I’m sure drugs were taken initially as an anaesthetic against the pain of life because, as we know, they’re only too readily available.”
The priest spoke of how habits become addictions “fed and fuelled by unscrupulous criminals, there’s no other words to describe them”.
“And we know that it was his frustration with his habit that led to the tragedy of his death.”
Fr Clarke urged everyone in attendance to “keep an eye out for one another”.
“We pray too for all our young people,” he said. “All of Frank James’s friends and club mates, so many, may it be friends from school too, from the hurling and from the hunt [Frank James was a keen huntsman].
“Especially those gathered here this morning, that they may be spared the anguish that their friend experienced and that they may turn their backs on the evil and deathly path of substance abuse.
“There’s a lot to be done to address this scourge, this epidemic! We pray for the gift to work out our frustrations by practical caring and following the example of Jesus in the Gospel. Keep an eye out for one another. Looking after one another. Not being afraid to support one another.
“In that way, Frank James’s death will not be in vain but rather it can become an occasion to spur us on to look after those who really need us.”
Frank James was laid to rest in the adjoining cemetery. May he Rest in Peace.