Audio: Recordings of tragic Co Down barrister Shona Killen's beautiful voice moved mourners to tears at her funeral
When Co Down barrister Shona Killen (27) died on holiday in Spain six weeks ago, she left behind a family devastated. Her brother Eamon tells Stephanie Bell about the dreadful phone call that broke the news of her death and how recordings of her beautiful singing voice left mourners weeping at her funeral.
Tragic young barrister Shona Killen enjoyed a life well lived as these treasured family album pictures poignantly reveal. The talented 27-year-old barrister from the close-knit community of Cloughey in Co Down was enjoying life right to the end on a sunshine holiday in Spain with her boyfriend when the unthinkable happened and she passed away.
Shona was rushed to hospital after complaining of pain and sickness, but died before medical teams could discover what was wrong and treat her on September 12. She had only been in Spain a few days.
In a tragic twist her remains were brought home on the same plane that she had booked to return on from her week's holiday.
Speaking a few days ago, her heartbroken brother Eamon (34) revealed that the cause of her sudden death was given as a cerebral edema which is a build up of fluid on the brain.
"That's the official cause but we will never know exactly what caused that as she didn't survive long enough for the medical staff to conduct all their tests," he says.
The suddenness with which Shona - a fit, active and fun-loving young woman - was taken has left her family and wide circle of friends struggling to comprehend life without her.
Her brother Eamon revealed how the family has been overwhelmed by donations which have flooded into Shona's JustGiving page for a Memory Walk she was to do a couple of days after her holiday for her favourite charity, the Alzheimer's Society.
Since her dad Seamus was diagnosed with dementia a few years ago, Shona had raised hundreds of pounds for the charity which supports research into the condition.
Her brother says that just a couple of days before she left for Spain she had reached the £200 target she had set herself to raise in sponsorship for the Memory Walk which she planned to do with her boyfriend when she returned home.
Last night her JustGiving page stood at over £7,000 donated in her memory by friends. Another page opened by a number of her barrister colleagues who took part in the walk in her memory has also raised over £1,500. Another £1,000 has been sent to the family in cash donations.
Eamon says: "Shona was so chuffed that she was going off on holiday knowing that just a couple of days before she had reached her £200 target.
"As a family we are overwhelmed by how people have donated and she would have been thrilled by it. It is a very fitting tribute to her because she did a lot for the Alzheimer's Society and the fact so many people have raised money for the charity in her memory would have meant the world to her."
As her heartbroken family shared their special memories in tribute to the talented and caring young woman, they said that a light has gone out of their lives.
Eamon says the family is struggling to accept they are never going to see their special girl again. He says that his devastated mum is desperate to hear Shona's voice.
He described his sister as very modest despite her many achievements in life. She initially had planned to go into teaching only because she didn't believe she would get the grades to study for a law degree.
Ever since she was a young child she has enjoyed singing and was a member of the choir in St Mary's Primary in Kircubbin. She also enjoyed drama, appearing in school plays, and in her early years at Our Lady and St Patrick's College in Knock joined an amateur dramatics society and got the lead role in a production of Annie.
Eamon says it was typical of her that even though she had a beautiful voice and would record herself singing, she didn't have the confidence to allow anyone outside of the family to hear her tapes.
In a deeply poignant moment, however, the family was proud to share her gift with the many hundreds of mourners who filled the rural church of St Mary's Star of the Sea in Nunsquarter for her funeral.
Many were moved to tears when two of her songs were played, one as she was being carried out of the church and another at the graveside.
"She is the only person who didn't know how good she was," says Eamon. "She was such a modest person. She would sit in her room with her guitar across her lap and sing and record it and give it to us to listen to, but insist that no one else hear it.
"At her funeral we played a song she recorded called Feels Like Home, which was very appropriate and poignant, and there were more than a few tears shed.
"Then as we buried her at the graveside we played All of Me and everyone was sobbing their hearts out. She always doubted herself and never knew just how good she was."
As the only girl in the family, Shona was adored and, while her job as a barrister took her all over Northern Ireland, she still lived at home with her parents.
She had only been with her boyfriend for a short time, but Eamon says they enjoyed a very close relationship. "They were in and out of each other's pockets," he adds.
"They were very, very close and did everything together. We are all in bits but that young man was with her on holiday and he went through hell.
"Shona had messaged mum that she wasn't feeling well and mum had told her to rest. Then during the night she got worse and had terrible pain and was taken to the hospital where they started scans and tests but she didn't make it through.
"I had drawn the short straw of running the two of them to the airport in the early hours of the Thursday morning and she was buzzing and so excited to be going away. The sad part is that she was brought home on the same flight she had booked to come home on."
As well as her caring side, which saw her take part in fun runs and events in aid of the Alzheimer's Society, Eamon described Shona as having a cheerful nature.
"She was always the best of craic. Anyone who met her instantly became a fan, she had a way of drawing people to her," he says.
"She was always happy and smiling and as the only girl in the family she was spoilt and I have no problem in saying she was my dad's favourite. She was his wee baby and he doted on her.
"She was very special to us all."
It is just over six weeks since the family got the call which shattered their lives and Eamon says they are still stunned as they try to accept they won't see Shona again.
"It is still very raw. Of all the things that could have happened this year I didn't expect to be burying my baby sister," he says.
"You've no idea how terrible it was to be in that house when the phone call came through. No one of my age expects to bury a sibling and my mum certainly never thought she would be burying her daughter.
"She was the best sister I could ever have had and we all miss her so much. My mum is so heartbroken and would just love to hear her voice again, either singing or talking, just to hear her coming in full of chatter and laughter.
"It's tough and there have been many emotional days and nights. And there will be many more."