Family grieve as mum who spent 10 years caring for son left in a coma by hate attack dies of cancer
She was full of compassion and fun to the end, says Cathy McCauley's daughter
The mother of a young man who died after a horrific sectarian attack left him in a coma was full of compassion and fun to the end, her family has said after she lost her battle with cancer.
Cathy McCauley (70) passed away at her home in Londonderry on Tuesday surrounded by loved ones after fighting the disease for two years.
Her son, Paul, was left in a permanent vegetative state after being savagely beaten in a sectarian attack in the Waterside area of Derry in July 2006.
Cathy and her family cared for him until his death last year.
While she did not live to see her son's killers behind bars, the investigation into his murder continues, with two people facing charges linked to the death.
Her husband, Jim, said one of Cathy's biggest fears was that one of them would die while Paul remained in his vegetative state.
Paying tribute to the woman who was at his side for more than half a century, Mr McCauley added: "I loved Cathy the first day I set eyes on her, and that didn't change in 50-plus years.
"I know I am lucky to be able to say that. She was the pillar of our family and she passed away as she wished, content that Paul was free from his injuries and surrounded by her family."
Mrs McCauley's working life was dedicated to caring for others, having trained as a nurse.
She worked at the former Stradreagh Hospital in Derry before taking up a post in Strabane, and gave nearly 30 years to caring for people with brain injuries as the deputy head of the Cheshire Home in Derry.
She reduced her hours two years after the attack on Paul, so she could better look after him and her other children, Emma, Joanne and David.
Speaking on behalf on her brother and sister, Joanne said they would always remember their mother's compassion, kindness and joy.
"We are a very close family, we all look after each other and that is the way we were brought up," she explained.
"Our mum always put us at the centre of everything she did. She was selfless, kind and caring to everyone she met.
"She was one of the most compassionate people I ever met and put everybody else ahead of her without a word of complaint.
"She remained positive throughout everything that she had to deal with and even managed to keep her sense of fun and mischief.
"We liked to spend as much time as we could as a family, and she loved travelling and eating out - we had our last meal out together just a week before she died.
"It has been a shock for us that she has passed away, but we were able to fulfil her wishes to the end.
"She wanted to be at home with all of us around her, and we are grateful we could do that."
In the 10 years that followed the attack, Mrs McCauley rarely spoke to the media. But to mark the first anniversary of his death, she talked to the Belfast Telegraph about her love for him.
And in her last interview, nine weeks ago, she said: "When I think about Paul, it is the Paul we had before he was attacked that I like to think about.
"We have a photograph of him on his grave which is the Paul I like to remember. I talk to him all the time, but it hurts me too as a mother whose son is in the ground when he absolutely should not be.
"He is still my child, no matter what age he was. That's the way every mother thinks.
"I think about the life he should have led and the things he never got to do - like seeing his daughter growing up - or places he loved to visit that he never got to go back to.
"I cannot understand how anyone with that on their conscience could not admit they did something wrong and take responsibility.
"It is how most people would be, it is how I would be and it is how I brought my family up to be, but they never did.
"Not one person ever even came to us and said 'sorry', not even anonymously, and I find that difficult to understand."
The McCauley family will be joined by hundreds of mourners at St Columb's Church in the Waterside tomorrow for Cathy's funeral at 10am.