Michaela McAreavey's death reminds us of a hurt that we all feel
The loss of a loved one is hard to bear, whether that loss is expected or unexpected, sudden or lingering, peaceful or violent.
I didn't know anyone in the Harte or McAreavey family circles but from what I've read about them they would not claim their suffering over the loss of Michaela is any greater than that of any bereaved family.
I found it very touching that Michaela's broken-hearted father Mickey Harte took a moment to pay tribute to all the families who have stood in the place where the Harte and McAreavey families are now standing.
And yet there is something about the sudden and violent death of someone as young and beautiful as Michaela that affects us all.
If someone so happy and content, so good and kind, so loving and so loved, can have their life taken away from them, what a sobering reminder it is for the rest of us. Life is nothing if not unpredictable. Life is not always fair. In the midst of life we are in death, and so on.
Michaela Harte had it all. She was a great beauty and an Ulster Rose. She was much-loved by her parents and by her three brothers, and by the pupils at the school where she taught Irish and religion, and by her many friends in the GAA community. She enjoyed life to the full. She planned a romantic Christmas wedding to her sweetheart, John McAreavey, and then the handsome couple set off on their dream honeymoon.
They were to see out the winter frosts on the paradise island of Mauritius. And after the dream honeymoon was over, John and Michaela were to move into their lovely new home; except the honeymoon came to an end too soon.
I'm sure few of us can bear to dwell on the events that took place in that hotel room in Mauritius. There seems no rational explanation for what happened. But within the space of a few short and brutal moments, a life that was rich and rewarding in every way was ended. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people will carry the sadness of this experience in their hearts forever. It really is a tale of innocence lost.
We pay tribute to the Harte and McAreavey families for hosting such a magnificent funeral for their beloved Michaela. In their shoes many people would not have felt able to see anyone. They would not have been able to even think of the grief of other people.
But it is a measure of the Harte and McAreavey families that they acknowledged all the other people besides themselves who loved Michaela, and who wanted to say goodbye to her.
And we hope that the strong religious faith of Michaela's family circle can bring them some comfort in their time of sorrowful bereavement.
As Michaela's father said, nobody can understand what they are going through now, unless they have been through it themselves. That is quite true.
And as we ponder today the casual cruelties of life we can only hope that we are spared the agony of losing a child in this way. Words are hard to find but I heard someone say once, when a child had died that Jesus wanted that child to come and sit by his side. I don't pretend to have an explanation for what happened to Michaela.
I have no idea what I would do in a similar position. I just hope that everyone who loved Michaela can draw together now, and find some comfort in togetherness, and that God will bless them soon with peace and acceptance and the strength to carry on without her.
Michaela was a girl who lived life to the full. She played an active role in her community. She encouraged young people to abstain from alcohol. She was one of those rare souls who are universally admired. In fact, she was described as a shining light.
As I said before, it is hard to find words at a time like this. All I can say is that we send our most sincere condolences to everyone who knew and loved Michaela.
To her husband John, to her parents and brothers, to her pupils and fellow teachers, to her friends in the GAA, to her neighbours in Ballygawley, Dungannon, Lawrencetown and Ballymacilroy, and to anyone else who knew her, we are thinking of you. Michaela Harte McAreavey, may you rest in peace.