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Samantha Willis funeral hears how death and life ‘interwoven’ as newborn Eviegrace baptised during Derry church service

Mum died from coronavirus

Mouners at the funeral service for new mum, Samantha Willis, who died from Covid-19 after giving birth, were told of the “deep sadness” within the community and how “death and life were all interwoven”.

During the service, at St Columb’s Church in Londonderry, her two-week old daughter Eviegrace was also baptised.

The 35-year-old died in ICU at Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry on Friday after a 16-day battle with Covid-19.

Tragically, Samantha never got to hold her newborn baby girl.

Fr Joe Clifford, who led the service, said that this is the first time he has ever conducted a baptism at the same service as a funeral.

He said that it is rare but “speaks about death and life all interwoven”.

“It is sadness and joy all at the same time, but never brought together as close as this.

“And the joy of baptism of this new life doesn’t minimise death, but rather the sadness that brings us here all in the context of faith.”

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Members of the Derry City Under 17 squad performed a guard of honour. Pic Martin McKeown.

Members of the Derry City Under 17 squad performed a guard of honour. Pic Martin McKeown.

Members of the Derry City Under 17 squad performed a guard of honour. Pic Martin McKeown.

He said Samantha’s untimely death was “very much out of order”.

“Especially when Samantha birthed forth new life just days ago, it doesn’t make sense,” said Fr Clifford.

“Here comes new life into the world, planned and chosen, and the excitement of looking forward to it, and it came out of this suffering body, a body which was on life support.

“The presence of God is, however, somehow in our presence as a grieving community of family and friends, and the tears and the weaknesses and the brokenness and everything else is present, and God is present in all of that because he is present in us.”

It was in the same church where Samantha wed husband, Josh, two years ago.

Members of the Derry City Under-17 squad performed a guard of honour as she was carried into the church.

Among those to attend the funeral was the former priest and policing board member Denis Bradley.

Samantha had not been vaccinated against the virus and over the weekend, her husband Josh made an emotional plea to people to get the jab to save having to go through the trauma his family is experiencing. 

Samantha, a care worker, leaves behind three other children, her son Shea and daughters Holly and Lilyanna.

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Josh Willis with mourners. Pic Jonathan Porter Presseye

Josh Willis with mourners. Pic Jonathan Porter Presseye

Josh Willis with mourners. Pic Jonathan Porter Presseye

Josh said he has “lost the love of his life” and she was now the family’s guardian angel.

In a Facebook post, he said: “Samantha had put up a strong fight for the last 16 days but in the end it just wasn’t enough. She did her best to come home to her family and beautiful children and shortly after 12 o’clock in the early hours Friday morning passed away peacefully in ICU in Altnagelvin Hospital.

“Myself, her mother and two eldest children were by her side. She was in no pain and was comfortable when she slipped away.

“Whilst in hospital she also had to deliver our newest addition to the family who she has never met properly or held in her arms.”

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Josh and Samantha Willis

Josh and Samantha Willis

Josh and Samantha Willis

Josh said he was determined daughter Eviegrace will know all about her mother.

“I will never let anyone forget you and I will remember all the special times and experiences we shared together,” he said.

“The children are now my main priority. All I want to do now is make Samantha proud.

“I’m sure she’s already looking down and proud of how we are coping. We are also proud of her, she was a wonderful, loving and caring person and she has been our super hero the last few weeks.

”She is now our guardian angel and she will remain in our hearts and thoughts for ever more. We love you loads and miss you. We wish we could only have helped you get home to live the rest of your life with us.

“I will never stop loving you and we will do our best to make you proud until we see you again. Sleep tight my Queen. Love you.”

A fundraiser has been set up to support the family here


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