Mourners at the funeral of a prominent gay rights campaigner heard how the grief of losing her mother Rhona recently was too much for her to bear.
Susannah Toland, who died suddenly on July 3, was a well-known and much-loved member of Londonderry’s gay community.
While her family gathered inside St Columba’s Church in Derry, friends followed Requiem Mass inside their vehicles outside, adhering to coronavirus control measures.
Friends also formed a guard of honour along the route from the church to the City Cemetery wearing brightly coloured T-shirts and waving rainbow flags.
In an unusual move, retired Presbyterian minister Dr David Latimer gave an eulogy at the end of the Catholic service.
He said: “What a girl Susannah was.
“I got to know her when I went to see Rhona.
“And what a wife Tony had in Rhona.
“My goodness, there was no one like her.
“We talked together, we laughed and we cried together and we prayed together, and it was special.
“On occasion this lovely daughter Susannah would arrive, and what an impression she made on people.
“She didn’t have to say anything — there was just an aura about her, she filled the room with light and joy and happiness.
“I loved her hugs. They were pretty tight hugs but she meant it.”
He remarked on the deep love Susannah had for her mother and the struggles she had when she passed away in March.
He added: “I was impressed by the care and compassion that Susannah had for her mummy, and the day her mummy died there was a big part of Susannah that just started to wither. She just couldn’t come to terms with (the fact) her soulmate had gone.
“Life isn’t a straight line for anybody, it is bendy and it is bumpy.
“Sometimes life just becomes too difficult and the burden too heavy for us to bear.”
Rev Latimer comforted Ms Toland’s father with assurances that his wife and daughter were together again.
He said: “They are smiling, they are together and they are sending a message to you saying: ‘Don’t you worry, this is not the end’.
“This is not the end of Susannah, this is not the end of Rhona, this is not the end of any of our loved ones that we let go.
“They move to the far side of the grave where there is life and they are near the presence of Him who loves us everlastingly.”