Moving tribute to Nora Quoirin is filled with laughter and love
No one wanted Nora's return to St Brigid's to be like this. But yesterday family and friends found themselves united in grief at the Farewell Service in the church where she was baptised 15 years ago.
As mourners filed in ahead of Mass at 1pm, heartbroken grandmother Eithne Agnew, who was standing near the main entrance, wiped away tears as well-wishers threw their arms around her in warm embraces.
Nora's aunt Aisling Agnew, an accomplished flautist, was among the musicians who played throughout the service.
And as the sound of music rose towards the high ceilings, the sense of unallayed sorrow was tempered by a reassurance from the priest that love would get them through the dark days ahead.
Yet there was laughter too as amusing stories were recalled by the Rev Ruth Patterson, a close friend and work colleague of Nora's granny Eithne.
Rev Patterson revealed how Nora's photograph lit up their office at Restoration Ministries from the earliest months of her life, and the Presbyterian minister also told how "every day she was prayed for and loved".
In a special tribute replete with anecdotes about "noisy Nora", one of her many nicknames, mourners heard that the Garratt Park School pupil's best friends were called Amelia, Jack and Roo.
"Nora loved school and her teachers," Rev Patterson said.
"She especially loved the Food Tech lessons where she made new dishes each week before phoning her granda to make him jealous about what she had cooked.
"Food was a big deal for Nora. She loved to cook from her Gruffalo cookbook and her favourite cheese was Camembert, but eating out was really heaven, particularly gorging on a golfer's fry with her granda at the golf club or hitting Horatio Todd's, later referred to as 'Horatio's' by Nora, when they came to Belfast."
Much mirth was had at Nora's hatred of clearing and setting the table "which always elicited over-dramatic wails and moans".
We also learned how deeply Nora loved her French cousins and how she adored it when they got together at their grandparents' house in France, where "the girls taught her all sorts of awesome games".
And we were also told that while she doted on her baby cousins, Nora was closest of all to her siblings, with whom she shared a home in London with their Belfast mum Meabh and dad Sebastien, who is French.
"Her best friends of all were her sister Innes and brother Maurice, or Captain Fishy Pants as Nora liked to call him, who were the most amazing siblings you could ever have and who did everything for her and who often got squashed in return," Ms Patterson said.
"Together they watched a lot of movies like Finding Nemo, Paddington and Frozen and they played things like Cat Bingo."
The congregation also learned that Nora's love of cats "was inspired by her aunt Eadaoin's cat Mabel who comes to stay at the Quoirin's house often and who slept on Nora's pillow right beside her head - although once Mabel did get accused of being in Nora's personal space".
Nora's playfulness also shone through as the tales continued, including the time when her dad accused her of spending too much time on her Kindle and she replied: "Don't worry Daddy, I'm reading The Washington Post."
Those at the service inside the south Belfast church heard that Nora had a wicked sense of humour and often told jokes from her joke book.
Her favourite place was Donegal. She liked to wear funny T-shirts, she loved beasts and monsters like the Gruffalo, and her pet tropical fish "were called things like, Butter and Toast Ketchup, Hot Chocolate and Fish Fingers".
"She also really, really disliked giving the sign of peace in Mass and seemed to go out of her way to give people the wrong hand," Rev Patterson revealed.
"Nora had a crazy memory - she could tell you almost every capital city in the world, the number of steps up the Eiffel Tower and what she ate on her birthday seven years ago.
"Her birthday cakes were always ordered well in advance. One year it was a hedgehog cake, once it was a volcano cake and this year, on her 15th birthday, honeycomb brownies."
Most of all though, Nora absolutely adored cuddles with her mummy "and getting her nighttime story read every night. This was her special time."
Rev Patterson brought her moving tribute to an end by sharing aloud a poem Nora's mum had written for her daughter when she was nine years old.
It ended with the lines: "No more anxious notes, the prayer, for the gruffest angel ever made."
And as the service finished, and Nora's mum and dad walked hand in hand down the aisle, followed by Innes and then Maurice it was those haunting words that hung in the air.