Hundreds of mourners lined the streets of north Belfast yesterday to say a final farewell to a boy whose death brought a "tangible sense of shock and disbelief" to the local community and beyond.
Well-wishers stood in solemn silence outside St Patrick's Church on Donegall Street while a small private service was held inside for the devastated family of 14-year-old schoolboy Noah Donohoe.
He was found in an underground storm drain in north Belfast last Saturday, six days after he went missing on June 21.
Fr Michael McGinnity said that, since Noah's body was discovered, many people have been "consumed by a sadness that cannot be put into words".
"Countless people across Belfast and far beyond it... are holding you, Fiona, and your family in their thoughts and prayers," he told Noah's mother.
"Since the news of Noah's tragic death emerged, a tangible sense of shock and disbelief has gripped the community.
"So many people are consumed by a sadness that cannot be put into words."
The priest also used Noah's mother's own moving words during Requiem Mass to pay tribute to the south Belfast teenager.
And he revealed that Strabane native Fiona, who was accompanied by parents Gerry and Margo and sisters Niamh and Shona, had told him how fortunate she felt to have had even such a short time with her beloved son.
"She said, 'I have been so blessed. Noah was a beautiful soul with a beautiful mind'," said Fr McGinnity.
"He poured a whole lifetime of love into my life in 14 short years."
A bunch of flowers was fixed to the church railings, along with posters bearing the tragic teen's picture and the words "Rest in Peace Noah".
Upon arrival, the hearse was escorted by a guard of honour led by members of his former basketball team, Belfast Phoenix, and by school friends wearing their St Malachy's College uniforms. Inside was a large framed photograph of Noah and his mother Fiona, showing both of them smiling, with the St Malachy's school crest above it.
A black and green ribbon - the colours of St Malachy's - was tied to the handle of the white coffin.
After Mass the cortege, which was en route to Roselawn cemetery, made a brief stop at the Antrim Road college, where Noah, described in the homily as someone who carried his potential "so lightly and so humbly," was a Year 10 student.
Pupils and teachers lined the avenue leading up the school to pay their respects.
Outside, a large crowd had gathered making social distancing difficult.
The gates of the school have become an impromptu shrine to its lost boy, with the iron work emblazoned with flowers, candles and messages of sympathy.
Earlier, Fr McGinnity said Noah's grieving friends and schoolmates were also in the family's thoughts.
"Indeed, right now, students from Noah's form class are attending a prayer service... together they will be remembering the joy and goodness that he brought into the lives of so many," the priest said.
"We remember the messages they sent to Noah's family, and the many tributes they paid on social media and across the airwaves. Those messages and tributes have been a source of immense comfort.
"One of his close friends said on social media during the week, 'Noah had so much potential in everything he did'.
"What endeared him to his friends was the fact that he carried that potential so lightly and so humbly.
"As a natural leader he wanted everyone to appreciate their own gifts and talents. More than that, he wanted them to find the joy in living that he had found."
Noah's body was found in an underground storm drain in north Belfast six days after he failed to return to his home in the Ormeau area in the south of the city. His disappearance sparked one of the most intensive searches for a missing person in Northern Ireland's history.
Police believe he might have suffered a head injury after falling off his bicycle and could have been disorientated when he entered the drain.
The search for the popular schoolboy brought together hundreds of people from across the city and beyond, uniting the two main communities in a common purpose.
Noah and his mother had a personal connection with the church, which was, Fr McGinnity said in his homily, their "spiritual home".
"It was here, in this church that Fiona taught Noah as a child to thank God for his life and to remember that he, like every child, has been sent into the world to share God's love with everyone," he said, adding that Noah "was the kind of boy who was just full of the joy of living".